The chants rolled through the stadium like a cadenced thunder. Two hours into the action, the already carnival-like atmosphere at Game 7 of the World Series had intensified as the score remained knotted at zero in the sixth inning. Under the glare of the banks of daylight-white lights and the focus of multiple television cameras, the lone figure on the mound paused.
All season, she had patiently answered questions and heard the comments about her being the first female pitcher in major league history. Then she was the female first All-Star. It was a foregone conclusion that she would be the first woman Rookie of the Year when the awards were announced.
But tonight - now - there was no more "first woman" talk. Although the championship was in play, an underlying buzz grew in the stands as she had allowed none of the first seventeen hitters to reach base. Only once before in World Series history had a perfect game ever been pitched. Don Larsen did it in Game 5 back in 1956 - a series that also went seven games. If she was the second, it would be one that this time clinched everything.
The batter readied himself, down two strikes to one ball. The pitcher wound up and threw, taking just a little speed off the pitch to ruin the hitter's timing. As he swung through empty air, the crowd roared. Then the ball clanged off the chain link backstop of the Springdale Little League field.
Lost in her imagination, Mackie pumped her fist down at her side like a big leaguer would do. As she spun around on the mound, she saw a man watching from beside a pick-up truck parked by a storage shed beyond the outfield fence.
Ralph was the groundskeeper of the park complex, taking care of the baseball and soccer fields as well as the playgrounds and trails throughout the sprawling acreage. Mackie knew he lived here in a small building and liked to watch games when he took a break. Like most of the kids, she had never spoken to him, considering the man a fixture that was part of the place.
Staying here after her team practice was done, Mackie suddenly felt very alone. She had done this before with the understanding with her coach that she would gather the baseballs in a bucket and leave them by a nearby storage shack where Ralph would presumably get them and lock them away later.
A month ago, a girl her age had gone missing while playing alone on a soccer field. It had happened on the other side of the state and there had been some talk about but this was Springdale where nothing like that could really happen. Still, Mackie was very much aware that it was just her and Ralph right now.
Lifting a sweat-stained ball cap from his head, Ralph ran his hand through his hair - dark but starting to gray. Then he set his hat back in place and gave Mackie a cheery wave. Mackie blushed, partly from being caught in her World Series fantasy and partly from thinking mean things about the man. Then she waved back.
Ralph tossed a last bag of fertilizer into the bed of the truck and closed the tailgate. As he drove off, Mackie returned her thoughts to pitching. She was the only girl on her team but the boys all recognized that she was the best pitcher. The extra practice did her good but right now she had a World Series to win.
At the end of the "eighth inning", another visitor arrived. A silver sports car (Mackie didn't know what kind) cruised in and parked near the backstop. When a tall, dark-haired man in slacks and a dress shirt got out, Mackie watched him for a moment. He was kind of handsome in a rugged sort of way but she had never seen him before. He walked toward the field but stopped at the fence and gave her a wave. As he didn't seem to have any intent to come onto the field, Mackie waved back.
The ninth inning wasn't the same with the good-looking stranger observing. Not wanting to get caught reacting to her fantasy, Mackie threw her pitches and quickly played her big league visions in her head. No, it wasn't as fun this time, but she had done the entire Game Seven before and would do so again when she had privacy.
Blake watched the lithe little girl in motion. When she threw, her blonde ponytail whipped out from the space in the back of her ball cap between the hat and the adjustment band. Her t-shirt was baggy so he wasn't sure if she had any chest development there but at around ten or eleven, she wouldn't have much anyway. She wore an old pair of uniform pants that were becoming a bit too small on her. But for him, they were perfect, highlighting her flexing, high and tight little rump beneath the stretched fabric as she worked her young body on the mound.
This story is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Mr Double's Palisade
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Changes last made on: Monday, June 11, 2018