This is an award winning story I wrote in Flash Fiction. Flash fiction is a complete short story of less than 900 words.
“When I smell the aroma of Spring, I always think of the beginning of baseball season”, Ted spoke out loud to no one in particular, his eyes sparkling with wonder at the field of Fenway Park. As a lifelong Red Sox fan, Ted had always wanted to visit this park, and now he was actually in this historic stadium. To the right stood the infamous Green Monster. At 304 feet, the right field wall was one of the shortest distances in Major League baseball. Hitters were seduced by the short field, but the thirty-seven foot behemoth robbed many great men of their glory.
Ted’s thoughts ran back to his childhood memories of baseball. As a freshman in high school, it was his dream to play baseball, but nature wasn’t kind to him. He was short, skinny, and considered to be more of an egghead than an athlete.
“You don’t have to be an athlete to be somebody”, his mother explained when he decided he wanted to try out. “Besides, at your size, you may get hurt.”
“But I want to play. I can practice until spring and get better. Small kids play baseball and don’t get hurt.”
I will show them. When spring comes I will be in shape and ready.
His equipment was as meager as his talent. All Ted had was a tennis ball, glove, bat, and a concrete wall. He spent his available hours catching the balls the wall returned to him, and swinging at the softball lobs his little sister occasionally pitched for him to hit.
As winter melted into spring, the time came for tryouts for the high school teams. Ted watched the boys warm up, and play catch with their new gloves and slick uniforms. Who am I fooling? I can’t compete with these guys. They look like baseball players and I look like a water-boy.
The only thing that kept Ted on the field was the lingering doubt of ‘what if’. Maybe he wasn’t baseball material, but if he didn’t try, would he regret never knowing. A stern sounding voice interrupted his internal argument.
“What’s your name, son”, inquired Coach Jackson.
“What position are you?”
Ted shrugged as he searched in the gravel for confidence, “Uhm, I dunno. I can play infield or outfield. I guess.”
“You don’t look very fast, so why don’t we give you a shot at the infield.”
A shot? The words had an inspirational ring to them. If he had a shot, the field was level, and all he had to do was perform.
Ted felt small in the space between first and second base, but it seemed like heaven to feel the warm sun and see the beauty of the diamond. He could almost envision the stands filled with cheering parents. The crack of the bat returned his focus. He rushed to close the gap as a sharp grounder whizzed to his right. He lunged and felt the ball in his glove, and then it was gone. I dropped the stupid ball! It was in my glove and I missed it!
A few swings later, a missile launched just to the right. He shuffled over, and it pounded off his cheek after taking a sudden hop. He felt the flames of its impact, but quickly threw it to first base. He swallowed the pain, but couldn’t choke down his humiliation. Ted caught a few easy ones but missed more than he fielded.
I keep getting so close, but they just won’t stay in my glove.
Ted had two at-bats. His first hit popped up and he rounded first base, hustling toward second hoping the ball would somehow find the ground. His disappointment rang with the pop of a glove. On his second at bat, he made good contact and the ball smoked between the shortstop and the third baseman. Ted saw the shortstop make a lunging grab. It would take a perfect throw from his knees, so Ted turned on the afterburners. Just as his foot was about to hit the bag, his hopes burst with the loud clap of the first baseman’s glove.
If I could have just gotten one hit, maybe someone would notice. Ted walked off the field with as much dignity as he could muster. He tried to guard his face from hinting at his anguish. That’s it. Everyone was right. I have no talent, and I’m not meant for baseball.
At the end of tryouts, the coaches made their picks. Coach Johnson approached Ted. “Son, you haven’t played baseball before, have you?”
Ted pawed the dust with the toe of his worn sneakers. “No sir.”
The coach looked down at him, trying to make eye contact. “One thing I have learned is that talent can’t replace heart. I don’t know how much talent you have, but if you will put all your heart in it, I believe you can go far. You may not be the best player, but your hustle shows character. Heart – and a lot of hard work can take you a long way.”
Ted’s thoughts of childhood were suddenly interrupted by a pat on the back and a voice from behind, “Welcome to the Sox, Rookie.”
“Thanks. Standing on this field is a dream come true.”
- Eddie Snipes, 2009