Bottom of the Twelfth

by Shawn P. Madison

Bobby Gordon wiped the trickle of sweat rolling down his left cheek with the sleeve of his uniform. His heart was pounding in his chest and seemed to miss a beat with every pitch thrown. Bobby was focused, more focused than he could ever remember being during a game. It was the bottom of the twelfth and his team was up by one lousy run.

He watched from his position deep in right field as Timmy Beamon threw a hard fastball toward home. The batter, a big twelve year old from Franklington, took a huge swing but met nothing but air.

"Strike One!" Bobby heard faintly from the umpire behind home plate.

The Franklington Barnstormers were one of the best teams in Little League, picked by some even before the season began to represent Cutterdam County in the Regional Tournament this year. Bobby's team, the Collingsdale Corsairs, hadn't even been picked to make the Inter-County Championships this year, let alone the District Tournament. But here they were, in the final game, a game that had been tied fourteen-all until the top of the twelfth when Jackson Taylor had belted a ball way out over the centerfield fence.

Now, the Corsairs were just one out away from advancing to the Regional Tournament for the first time since Bobby had joined the team two years ago. He almost could not contain his excitement. He tried to drown out the faces and voices of the more than two thousand people who were crammed into Miller Park. He tried to concentrate on the tall twelve year old standing over home plate with the bat in his hands, the same player who had already hit two home runs in this game.

His body tensed as Timmy lunged back and came fast over the top with his next pitch. The Barnstormer swung awkwardly at the inside pitch and fouled it off into the crowd behind first base.

"Strike Two!" The faint voice once again carried out across the bright green grass and into right field.

Bobby pleaded and pleaded inside his mind for the ball not to come to him if it were hit into play. Although he had proven his hitting skills so far today with a homer, two doubles and several more hits, his error in the bottom of the ninth had allowed the tying run in for the Barnstormers. It was just a routine fly ball that had gotten away from him in the sun. He knew full well that his coach had banished him to lonely right field this season totally due to his fielding problems, but he more than made up for it with his bat.

This game was long, the longest one he had ever played in. Little League games weren't supposed to last this long but, with a rivalry as old and heated as the one between Franklington and Collingsdale, the coaches and parents were going to let it go on until it was over. Bobby could feel the sun beating down on the white number 2 on his back. He unconsciously brushed away loose dirt from his royal blue uniform shirt and white pants. His right fist automatically pounded into the pocket of the brown worn-in Rawlings on his left hand.

Timmy Beamon began his wind-up. Bobby could see the whites of the eyes of the big kid standing beside home plate. The ball left Timmy's hand and sailed in toward the catcher's mitt.

Bobby heard the crack and watched the ball lift high into the air. The batter immediately dropped the aluminum bat and took off for first. A feeling of doom came over Bobby Gordon as he realized that the fly was not headed for center but toward right. And it was deep.

"Watch the ball, watch the ball," he muttered to himself as his feet began to propel him backwards towards the fence. The ball was hit deep but looked as if it might just barely stay in the park. Bobby's eyes never left the small white speck as it sailed further and further through the cloudless blue sky.

In his peripheral vision he saw the crowd come to their feet, half of them began cheering as the ball continued to gain distance. He could hear his teammates shouting his name, over and over again, hoping for a miracle.

His glove hand came up as his right hand reached out for the green padded home run fence of Miller Park. The voice of his coach, Mr. Mckenzie, broke through all the others, "You got it, Bobby, you got this one."

Bobby heard that and noticed that he was now on the warning track. The sun was up there, burning bright in the mid-afternoon, but all he saw this time was the ball. Without realizing it, he leapt into the air. The cleats on his right foot smashed into the thick green padding of the wall, his right hand grabbed the top and lifted him up. The ball was dropping fast, seemingly just out of reach.

Bobby stretched out as far as could with the glove on his left hand, his right arm strained as it held his body up over the fence. Suddenly his forward momentum stopped and he fell from the top of the wall down toward the light brown dirt of the warning track, landing somehow on his feet.

All was silent as the crowd waited...

Bobby noticed that everyone in the entire ballpark was staring at him, the players on both teams, the spectators, even the umpires. They all needed to know...

A smile crept across Bobby's face and one small tear ran down his left cheek as he felt the glorious weight of the ball in his glove. Bobby Gordon knew...the Corsairs were going to the Regionals.

Copyright 2003 by Shawn P. Madison. All rights reserved.