Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Fielder's Choice (Part II)

Having left my radar gun in the car, I scrambled out to the parking lot as the two teams took the field. The sound of the catcher's mitt popping with each warm-up pitch followed me to the car and back. I settled behind home plate as the leadoff batter, a pint-sized lefty, stepped into the box.

Dallas, on the other hand, looked like a beast when he took his rightful place on the mound. He had to be at least 6'5" and 230 pounds. His neck was thick and his shoulders were broad. His thighs wreaked of power and bulged out like the shape of elbow macaroni. His calf muscles looked as big as grapefruit. He could do without the tattoos though. A barbed wire tattoo rounded his left bicep and his right forearm was covered with some sort of a spider web image. I must admit though that it did add to the mystique.

His beard resembled that of Abraham Lincoln. I guess the whole beard without a mustache is popular these days. Draped down the back of his neck from underneath his ball cap were dozens of curly black locks. If I had to pick a starting pitcher that his body most resembled, I would have to choose Josh Beckett.

Dallas took a deep breath, stepped up to the rubber, and peered over top of his glove. The catcher shot him a quick signal and positioned himself right down the middle of the plate. I readied my radar gun as Dallas began his wind-up. The catcher shifted ever so slightly to the inside as Dallas was about to deliver.

As the ball shot out of his hand, I immediately thought fastball. It was headed dead center into the zone. The batter, who must have been reading my mind, recoiled but instantly found himself jammed beyond comprehension as the ball cut down and in. His bat went limp as it grudgingly crossed the plate for strike one.

A cut fastball. Just like old times. A quick glance at my radar gun confirmed the devastation. 91 MPH. I had one of those moments, like, "Is this heaven?" Unfortunately, a little voice in my head answered, "No. It's Iowa." I immediately became suspicious. Where did this kid come from? What was his story? I began to look all around for other scouts. None. Agents? None.

Before I could continue with my paranoia, Dallas delivered a nearly identical pitch. Miraculously, the hitter caught it about 4 inches above his left hand and dribbled it down the third base line. No doubt there would have been splinters all over the infield had he used a wooden bat.

Diego began to rush in from third but hesitated as he saw the catcher throw off his mask and charge down the line. The ball was in no-mans-land. After a brief hesitation of his own, the catcher called off Diego, pounced on the ball, and made an off-balance throw that took the first baseman off the bag.

The hitter was safe and Dallas wasted no time in displaying his agitation. He snapped his glove at the ball when the first baseman threw it back to the mound. Under his breath I could hear a variety of four letter words. Dallas stomped his way back up the mound and waited for the next batter to enter the box. He shook his head in frustration as the catcher made several attempts to call the pitch. Without warning, Dallas entered his wind-up, cocked back his right arm, and delivered a ferocious four seam heater. My JUGS radar gun registered an eye popping 95 MPH. Only one problem. He drilled the batter in the ribs and then blew him a kiss. Both benches emptied. The cops were there in less than five minutes to clear both the field and the parking lot. So much for the friendly exhibition. I barely had time to tell the Wekiva coach that I would call him tomorrow to discuss my new "project" a.k.a. Dallas Parker.

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