The second story in our three-part series about a magic baseball written by former Major League Baseball pitcher Steve Trout is about believing in yourself . . . about strength, heart and knowing you have it inside you to be the best you can be, about perseverance and resilience.
By Steve Trout
It was a new summer baseball season, and Billy had grown bigger and stronger. He had gotten a new glove, a Wilson A-2000. The coach told him when he got a new glove to make sure it had an open web. It would allow him to see the ball better.
At the first practice of the summer, his teammates were looking at him as if he were a new person. He was. Wearing the same uniform as last year – sponsored by Ace Hardware and wearing the same number 33 – Billy was ready to play ball.
Coach Doolittle held a meeting before practice and introduced the new players and welcomed back the returning ones.
The players went to their positions, with Tony the new catcher behind the-plate. Coach yelled Billy’s name, calling him to be the first hitter in batting practice. Billy squared up the bat to the ball and sent the rawhide over the fence four times.
“Hey, man, who are you – Babe Ruth?” Tony asked.
Tony looked bigger wearing the extra eight pounds of catching gear. It seemed to take a toll on him after only a few hitters, though, so coach pulled him out of practice. It didn’t take long before Tony was nicknamed “Tank” by his teammates. Sitting on the bench, covered in sweat, Tony offered Billy one of his extra bottles of Gatorade. Billy accepted, and their friendship began.
Billy headed to right field after his batting practice and immediately made a few nice catches. After practice, Tony went to Billy and praised his baseball skills.
“Thanks, it wasn’t always like that.”
“What happened? How did you get so good?”
“It’s a great story, Tony. You probably wouldn’t believe it.”
Tony thought about that and then went to put on his catching gear because it was the only position he knew how to play, and he wanted to show the coach that he wasn’t soft. Billy noticed he was breathing a little hard.
“Hey, it’s a little hot today. Take your time,” Billy suggested.
Coach yelled, “Hurry up! What’s taking so long?”
After practice, at home Billy talked to his mom about Tony and how the guys nicknamed him “Tank” because he was so big. “Mom, he seems to be really out of shape and struggles to run. He even breathes heavily putting on his catching gear.”
“Maybe you can help him get in shape and lose some weight,” she recommended.
Billy noticed the same things at the next practice. This time, during a water break, Tony pulled out a Snickers bar, and in two bites it was gone. Billy offered Tony some pieces of watermelon from his Ziploc bag, but Tony didn’t want any.
“My parents try to get me to eat fruits, but I sort of need the candy. It helps with my blood sugar.”
“What do you mean?” Billy asked.
“I’m diabetic. ‘Type 2’ they call it. Just found out a few months ago. My dad didn’t know he had it until he was 45, and now it’s my problem, too. He said that playing baseball would be good for me, and I need the exercise. He’s trying to get me to spend less time on the computer and more time on the games he played as a boy. Most of my friends are playing online games. I love computer games, and it’s great competition with the other gamers.”
“Yeah, I used to do that, too. Then things changed for me when I found a baseball.”
“What do you mean? How did a baseball change the way you did things?” Tony asked.
“It is much more than that, Tony. The ball changed my life.”
Tony laughed and thought Billy was a little silly to think that a baseball could have that much power.
“You may believe it is sort of crazy to think a ball could have magical powers, but it did wonders for me. I even have a name for him: ‘Buddy.’”
During the first game, Tony got a base hit to right field; however, he was thrown out by the right fielder. That seldom ever happened. He felt really embarrassed and returned to the dugout where he put his head down between his knees. Billy gave him a pat on the back to encourage him to keep doing his best. Tony looked up, and Billy saw a tear rolling down his cheek.
Billy got home and asked his mom about diabetes. She explained that it is a big problem with kids because they eat unhealthy food and do not get enough exercise. She said that it often runs in families. And that it was more of a problem now because kids were playing more video games than they were spending time playing outside. She even said that when they took out gym in Billy’s school that it had a negative effect on the extra exercise the student would get in a day.
“I’m glad I changed my habits last year.”
“Yes, you sure did. Maybe you can be a good influence on Tony,” she said.
“Yeah, Mom, I will try. But I’ve got this other idea to help him out.”
. . . to be continued