I heard the crack of the bat but never looked up to see where the ball was going. All I could think of was beating the throw to first base and driving in the runner on third base. It seemed odd that as I rounded the first base bag, the first baseman was standing still looking toward center field. With a quick glance to second, I concluded that I could stretch the hit into a double! With my foot on the bag at second, I heard the 3rd base coach yelling at me to SLOW DOWN! In that same instant, the second baseman murmured to me that “It’s a home run!” Running a bit slower, I touched third and headed for home plate. Trotting along the baseline for home plate, I could hear cheers from my team’s dugout. A moment after I extended my foot and tagged home plate I was tackled by my teammates who were gathered around the plate. I became the center of a crowd of boys that headed to the dugout. Arriving at the dugout, we all turned to watch the scoreboard change to indicate, “Halfmoon – 5; Clifton Park – 3”. We, the last team in the league, had just beaten the best team in the league!
There’s more to this story! Go back a few minutes to the last half of the ninth inning. Excitement in our team’s dugout was explosive. This was the first time game against Clifton Part in which our team was in contention. But now we were! It was the last of the ninth inning, the score was tied at 3 and 3, there were two outs but we had a runner on third. We all were horse from yelling and cheering. All of a sudden the coach yells, “Paul, you’re up next. Grab a bat and get out there!” As I grabbed a bat and left the bench of screaming teammates, I was trembling. I could not believe that I was coming to bat at this “pressure” moment! Trembling and excited as I was, I carelessly approached the batters box. I did not realize that I was standing in the batter’s box. As I lifted the bat to my shoulder and turned my attention to the pitcher, I was completely surprised to see the ball in flight and completely in my strike zone and in my favorite hitting location. “Strike one” yelled the umpire! I was in a moment of complete mixed emotion. I felt surprise to see the pitch, embarrassed to have been given a called strike, angry that I had ignored my favorite kind of pitch and embarrassed to have been caught inattentive while standing in the batter’s box. As the moment passed I heard myself saying, “The moment has passed! I will never get a chance at the plate like this!
Moments after the called strike, I backed out of the batter’s box. I needed a moment to gain my composure. “What do I do now?” I thought as I stood outside the box. As the umpire urged me to return to the batter’s box I resolved to myself to pay complete attention and hit that baseball where ever it would be delivered and allow my teammate to score from third. I entered the box with all of my attention focused on the pitcher. I raised my bat into position and the pitcher began his windup. The ball was in mid flight when I realized that he was delivering the very same pitch that I had just ignored! Recalling that moment, I resolved, “not this time!”! I waited for a moment. When I decided that the moment was just right for my swing at, I swung with all of my energy. BINGO, I connected with the pitch. I dropped the bat and began running.
Today, as I write this story, I am 74 years old, but I still remember this home run as if it just happened. I’d like all readers to feel they too are 11 years old and have just hit a home run to win a little league baseball game. Have a great day and remember, as you walk to the batter’s box always keep your attention focused on the pitcher!
Credit all authors of images used in both article and as cover image : Paul Zakriski