I dug my foot into the batter’s box and looked up at the pitcher, who stared back at me. I felt the warm summer air against my skin as I got ready for the pitch. The pitcher nodded to the catcher and started his windup. I watched him stride towards the plate and release the ball. I reared back and swung as hard as I could. I heard the crack of the bat and took off towards first. I just got a piece of it and fought it off down the first base line. I raced towards first as fast as I could and saw the first baseman pick up the ball and run towards me. Just as he went to tag me I jumped to the side, trying to avoid the tag. His tag knocked me off balance, and I fell to the ground on my left wrist.
“Ahhh!” I screamed as I clutched my wrist while it throbbed in pain. My dad, also my coach, ran over and dropped to a knee beside me.
“What’s wrong? Are you ok?”
“My wrist, I fell on it” I said through gritted teeth.
“It’s broken,” the doctor said. I couldn’t believe it. It felt like my whole world had collapsed around me, and I stared back at him in disbelief.
“How, how long until I can play baseball?” I stammered.
“Probably about six weeks before you can play again” he responded.
I turned to my mom, “But districts are in a week!” I yelled. I felt tears start to well up in my eyes. This can’t be happening, I thought. I had waited so long for a chance to play in the U12 district tournament, and maybe even a chance of going to states. And all of the sudden, just like that, I was injured…
The next week felt like an eternity. My wrist was in a ton of pain, and every night at practice the only thing I could do was sit and watch my teammates. I had waited for that summer for a long time. Ever since we almost won states as U10s, I had been waiting for the chance to try again. There is nothing bigger than your U12 season. Districts soon began, and we quickly advanced to the winner’s bracket where we played Brookfield, who we had defeated a few years back in the same tournament. The car ride to the game with my dad was filled with excitement as we talked about different bracket scenarios, pitch counts, and what the batting order should be. We finally arrived at the field and I could feel the nervous excitement among everyone as we began our warmup. Even though I stretched with the team, it still didn’t feel the same as actually warming up to play. I walked over to my dad and he gave me the pitch counter, which was my only job. I grabbed the counter and sat back down on the bench, ready for the game to start. I watched my team jog out, wishing nothing more than to be out there with them, playing the game I loved. Brookfield certainly came out swinging, and we definitely didn’t look ready. Hit after hit, error after error, and before I knew it it was 7-0 before we could even bat. I watched helplessly as my team made error after error and couldn’t get anything going offensively. After what felt like a year, the game finally ended- a score of 17-2. And it had only been three innings.
The ride home was silent. The loss had been a shock to all of us- we had never lost a game like that before, and there was nothing I had wanted to do more than run out on the field with my glove, but I couldn’t. All I could do was sit on the bench and watch, helplessly.
Our team wasn’t really able to recover from the loss to Brookfield. We pieced together
a few more wins, but eventually lost to Danbury in the losers bracket finals. We were still in the Cal Ripken Extreme league, where you played a full schedule followed by an eight team playoff. Our team started winning, and as my wrist got better, my role got upgraded from pitch counter to playing a few innings with one hand. It wasn’t the same, but it still felt like I was contributing more than I previously had been. Going into the last week of the regular season we were undefeated, but there was one more challenge in our way to the 1 seed- undefeated Brookfield.
The ride to Brookfield with my dad was filled with the usual chatter about pitch counts, batting orders, who should play left field, etc. As we began warm ups, something didn’t feel right. All of the sudden, I realized I had forgotten my cast. I had my final doctor’s appointment the day before and he had told me I was ready to start playing again whenever I felt I was ready. I ran to my dad to explain the problem.
“Uh, dad, I forgot my cast. I think I left it at home when I forgot to put it back on.” My dad sighed and looked at me.
“Well can you play without it? The doctor said you CAN play, right?” my dad asked.
“Um, yeah, uh, I guess I can.” I stuttered. I was shocked. I hadn’t swung a bat since the injury, and I definitely didn’t want to get re-injured.
“I don’t know dad, I haven’t swung a bat in over a month.” I said.
“Well pick up a bat now and try to swing it.” he replied. I picked up the nearest bat and warily took a swing. Though it did feel uncomfortable, there was no pain.
“Well, are you ok?” dad asked.
“Yeah, I guess I can try to play,” I answered.
“Good,” my dad said, “You’ll be batting 12th.”
My teammates were excited to hear the news, and after warming up I felt great. I had waited for the moment to get back on the field for so long, and I tried to contain my excitement as I jogged out to left field for the start of the game. The first few innings went by quick and we were losing by one going into the fourth. We got a rally going, and we quickly tied up the game. I was warming up on deck as Luke hit the go-ahead single.
“Let’s gooooo!” I yelled as my teammates and I greeted Jesse, who had just crossed the plate with the go ahead run. I grabbed my bat and strode to the plate. I had already hit once earlier in the game, when I popped out to left. We were up one run, there were two runners on, and two outs. I dug into the batter’s box and thought back to the game against Brookfield in districts, where all I could do was sit and watch, helpless, as they scored run after run against us. This time I was determined to make a difference. I took a practice cut and prepared for the pitch. The first pitch was a ball outside, and the second one I hit foul. The count was 1-1. I stepped out of the box for a moment, took a huge swing, and stepped back in. I gritted my teeth, ready for the pitch. The pitcher wound up and threw the ball as hard as he could. Everything seemed to move in slow-motion. I watched as the ball sailed towards the plate right down the middle, and I reared back and swung as hard as I possibly could, not even thinking about my wrist. I felt the ball hit the bat perfectly, and watched it climb into the air. I looked on in disbelief as the ball kept going and going, and then finally disappeared over the fence. The Easton players and parents exploded. I had hit a home run. I rounded the bases in shock, not even able to comprehend what had just happened. After six weeks of sitting on the bench, I had hit my first homerun in just my second at-bat back. Before I knew I was rounding third, where my dad gave me a hug. I felt tears start to swell up in my eyes as I jumped onto home plate where I was mobbed by my teammates. As I walked back to the dugout, listening to the cheers of the parents and high fiving my teammates, I couldn’t help but think about what a rollercoaster season it had been. Nothing was worse than watching my team play without me, but I persevered. I found ways to help out in practice, with pitch counts, and even found a way to play one-handed towards the end. As bad as getting injured was, it made the moment feel so much more amazing.