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Flamethrower

Jacob Chan, 11

I was almost 11 in the warm windy fall of the year 2019, when my baseball team, the Bulldogs, were playing in the little league semi-finals. But still, I couldn’t help but want to crawl under my bed, where I would be safe. I couldn’t even bear to glance at the opposing pitcher’s deep blue eyes. His fastball was so fast that if you rode on it around a highway, you would get fined for speeding.  

My team crammed in the dugout before the game started, each of us getting to know one another way more than we wanted to. I swear I smelled vomit on the jersey of one of my teammates.

“Listen up, Bulldogs!” My coach Adam began to yell. “It’s the semi-finals—if we don’t win this, each of you owe me five laps around the field!” Everyone groaned. Everyone, with the exception of me, and a few other boys. Not that we wanted to run laps, mind you, but because we were staring at the five-foot-seven kid on top of the mound warming up. He was literally throwing fireballs into the catcher's rusty old, well-patted, brown mitt, with the glove  strings tightly knotted. For a second, I didn’t care about the 10 pound gold trophy sitting on the table behind the dugout that would be handed out to the winner. I just cared about not getting plunked in the face by a 70 mph fastball thrown by the 11-year-old Godzilla. Alright, alright, call me a scaredy cat, but let’s face it—you would be freaking out, too. 

The tap of Bowen Orberlie, one of my teammates, brought me back to reality.  

“Earth to Jacob!” he said into my ear. I shook, and glanced up at my coach who was throwing darts out of his eyes to every single one of my teammates. Glancing down at a torn up sheet of paper, he began to scream the starting lineup aloud, with little tiny molecules of spit coming out of his wide open mouth as he spoke. “Chan, leading off!” he yelled at the top of his lungs, so loud you would have thought he was my cousin after watching the New York Mets lose. I froze. To be honest, I should have been proud of my nearly .370 on base percentage that got me the role of batting leadoff in the semi-finals, but–I. Did. Not. Want. To. Face. This. Pitcher. The rest of the lineup was a blur. I couldn’t think straight. Trembling, I grabbed my Rawlings blue and silver bat and stepped outside the dugout. I began to take some dry swings, you know, the swings that coaches and parents always say will “help you get better.” I tried to time my swing perfectly so I wouldn’t get embarrassed too much. I looked up at the crowd; they were whooping and whistling. I overheard a dad with a Bulldogs sweatshirt on yelling comments like, “Dang, this kid throws hard!” I rolled my eyes nervously, and glanced up at the pitcher. I swear he smirked at me.  

I sighed, and tried to not make eye contact. I watched the umpire take off his blue and black mask and bend down to clean the plate off with his dusty old brush.  

“Play ball!!”  he screamed. I jumped. I shook my head. There was no way I was going to hit this pitcher.  

“Let's go Bulldogs!!” someone yelled from the crowd as I stepped into the box. I took a deep breath. Slowly, I turned my head that was in two different realities. One side wanted to run away screaming and forget about everything I had ever done to be on this team. The other side wanted to suck it up and try to be the hero. Anyway, I stared at the pitcher with my shaky, dark brown eyes, and he stared at me with his confident light blue ones. And oh my, if eyes could kill, I would be on the ground dead. I swallowed hard. I might’ve swallowed my gum that I was chewing since warmups, and I wouldn’t have realized. Heck, if green aliens with one eyeball took over the earth right then, I wouldn’t have noticed.  

“Time!” I yelled to the ump, even though it wasn’t even half a second after I stepped in the box. The umpire scrunched up his eyebrows like he was confused. I couldn’t blame him. The pitcher looked somewhat annoyed. I stepped back into the rectangle-shaped batters box after trying to calm myself down and taking some more swings. The pitcher shook off a pitch from the catcher.  Again. Again. Again. And again. I’m willing to bet money that he was messing with me. He had a little smile while he shook off the pitches. 

Finally, he selected a pitch. Fast ball maybe? Curveball? Changeup? Maybe he had a splitter? My head was spinning in all different directions. His face looked furious as he threw it as hard as he could. Life seemed to be moving in slow motion and then fast and furious when the ball came out of the pitcher’s hand. The ball was already in the catcher’s mitt before I even began to swing. The loud thud of the ball landing in the catcher’s mitt made me jump. My eyes went wide. The crowd even sounded shocked. People were even making comparisons to him and Aroldis Chapman. I started to panic even more because if there was one thing I knew about Chapman, it’s that he had no control of the baseball. I might get plunked!  I stepped out of the box and took a practice swing. My hand trembled so much that I almost let go of the bat.  

“Stay in there!” A dad from the stands yelled. I stepped into the box. The crowd was yelling, screaming, chanting, you name it. As the pitcher selected another pitch, I blocked out every sound in the ballpark. The cheers, the insults, everything. I took the deepest breath I’ve ever taken in my whole life. Even deeper than the pacific ocean.  

“Choke up on the bat,” Aiden Silberstein yelled from the dugout. I nodded and threw my hands higher on my bat. Again, the pitcher started his sequence of messing with me; he shook his head constantly when the catcher suggested a pitch. After almost four years, he nodded slowly. He took the ball out of his glove after finding his grip. I opened my eyes wider. My hips and legs pulled backwards and lurched forward and exploded with all my power. I swung as hard as I could. I heard the crack of the bat. The crowd went silent. The ball launched into the air. Even the pitcher froze, his eyes as wide open as my cousin’s mouth about to eat a one pound cheese burger on a Friday night. The catcher threw down his catcher’s mask in half anger and half shock. The ball flew over all the green dancing trees, swaying in the wind. I dropped my bat and ran to first base. The crowd cheered as the ball went straight over the yellow line on the fence. I couldn’t believe it. Nobody else could either. I heard the pitcher swearing under his breath. 

My teammates jumped up and down, screaming at me. 

“Way to go JC!” Danny Jackson  yelled. I threw my arm up in the air. We're going  to win this, I thought as I trotted around the bases, high-fiving my third base coach, approaching home plate. Rounding third, I turned to the pitcher. I paused and smirked at him. 

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