Illustrated by The #1 Sports Writer for Kids
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Corky, Becky, Scotty, Jody, and Tommy
Copyright © 1966 by Catherine M. Christopher
Copyright © renewed 1994 by Catherine M. Christopher
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the publisher, except by a reviewer, who may quote brief passages in a review.
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First eBook Edition: December 2009
Warm up, Wally," said Coach Hutter. "I want you to pitch the next inning."
Wally Morris had been about to sit in the dugout. He looked at Coach Hutter, a tall, wiry man with gray hair and blue eyes. Sometimes those eyes could be dark blue, especially when things didn't go right. Now they were mild blue. Wally knew that was because the Pacers were leading the Canaries by a fat margin, 8–1.
"Okay, Coach," he said.
Coach Hutter asked Pete Jason, one of the substitutes, to pick up a catcher's mitt and warm up Wally. Wally took his glove off the roof of the dugout, walked with Pete behind the dugout, and started throwing.
He didn't like to pitch. He got nervous and sweaty all over when he pitched. His control was poor, too. He'd rather play right field. He didn't mind the other outfield positions, but he was getting used to right field. He liked it there. Why did the coach have to change him?
He looked over toward the batter's box and saw Ken Asher pinch-hitting for Steve Collins. It was the bottom of the fourth inning, and Wally figured that Coach Hutter was putting in substitutes.
Ken smashed out a single, and Dick Lewis came up. Why didn't the coach have Dick pitch? Dick was tall and skinny as a rail, but he had a good right arm. He had control. And he liked to pitch. He wore glasses be cause he was nearsighted, but that didn't make any difference.
Dick took a called strike, then drove a hard grounder down to short. The ball was slightly to the left of the shortstop. But he fielded it neatly and snapped it to second base. The second baseman stepped on the bag, then pegged the ball to first.
A double play!
Alan Pierce reported to the umpire, then stepped to the plate. He was batting for Terry Towns, the pitcher whose place Wally was taking.
Alan fidgeted a lot at the plate before he got ready for the pitch. He pulled at his hat, rubbed his hands up and down on the bat, jerked his shoulders, and rubbed his sneakers back and forth in the dirt. Then he swung at the first pitch, popped it high into the air, and the second baseman caught it.
The infielders chattered loudly and happily as Wally walked out to the mound. A buzz started up among the Pacers' fans. They were clearly surprised that Wally was going to pitch. This was the first game in which he had played any position other than the outfield.
Wally stood tall on the mound. He knew what to do on the rubber. Coach Hutter had explained it all to him over and over again.
He faced the catcher, Chris McCray, with his left foot on the rubber and his right slightly behind it. He got the signal from Chris — one finger sticking below the mitt, which meant a straight ball — then took his windup and delivered.
He began to get nervous and sweaty. Chris threw the ball back to him and once more gave him the signal for a straight ball.
"Ball two!" shouted the umpire.
"Wait 'em out!" cried the Canaries' fans. "He'll walk you!"
The next pitch hit the corner for a called strike. The next two pitches were balls, and the batter got a free ticket to first.
"Stay with 'em, Wally!" yelled Coach Hutter from the dugout.
Wally put the first pitch over the plate on the next hitter. The next two throws were wide. He put the fourth pitch over, and the batter blasted it out to center field. The hit was good and solid. But J.J. Adams got under it and caught it.
The Canaries' pitcher swaggered to the plate. He was a lefty. Wally wished he would hit into a double play and get this inning over with quickly. Wally wound up and threw.
Crack! A long fly to right field! Alan Pierce, playing in Wally's place, hustled back and caught it. A beautiful catch. The fans gave Alan a big hand.
Two outs, thought Wally. One more to go.
A little guy stepped to the plate. Wally wiped the sweat from his brow. This one should be an easy out, he thought.
Wally stepped on the rubber, stretched, and fired the ball. Crack! A drive over short! A real Texas leaguer! The runner on first rounded second. Left fielder Tony Wells fielded the ball quickly and pegged it in to third. The runner hustled back to second base.
Wally stared unbelievingly at the batter, who was now standing on first. A little guy, but boy, could he hit!
Coach Hutter called time and walked out to the mound.
"Relax, Wally," he said. "You're too tight. Loosen up. Throw that ball around their knees. You can do it."
Wally nodded. He knew what he was supposed to do. He just didn't think he was any good at it. Why did Coach Hutter think so?
The coach walked off the field. Wally got ready to pitch again. There were men on first and second, and two outs. He stretched, delivered.
A hot grounder to short! It zipped past Ken Asher for a clean single.
The runner on second scored. The runner on first advanced to second, then stopped. The hitter, after running halfway to second, returned to the first-base bag.
The next hitter singled in another run. Then Wally caught a one-hopper that was hit directly at him. He threw the man out at first and walked off the field with the cheers of the Pacers' fans ringing hollowly in his ears.
What a terrible inning, he thought. Can't Coach Hutter see that I'm no pitcher? Can't he see that I play right field much better than I pitch and that I would rather play right field?
Couldn't Coach Hutter see that?
Chris McCray was the first man up to start the bottom of the fifth inning. Chris was stocky. Freckles sprinkled his face, and his hair was fiery red. He took a called strike, then two balls, then blasted a high pitch to deep center. It sure looked as if it were going out into the wild blue yonder. But the Canaries' outfielder sprinted back after it and made a beautiful one-handed catch.
Lee Benton grounded out, and William "Sawbones" Davis walked. Wally was up again.
He didn't feel at ease now. He was still edgy over the last half-inning.
- On Sale
- Dec 19, 2009
- Page Count
- 96 pages
- Little, Brown Books for Young Readers