Gopher Ball

The opening day in my Little League featured each team in the league playing an inning.  So all the players from all the teams were there; a lot of parents showed up, and there was bunting and such stuck in the chain link.  My second year with the Rams my coach said I would pitch the first half of the first inning against some team.  I was a bit PO-ed because I figured that meant his son would start our first real game.  He had started grooming his son for the job, so that we would have 3 strong pitchers rather than the 2 we had the year before (me and another guy).

I could see the writing on the wall; less starts for me.  That meant I would be sitting more on my butt on the pine because I was a rare thing for Little League.  I was a pure pitcher; i.e. I couldn’t do anything else.  Usually guys who pitch in Little League are good athletes and play some other position when they don’t pitch.  But not me.  I pitched and I batted ninth.

I was a little pissed off and didn’t feel entirely honored to get the job of pitching the first inning of an exhibition game.  So I decided I would have some fun with it and take the opportunity to practice my gopher ball; this involved a long stretch towards home, and I would swing my arm so low that my knuckles would sometimes graze the ground.  With the proper spin the ball would go straight up, curve down, and drop right on home plate or right behind it.  It was a pure junk pitch and slow as molasses.  You could light up your cigarette and take a drag in the time it took that thing to get from me to home plate.

So I pitched a gopher to the first guy and he swung and missed.  I struck the guy out, and then I started out on the next guy with a gopher and adults in the stands began to boo.  I was amazed; they were actually booing.  I was stoked.  Fuck the fuckers, I thought.  I was pitching a legal pitch; I wasn’t pitching underhand.  I was breaking my wrist and the umpire could see that.  So if they thought I was throwing a pansy pitch, let their little Johnny prove it by knocking it out of the park.

I struck out the next little fucker too on a straight diet of gophers; and the last one hit a one bouncer that even I could handle.  Three up.  Three down.  And nobody was booing when I walked off.

Hell, I was the most fun they had all day.

I laughed about that one inside all the way home on my bike.