Bring the Heat(3)

By: L. Wilder



“He’s only the best pitcher in the whole world.”

“I kind of doubt that, Kaden.”

“He is! He just got promoted up to the majors. He’s the real deal.”

“Okay. Well, if he’s the ‘real deal,’ then what’s he doing here?”

“Who cares? It’s freaking Southpaw Tucker!”

“Oh, good grief!” I threw my hands up in the air as I turned and started for the dugout. “Have fun with Mr. Michaels.”

Behaving like a two-year-old, I plopped myself down hard on the bench, and as I watched Kaden step up to the plate, I grumbled under my breath, “Blah, blah, blah … It’s freaking Southpaw Tucker. He’s the best. Whatever.”

I sat there glaring out at the field, and my anger quickly subsided when I noticed the smile on my brother’s face. I couldn’t remember the last time he’d looked so excited. There was something about seeing him happy that had always gotten to me. It’d been like that since the day he was born. I wasn’t exactly ecstatic when I was handed the news that Mom was having another baby. I’d been an only child for so long that I’d become accustomed to being alone. I tried to fight it, but by the time he’d gotten old enough to walk, he had me wrapped around his cute, little, manipulating finger. He learned early on if he wanted something, all he had to do was come be-bopping over to me with that adorable, lopsided grin, and I was a goner.

By the time the rest of the team showed up, Kaden was starting to make progress. As much as I hated to admit it, Tucker had really saved the day. Paying more attention to his knee brace, I noticed him out on the field moving about slowly. I wondered just how badly he’d been hurt but convinced myself he wouldn’t put himself at risk for a Little League team. There was just too much at stake for a guy like Tucker. From the bleachers, I watched in amusement as the coaches directed the kids to their different spots on the field, each one a little more clueless than the next, but they all seemed eager to learn. When they called a break, Kaden rushed over to me with a big smile on his face. “Did you see that hit I made?”

“I did. You’re doing great!”

“I can’t wait to tell that big-mouthed Tyler Noels that Southpaw Tucker is helping out our team.”

“What do you mean he’s helping out your team?”

“He’s the coach’s brother.”

“Really?”

“Yeah, so he’s gonna help us practice while he’s home on the DL,” Kaden explained.

“What’s a DL?”

“I don’t know. He pulled some muscle or something.”

“Oh. Well, I’m glad he’s going to be able to help y’all out for a little while.” Remembering what he’d said earlier, I said, “Hey, wait. I thought you and Tyler were friends.”

He shrugged his shoulders. “We were until he started bragging that his dad is the best coach around, and his team is gonna cream ours.”

“Kaden.”

“What? He’s a butt-face and his team always wins, but this time they won’t.”

“It doesn’t matter who wins. Playing ball should be about having fun.”

His eyes narrowed as he shook his head. “Everybody says that, but it’s total crap, and you know it. It’s all about winning.”

“No, it’s not. And if you have that kind of attitude, you’re going to be highly disappointed. Just wait and see.”

“Doesn’t matter.” He reached for his drink, then turned and started back towards the field. “We have Southpaw Tucker. And with him, we’re gonna win.”





Tucker





Like baseball, life has a way of throwing you a curveball when you least expect it. Hell, I should’ve known that better than anyone since I’d made a profession out of throwing a bender at just the right time, but I was caught completely off guard the day I strained my quadricep. It had been a while since I’d pitched that well. Man, I had everybody off balance; they were swinging off their front foot. The umpire was giving me calls on the corners, and it was driving the batters crazy. I was on. Then, in the bottom of the fifth, their best hitter laid down a surprise bunt towards the third base line. My third baseman was playing back, and in order to keep my no-hitter in place, I left the mound and went charging after the ball. When I planted my right foot, my cleat slipped in the grass, and I felt an instant burning sensation from my knee all the way up the back of my leg. I attempted to make the throw but couldn’t get any power behind it and their guy made it to base. I tried to gain my footing, but the pain in my leg was excruciating. I knew then I was done.

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