Note: My fantasy baseball draft is under way, so I’m in a baseball mood.  I’m choosing to re-run an older baseball-themed story.  Release Point originally ran on March 27, 2010.  What makes it special?  It was the first ever Fiction Friday story.  Many of the regular readers may not have seen it before.  If it seems a bit rough compared to the newer stories, bear in mind that I was just picking up fiction writing after a ten year layoff when I wrote this story.

 

Jerome Franklin’s mind was a thousand miles away as the bus persevered over the rough roads, jolting the occupants seemingly every five seconds. Jerome was thinking about how he ended last year, giving up home runs at an alarming rate and allowing hits with such frequency that the manager was routinely sending him to the showers in the third inning. Coach Brunner had worked with him on his release point, but would he still be tipping his pitches? For a former seventh round draft pick in his fourth year in the farm system, this was a make or break year. A repeat of last year’s performance would probably mean his outright release and a job shoveling cow dung on the family farm.

Franklin sighed loudly and shifted in his seat. Max Cook pulled his headphones off, turned in his seat and gave Jerome his characteristically broad smile.

“Hey, J. No worries, man. We’ll be there soon.”

Franklin gave a faint smile to his friend and they began some small talk and the bus clattered through the city toward the ballpark. The off-season had been a long one, and he had not had much contact with many of his friends.

Jerome ate his typical pregame meal of two hot dogs, washed down with a bottle of Gatorade. Perhaps he should switch to a different pregame meal in order to change his luck. No, he decided, he wasn’t going to fall into the trap of becoming the stereotypically superstitious ballplayer. Besides, he really liked hot dogs, regardless of what they packed inside the wieners. He burped, grabbed his glove, and headed onto the field for practice.

A short while later, Jerome was honoring his country during the national anthem, watching the flag wave slightly in the breeze. Adrenaline was flowing through his body at full speed, and he was ready to take the field and assert his dominance. They were the road team tonight, however, and Jerome would have to cool his heels for a half inning.

Max Cook scorched a line drive to right field, and the speedy center fielder motored around to third base to start the game. Unfortunately, Cook would remain at third. The next batter struck out swinging at a pitch over his head. Then came a lazy pop fly to the pitcher. Finally, a towering fly ball that would have served as a great sacrifice fly if it had come one batter sooner. The smile was gone from Cook’s face when he returned to the dugout, replaced by a frustrated grimace.

“Let’s get ‘em, J.,” Cook shouted. “1-2-3”

Jerome’s first pitch was a curveball. The hitter jumped on it and hammered the ball to the deepest part of centerfield for a homerun. He turned to heckle Jerome as be broke into an exaggerated trot.

“You’re still tipping the pitches, Meat!”

Jerome was steamed as he stood waiting for the jerk to finish his leisurely stroll around the bases. He considering hitting the next batter, but the last thing he needed was another base runner. He started off the next batter with a fastball, and it was also hit hard. Max Cook chased down the ball in centerfield and hurried the ball back to second base, but the runner slid in safely.

Catcher Johnny Morris jogged out to the mound.

“These guys think they have you rattled, J. Just remember everything the Brew taught you. You’re not tipping your pitches any more. Let’s get em.” Morris slapped him on the rear end and head back to the plate.”

The next pitch was a fastball and Morris was quickly out of his crouch and gunning the ball to third base, nailing a would-be base stealer trying take advantage of Franklin’s state of mind to be aggressive.

The next pitch was a changeup, and the batter was fooled badly, popping the ball foul to third base, where it was caught. Jerome began to focus on the task at hand and worried less and less about tipping his pitches. He moved the ball in, out, up, and down and complemented his high 90s fastball with a healthy dose of changeups and curveballs. He was throwing all his pitches from the same release point, making it impossible to the batters to determine which pitch was coming. Jerome was in control of the game, and pitched seven strong innings, allowing just three hits and walking two batters. The offense was never able to muster a rally, however, and Jerome found himself on the wrong end of a 1-0 score. Franklin may have lost the battle, but he was beginning to win the war. Today’s shower was going to feel really good.

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Kosmo is the founder of The Soap Boxers and writes on a variety of topics. Many of his short stories have been collected into Kindle books.

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