Our Smile Project welcomes our first guest author, Chuck "C.W." Spooner! Enjoy and please leave a comment for my friend and talented writer Chuck- he would love to hear your thoughts!
"Eddie" by Chuck "C.W." Spooner
Eddie walked up to home plate, his eyes on me all the way. I stood in the third base coach's box and looked in at him—all five feet and ninety pounds—and tried to think of something I could say as his coach, something that might actually help. It was the bottom of sixth, two outs, bases loaded, and we were down by one run.
Eddie was small for a twelve year-old. Several of his teammates towered over him and outweighed him by thirty pounds, but he was a good kid, a good teammate, always smiling, full of fun. It had been a pleasure to have him on my team. We’d had a good year, good enough to play in this post-season Tournament-of-Champions. And now here we were: our last at bat, one run to tie, two to win, or we could simply go home, the season over for another year.
I motioned for Eddie to come to me and I met him halfway. I put my right hand on his shoulder and bent down to talk to him, mouthing the clichés that have served coaches so well since the days of Abner Doubleday.
“Okay, Eddie, just relax, take a deep breath, get a good pitch to hit, put your best swing on it. Okay? No worries. Hey it’s just a game. Right? Have some fun—”
At that moment, in the middle of my inane monologue, I put my left hand on Eddie’s chest. His heart was jumping into my hand—thump, thump, thump—like someone beating a bass drum. It stopped me cold.
I’d grown up playing baseball from the time I was seven years old, and I knew what the pressure was like, especially when the adults tell you it’s a “big game,” and your parents are in the stands, and there are hundreds of people watching, yelling, calling your name. I knew all of that. But I’d let myself forget. That is, until Eddie’s heart was in my hand. I said the only thing that came to mind.
“Hey, just give it your best. Whatever happens, it won’t change the way I feel about you.”
Eddie turned and headed back to the plate. I’m sure his heart rate was accelerating.
I wish I had a happy ending for you, a miracle line drive to left-center bringing in two runs for the win. But that’s not what happened. Eddie struck out. I trotted in to scoop him up and carry him the few steps to the dugout, tears beginning to well in his eyes and mine. I can’t remember what I said, but I know it didn’t help. Nothing would have helped.
That was twenty-five years ago. A lot of seasons have come and gone since then, for Eddie and for me. Eddie grew a little, packed on some muscle, and became an all-conference rugby player in college. But, I would bet that Eddie remembers that baseball game like it was yesterday, just as I will always remember his heart leaping into my hand.