Title: Called Strike
Word Count:
This is just a little piece from the character Michael's childhood, meant to give a little background.


michael shane mccarty was born to be a ballplayer.

you kind of have to be when both your brothers played college ball and your dad and uncle before that. so it's pretty much a given that you're gonna grow up with leather and cork and 108 red stitches in your hand.

when you were little (you couldn't have been more than four or five) dad would take you out into the backyard and blindfold you, and have you throw a battered, beat up old ball of his from his juco days, tearing apart at the seams.

dad would set up an old stained mattress against the maple in the backyard, crude black lines in painted roughly the size and shape of a regulation major league strike zone (set to a child-sized scale of course), armpits to the hollows of the knees.

"c'mon, mikey," dad says, taking you by the shoulders, setting you up where sixty feet and six inches would be, from the old dying maple tree. "c'mon, hit the strike zone, right down the middle. you can do it."

you tug on the blindfold, dad pushing your hands down. "i can't see, daddy."

"doesn't matter, son. you could hit that strike zone in your sleep," he says, "you just throw the ball like we both know you can."

so you feel around for the ridge in the dirt that's supposed to represent the rubber, and get into your windup, perfected after countless rangers games, watching dad's old fading tapes of nolan ryan, watching kevin brown after that, kenny rogers, ken hill, roger pavlik, watching ranger after ranger parade across the mound.

the first pitch, it hits the tree trunk and spins in mom's flower garden, kicking up dirt.

after retrieving the ball from the garden, you set back up on the makeshift pitcher's mound and adjust your blindfold.

"you can do it, mikey, you can do it," says dad, clapping his hands rhythmically.

you dig your toe into the dirt, pivot, wind and deliver.

the baseball splits the crude strike zone straight down the middle.

called strike three; you're out.