She Did What She Did
Only after her index and middle finger went numb did Carrie realize she was squeezing the baseball with a death grip. Her slender fingers, greasy with sweat, felt like they were missing. Under the waiting gaze of the thousands of Tigers fans circling her, she was extra aware of every minute movement of her body. So she did not move at all, sticking out of the mound like a pole.
Curtis Granderson waited for her to throw the first pitch. His front leg pointed at her at an accusatory angle. Her catcher signaled for down and away, but shouldn’t she just throw the hardest fastball she could and zoom it right across his shadow of a mustache? She needed an “I’m here” stamp to start things off, something for them to talk about on Sportscenter.
At every stage, she was met with disbelief and condescension. How can a girl play on the Little League team? Okay sweetie, Little League and high school is one thing, but college baseball, don’t be stupid. Being the ace on the Cal team is quite an accomplishment, but those big boys in the pros are going to eat you up.
Her ears stopped up like she was on a landing plane. Were these fans booing, jeering, clapping, hissing, chanting? Carrie couldn’t hear anything. She felt her heartbeat under her fingernails. There weren’t butterflies in her stomach; there was a caravan of tanks on fire in there.
The Blue Jays knew that signing Carrie would come with a wake of overeager reporters, a complete disregard of everything non-Carrie Rutkowski and corny headline jokes in every Toronto sports section. The first woman to play in the majors would be beset with more pressure than any overhyped rookie out of high school could understand. Everything she said, did, didn’t do or tried to do would be shot through the electric pipelines of the media. Either she’d heroically wade through it and pitch the way she’d been doing since she was six or she’d fail, prove her
critics right and crawl under the nearest available rock.
Her best pitch was her slider that started at a right-handed batter's knees and ended up eons away from the head of their bat. But Granderson, skilled at hitting to the opposite field, waited for her and had to be extra determined not to strike out to a woman. Carrie pictured her first pitch soaring on a rainbow curve right into a fan’s glove. What if I balk? What if I sling a wild pitch into the dugout? Shut up, she told herself. You’re as good as any of these guys; you just have boobs and a ponytail.
Granderson’s bat wobbled over his back shoulder. Fingertips rested on the shutter release of hungry cameras. Carrie’s head was muddled with her mother telling her not to aim so high so she wouldn’t be disappointed, with the taste of chewing tobacco juice when she kissed Randy at the baseball camp in ’03, with the irrational fear that her arm would fall off and fly towards home plate like a hunk of meat being thrown to a lion.
She wiped the sweat from her forehead with the crook of her elbow. A wiggle of her fingers against the inside of her glove and they were back. She did what she did. She kicked her knee up and fired.
©2010 by Ryan Dilbert