In a bit of a rut, a ball player wrestles with his mind.
I stared down the line towards the plate. I didn't know what pitch the man on the mound would throw next, and so I waited, pulse thundering, to see if I could hit something, literally anything. Tonight was one of those nights. I'd worn my lucky socks, did my bat ritual, and said a prayer. It wasn't helping. It was my fourth time up to bat this game and nothing. Nothing. We were getting ready to go into the 10th inning unless I could do something here.
I wanted to believe that I could. Have faith in training day after training day. In my own skill. In my rituals and my lucky socks. In anything really. I was a good player, I was. I was early in the batting rotation for a reason. But no matter how good I was last season, last week, last game--hell--last pitch, I would be judged on this next swing.
I took a deep breath. This next pitch wasn't going to end my career. Losing this game wouldn't end my career. And I didn't get to this moment, on this team, overthinking all this. The rut I've been in doesn't matter. I took a deep breath, felt the heft of the bat in my hands, relaxed my shoulders, and gloried in the familiarity of my stance, the balance of my weight against the bat and the motion of the swing. Breath in, pull back. Breath out, swing. I saw the moment the pitcher nodded, accepting the pitch. Swing.
The crack rang out, echoing through the stadium, but I was already running, letting habit and years of repetition take over me. Just running towards a man on a mat. He was watching for the ball, waiting.
But I didn't think about him. I reveled in the bunch, push, release of my muscles, every part of my body in sync as I pumped towards first base. I dropped into the slide. The ground was warm and solid when my body hit it, and I stretched every inch of my height towards a little white mat that should mean absolutely nothing. A little white mat that doesn't mean anything. Only my body matters. I focused again on the air in my lungs and the memory stored in my muscles. I tap the mat as I feel a glove slap into my back.