CEDAR RAPIDS - As playoff primers go, this one looked textbook.
Top-ranked Cedar Rapids Xavier will charge into the Class 3A playoffs with a full head of steam after scoring 41 first-quarter points and thrashing South Tama, 62-7, in the reg ... »
DECORAH — The aroma of freshly cut grass, the view of an untouched dirt diamond and newly chalked lines are enough to satisfy most people.
But nothing compares to the feeling of walking onto the field right before the first pitch, preparing myself for the game just seconds away.
Being the second batter is pressure-filled, especially if the girl ahead of me gets a solid hit and is waiting on base for me to move her closer to scoring. As she places the neon yellow ball between the shortstop and third base, I assure myself it is my turn to get on base next.
When I strut into the white box, the lines still are untouched and the dirt is perfectly dug up with set spots from the girl before me. I sink my right foot into the crunchy dirt and twist. Air fills my lungs for a split second. My body relaxes as I look at the scuffed white and blue metal bat. My other foot drops into stance, shoulder width apart. I grip the rubbery handle with my right hand and adjust my helmet with my left hand so I can look through the smooth, gray face mask.
I gaze out to the empty field, looking for the open spots. I notice the faint smell of popcorn and grilled hot dogs while I take in the crowd for a few seconds — roaring cheers chanting my name — all in hopes of success. The sweat of hard work drips off my forehead and into the dry dirt below me. One more deep breath and I stare at the pitcher, anticipating her throw.
The pressure is on her as I am ready to pounce on the first pitch. Defensive players around her are just as ready as I am, but they intend to make me their first out of the inning. They all have the same look of intimidation, a will to win.
The shortstop’s eye black is smeared and fatigue is spread across her face. Sweat drips off the first baseman’s lip, and the sun beats directly in her face, enough that she has to squint to tell where the ball is placed. Dust clouds around the third baseman, her uniform covered in rusty brown dirt from diving in a great effort to make the play before. The second baseman creeps into her set spot and digs her feet into the ground, ready to shift any way in a split second. The pitcher, with determined eyes, licks her fingers to get a better grip on the already worn out ball.
She starts her wind up with the call from the catcher fresh in her mind.
As she winds around, my left arm pushes the bat toward the catcher to load. Time stops as she lets go of the ball. I watch it come in — a perfect pitch. Perfect height, perfect placement, perfect speed. My hips snap forward while my body weight shifts onto my back foot. My eyes follow the ball to the plate, studying the rotation to make sure it will not drop or rise out of the already wide strike zone. My hands stay high while I swing through with all my power.
The ball contacts the solid bat. The successful crack of the bat makes my heart race as I watch the ball soar into the outfield. Immediately, I sprint to first base, keeping an eye on the ball still in the air.
As I approach first base, I look at the ball one more time as it soars out, up and over the rickety white fence. A smile spreads across my face. Goosebumps poke out of my sweat-soaked skin as my first base coach screams her congratulations and gives me a high-five when I round first base. My teammates holler, scrambling out of the dugout to meet me at the dust-covered home plate.
As I reach second, I notice the infielders have crowded around the pitcher, the look of defeat on their faces. My attention moves to the parents sitting behind the fence of the outfield as they yell my name and cheer even louder as I round third and start heading home.
With the permanent smile on my face, I jump on home plate and crouch down, ready to embrace the back slaps and head taps from my rambunctious teammates.
Striding back to the dugout, my emotions run high. Hearing the roar of the crowd and the feel of my perfect swing will always stick with me. Seeing my teammates waiting impatiently for me and screaming my name will never leave my mind.
Playing this game gives off the greatest feelings I have ever experienced.