“Frank Thomas stepped up to the plate. The most feared hitter in all the land brought shivers through the spines of opposing pitchers. No one could sneak a pitch by The Big Hurt, especially with men on base.”
“Seriously, Frank Thomas? That’s who you choose to be? He stinks! He hasn’t been feared by anyone in years,” retorted Matt.
But Frank Thomas was one of Damian’s favorite players and always had been. He wanted to be Frank Thomas and no amount of hazing from his buddy Matt would deter him.
“Who are you being? I’m Frank Thomas,” exclaimed Damian. “You’re just jealous because I get to bat first and you have to pitch. Pick someone good or else you have no chance of getting me out!”
Matt fired back, “I can pick someone crappy and still get Frank Thomas out. He’s a bum!”
One young child stood on a clump of grass a few car lengths from the other, ball in hand. Damian was standing upright, trying to make himself appear tall and statuesque, trying to be Frank Thomas at the plate. Tapping his Reeboks into the ground like spikes moving around the batter’s box dirt, Damian grips the bat hard, steadying his gaze. Matt held the baseball in his right hand, dangling by his side, peering in at the imaginary catcher behind his friend.
“Alright, I’ll be John Smoltz,” said Matt. “John Smoltz the closer or Smoltz when he started?” asked Damian in reply.
“Why does it matter?”
“Well he was better as a starter but threw harder as a closer. If you choose John Smoltz the starter, you can’t throw as hard. That’d be cheating.”
“Well if I pick closer Smoltz, can I still use all his pitches?”
“Don’t be a cheating idiot,” yelled Damian. “Smoltz only threw fastballs and sliders as a closer. It’d be unfair for you to get to throw hard AND throw all his pitches!”
Matt relented. The logic was indisputable. Never mind the fact that Matt could only throw one pitch, which I guess would be deemed a fastball. And he could only throw it one speed, which was not particularly hard. At this moment, he was John Smoltz getting ready to face Frank Thomas. Reality was inconsequential.
“Okay, I’ll be Smoltz the closer then. I want to throw hard.”
Damian held the bat down and pondered. “If you’re going to be Smoltz, I want to change my guy to a lefty hitter. I’m going to be Ken Griffey Junior instead.”
“No way!” shouted Matt. “He’s too good. You have to be Frank Thomas. You already picked!”
“I should get to choose my hitter after I know whose pitching. That is how it’d be in the Majors. The batter would get pinch hit for.”
It was then Matt’s turn to play manager. “Well if I see that you’re bringing in Griffey, then I am going to sub in a lefty out of the bullpen. I’ll be Billy Wagner. So there!”
“Oh come on, Griffey only has 1 career hit off Billy Wagner,” rattled Damian. “How come you can have Wagner and Smoltz on the same team? That doesn’t even make sense. Why would your roster have Smoltz the closer and Billy Wagner? You’re being stupid.”
“Yeah but his one hit off Wagner was a home run!” Matt wouldn’t give in to his buddy on this. “Besides, what offense would be able to afford having Griffey on the bench to come in as a pinch hitter for Frank Thomas? You are the idiot.”
As the two bickered, the sun began to set on this majestic backyard. Matt’s mom poked her head out the back door and hollered something about dinner being ready. The two All-Stars would have to call it a game, saving this historic match up for another day.