He was never the brash young hurler from Texas or Australia who brushed back batters from the plate with high inside heat. From the start, he threw more college stuff. I didn’t try to change him. I work with what I know is on the mound on game day. From the way he climbs that little hill, pounding his fist into his glove or kicking the clay from his cleats, I know how the first six batters will go. After that, the tough part of my job is not getting hit by a bat behind the plate. As long as he thinks he’s in control, with his arm I can throw a good game. His first season with the team, playing to his wife in the stands, he couldn’t win at home. We had a little chat, the wife and I, during which the infield stood behind me for emphasis, and she developed other interests. Next season, we had a similar chat with his girlfriend. That problem ended too. Now today, he wants to throw everything down and away. These can be long afternoons, when he tries to hide the ball off the plate. Batters figure this out and before you know it, we’ve dug ourselves a three-run hole. I see it’s time for a trip to the mound. That daughter of yours is growing up fast, I tell him. That gets his attention. He hides his face behind his glove and says something not meant for the television cameras. Yeah, I tell him, guys at the restaurant were slipping her drinks. Out-of-town players will do that, I say. The next two batters dive away from inside fastballs. He’s shaking off the cute stuff now, getting down to business. Who knows, I may have a no-hitter in me today.

Copyright © March 06, 2008 David Hodges

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