Being a closer I do a lot of sitting around, taking the game in, carefully noting the best way to attack different hitters. I notice everything, the holes in each batter’s swing, whether it bailing out on an outside curveball or not being able to lay off the high heat. I’m the ultimate competitor, and although it can be difficult to stay engaged, I know that with each pitch passing by I’m gaining more and more of an advantage over my opponents. With the way things were heading, I’ll be making my second straight all-conference appearance by the end of the spring.
In the past few years my high school, Wellington Academy, has established itself as one of the top private school teams in the country, reaching the state finals two out of the last three years. As for this year, we have gotten off to a hot start, winning six out of our first seven games, with four of the wins being closed out by me. Today we are facing off against an in-conference rival St. Francis at our home field, which is without a doubt the top baseball field in all of Connecticut.
After jumping out to a quick six run lead in the first inning, it looked like my services would not be needed today. However, St. Francis clawed its way nearly all the way back, bringing the score to 6-5 after a three run double in the top of the seventh inning. In the midst of this rally, Coach Brown calls out to me, “Ben, go get loose.” This sound is like music to my ears, because means another opportunity to close out a win. After trotting out to the left field bullpen, I start tossing a few warmup pitches. Lining up the sems of the baseball with each pitch, the ball seems to fit perfectly in my hand. With each throw I pick up the intensity, preparing to enter the game.
After our starting pitcher, Connor Milbourn, walked the bases loaded, coach had finally seen enough. Slowly walking out to the mound, he motioned for me to come into the game. Living by routine, I sprinted to the mound, and took a fresh leather ball from coach’s hand, “All we need is one out, go get ‘em kid.” Like I needed any reminder, this is the situation I live for. I love a challenge, and this certainly is one. I focus in on home plate, because now it is just me, the batter and the catcher, my best friend Tom Atkins. I stare down St. Francis’ cleanup hitter and we lock eyes. He doesn’t want any part of me, and we both know it. Now, back to the plate. I take my signs, windup, and fire a fastball on the inside corner. It brushes the batter off the plate, but the umpire is not fooled and calls out, “Strike one.” I take a deep breath, taking it all in. Once again, I fire an inside fastball for a strike, with the hitter’s bat not leaving his shoulder. I have him right where I want him, setting up an offspeed pitch on the outside corner. In the background, I hear my mother and sister cheering me on in the distance, “Come on, just one more pitch!” Finally I deliver a masterful outside curveball that the batter whiffs at, followed...