“I never knew I had an arm until this guy called out, “Hey you want to try and get a ball in the hole, sonny?” I was only nine, but mom said, “come on, let’s play.” This Carney guy with no teeth and a fuming cigarette hands me five blue rubber balls and says if I throw three in the hole we win a prize. He’s grinning, because he took mom’s five bucks and figures a sucker is born every minute. That really got me, because we didn’t have any money after Fernando took off, and he only comes back to beat up mom and steal our money. So I really wanted to get mom back something, you know, for her five bucks.”
A boy with a golden arm but no money for lessons. A mother who wants to give her son his dream before she dies. A broken down World Series pitcher who cannot go on after the death of his wife. These are the elements of The Pitcher. A story of a man at the end of his dream and a boy whose dream is to make his high school baseball team. In the tradition of The Natural and The Field of Dreams, this is a mythic story about how a man and a boy meet in the crossroads of their life and find a way to go on. You will laugh and you will cry as The Pitcher and Ricky prepare for the ultimate try out of life.
I am only nine, but Mom says, “Come on, let’s play.”
This carnival guy with no teeth and a fuming cigarette hands me five blue rubber balls and says if I throw three in the hole, we win a prize. He’s grinning, because he’s taken Mom’s five bucks and figures a sucker is born every minute. This really gets me, because we didn’t have any money after Fernando took off, and he only comes back to beat up Mom and steal our money. So I really want to get Mom back something, you know, for her five bucks.
I take the first rubber ball and throw it over my head and wham! The carnival guy looks at me and laughs.
“Whoa! A ringer. Let’s see you do it again, sonny.”
It’s like something happens when I throw a ball. My arm windmills over the top then snaps down like a rubber band. It’s like I’m following my arm. So I throw the second ball and he mutters, “Alright, let’s
see you get the next ball in.”
I mean we’re Mexicans, and I think this guy figures he’ll put one over on us.
I throw the next two balls and they go wild. I hit the top of the wood circle with one and the other one flies completely over the game. The carnival guy is grinning again because he knows I have only one more ball. I wind up like I had seen pitchers on television and wham, right in the hole again.
He hands Mom a big white polar bear and takes the cigarette from his mouth. “That looked like a sixty-mile-an-hour pitch to me,” he says.
“I don’t know,” I reply, shrugging.
He nods and picks up the rubber balls.
“You should pitch, buddy,” he says with one eye closed. “You have a hell of an arm.”
Author William Hazelgrove
William Hazelgrove is the best selling author of five novels, Ripples, Tobacco Sticks Mica Highways and Rocket Man and The Pitcher His books have received starred reviews in Publisher Weekly, Book of the Month Selections, Junior Library Guild Selections, ALA Editors Choice Awards and optioned for the movies. He was the Ernest Hemingway Writer in Residence where he wrote in the attic of Ernest Hemingway’s birthplace. He has written articles and reviews for USA Today and other publications. His latest novel Rocket Man due out May 1, 2013 was chosen Book of the Year by Books and Authors.net. He runs a political cultural blog, The View From Hemingway’s Attic. A forthcoming novel, The Pitcher will be out Sept 1, 2013. He lives in Chicago.