He inches off first, eyes on the pitcher,
Noting the speed of the shortened windup,
The attention paid to him by the hurler,
The likelihood the pitcher will throw a curve to the batter
Or a change-up rather than a dart.
He needs to be able to dive back to first if necessary.
He recalls challenging this catcher’s arm before.
He is aware of the score, the late inning,
The batter’s ability to make contact or take a pitch
If he gets a good jump and has a chance
To steal himself into scoring position.
His team is one run behind in the eighth;
The hitter has a reputation: homer or strike out.
It’s the final week of the season and the runner’s team
Is desperate for the win…. He crouches, slides
Another inch. Another. The pitcher focuses
On the hitter. One more out to go.
The pitcher, a righty, begins to release the ball
Just as the runner takes off! Oh, wow — What a play!!
They’re all in the Majors; they all have skills:
It comes down to performing under pressure.