Gray hair at the temples frames a laser concentration
the pitcher trains on the catcher’s polished fingernails,
signing the immediate. They both remember this batter well,
hitting a homerun off a split-finger fastball.
Yet, that’s what they call. The placement and speed were off
and they expect the batter will not expect it, now.
The pitcher knows his fingers are losing the strength needed
to throw the splitter, to choke the ball deep into his palm.
There is an ache where his index and middle fingers must spread
to grip the horseshoe seam and release the ball as if flashing
a victory sign to the fans in the seats behind home plate.
His memory and will are still fierce to compete, and by any measure
beyond diamonds he is a still young man. The batter is a boy.
His talent is rivaled only by his inexperience. The ‘old’ pitcher must fool him.
Pain and stiffness – that day-by-day wrest more rule over the hand
that’s guided the pitcher’s life – cannot be fooled. He nods at the sign.
His confidence, supreme. Go stand behind home plate and hold
a shoebox, and he can throw a ball into it from his throne 60-feet away.
Time after time. And he can still catch the breath and eyes
of tens of thousands, leaning in with him, waiting on his next pitch.
As he grips the ball, time grips his grip, stabbing his joints, cramping
muscles. He can wave off the catcher’s sign, but not so the clock
grown fragile from overwinding. Tilting back into the wind-up,
kicking at the sky and back to earth, elbow high above the hand,
until the arm comes forward and in tandem the snap and release …
gravity, space and time all deceived, the batter’s face framed in a V.