"A Towering Bunt"
by Jerry Vilhotti

With all the strange occurrences going on, Johnny, the Wildcats first baseman, began to realize that the jinx gods were lurking about with their omnipotence--fully ingrained in most ballplayers' minds that had them making sure bats were never copulating one upon the other, which would for sure have brought on a losing game--and to make certain one was not a loser, Johnny would bring more voodoo into the activities by whispering to his jinx gods he was most likely going to strike out three or four times and make several errors that would have the opposing team able to fully humiliate him and all his teammates by a record big score called a blowout.

One had to be very careful, though; if the jinx gods were able to detect that one was not fully sincere, then they would not allow the opposite to happen--which delighted them so ever since they joined the Greek gods, who were having all their fun manipulating goings-on like having for-sure-caught balls leave a glove to become a home run falling innocently over the banged-into fence

The jinx gods began to work on the over-religious Holy Heart first baseman (who had won the honor of All-City the year before as a junior); convincing him he was going to score, only to have him trip ten feet before the pentagon as the Wildcats catcher gleefully tagged him out to stop once and for all his squirming as if looking for the invisible foot that had tripped him and when the Heart's left-pasture-guarder appeared to have caught the little white pellet only to have Helios blow it out of his glove to become a pseudo-triple.

Johnny knew for sure something was up, despite having "prayed" to his jinx gods by convincing them their team was for sure going to lose to their rivals, a high school that had eight boys to two girls in their classes while Johnny's had six girls to two boys! They had beaten The Holy Hearts a week before, but now first division was at stake with the winning team garnering the coveted fourth-place position in the standings of the "Free American Valley League". Johnny convinced them that he was most likely going to go hitless while making four outs after Coach Moriairty had put Johnny into the fifth hitting slot after mid-season instead of languishing in the eight position having only pigeons on base to hit in instead of behind the cleanup hitter and the first three batters whose job was to get on base for a grand slam to happen, so Johnny found himself batting in many runners with his many hits.

The Wildcats coach disliked Johnny for defying the sacred notion that a ballplayer had to have two good legs to be any good, but Johnny was pretty good learning to play first base as if he had always done so and so had placed him in the fifth hitting slot after losing three one-run games earlier, which helped the Wildcats to have a chance to come in fourth place but no chance for the state tourney since their five losses made them fall one game short of that goal.

In the last half of the first inning, the Hearts' coach, Ambrosia Boland Peter Paul Horrigan, elected to walk the cleanup hitter to get at Johnny to hit into a double play. When Johnny hit the ball toward the clouds in center field, he truly believed the outfielder was going to make the catch somewhere in mid-center field, but when the ball landed only three feet before the fence, fifty feet behind the outfielder, allowing two runners to score and Johnny ended up on second base, shaking his head in disbelief.

Then in the fifth inning, with the score tied and Johnny behind in the count two "steeks" to one "baw", he managed to hit the fork-ball that seemed to be going first in one direction and then changing its path to inside; managed to hit the ball that the pitcher was throwing as a "waste pitch" to left-center, scoring another run which was the prelude to another batch of runs making the score reach eleven to two, the eventual score of the game with the Wildcats victorious to Coach Moriarity's delight.

At the meeting of coaches of the other three high schools and three sports writers for the Burywater Simpleton newspaper to select the small cities best players for The All-City's Best, the coach told them it was the boys of his race "The Black and Tans" that had won their last crucial game.

All season the coach, who once had a tryout with the mighty Yankees but did not make the cut, was obsessed that his players speak good American by always shouting while pointing to the fly ball that "I have it!" and not "I got it!" That would not be good, he insisted vehemently while doing his tavern cough.

The three sports writers voted for the Hearts' first baseman, Shaun Kevin Joseph Macarthy, despite his .219 batting average against the local teams while the three coaches chose Johnny, the kid with the last funny name, since he hit for a .368 average against their local teams.

The Wildcats coach voted for The Hearts' first basemen, breaking the tie; telling them in all good conscience, he could not vote for a cripple and indeed was showing fairness by not voting for one of his own players. The sportswriters nodded, happy they were on the same side of the guy who had played with the Yankees one short spring exhibition season.

The truth was that Coach had given Johnny a bunt sign, which would have assured him being a .300 hitter and not the .289 he finished with, so he could have presented this fact to support his player ... Gucci, Johnny's brother-in-law, shouted to Johnny, pointing for him to hit a homer. Johnny thought for a second; realizing it was his last chance to hit one, as he had done many times as a kid before his growth cells were mistakenly taken out by a Burywater doctor who was groping to take out the water on Johnny's knee. Johnny swung with all his might, lifting a towering fly ball which the shortstop caught after camping under it for thirty or so seconds ....

Johnny would realize as a man it was not Coach Moriarity's fault, but his for betraying a signal he was given and did not keep his word to follow. END

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