In the backyard of many suburban homes, the game plays out in entirety by one young kid with a dream.
He strides across the yard of green grass worn brown in spots from constant activity. Pulling at the brim of his hat to lower it down, he taps his sneakers with the skinny, plastic yellow bat and causes a puff of dust to appear. He digs in his back foot as the soundtrack begins to play so vividly in his mind that his mother can almost hear it as she peeks out the kitchen window to check on him.
Bottom of the ninth. Two outs. The home team comes to bat in a tie ball game, The Kid steps to the plate. It all comes down to this.
The white plastic ball leaves his hand and goes high in the air, crashing back down to the earth as it escapes the path of the bat. He picks it back up, taps the bat on the broken pan that Mom has allowed him to use as his home plate, and digs back in.
The pitcher has his sign. He comes set and delivers.
The ball sails from the bat, hooking just to the left of the oak tree that serves as third base. A foul ball that the batter runs to retrieve, the whole while imaging the scene around him. 50,000 fans rising to their feet chanting his name. Another tug of the bill of the cap and he digs in, this time with the look of determination in his eyes. The pale white sphere rises into the sky and meets the yellow bat on the way down, this time soaring straight over the fence that separates the neighbor’s yard from their own.
It’s high, it’s deep. Get up, baby! Get up! Gone, a home run and this victory belongs to the home team.
A high five to the first base coach that only he can see, a finger point and fist pump as he rounds the swing set that poses as second base. A low five as he turns past the oak tree and crouches low as he jumps into the sea of imaginary teammates to celebrate his amazing feat.
Boys and girls everywhere play out this same story and soundtrack in their backyards every day. Home runs are hit, strikeouts are thrown, and legends are born in the dreams of baseball’s youthful fans. The situations change but the story rarely does. The hometown boy or girl comes through as the hero for their local team. Every now and then, dreams come true.
Just over seven years ago, Jim Edmonds launched a mammoth home run into the right field seats at the stadium known as Busch II. The homerun hit by Jimmy Ballgame won game six of the National League Championship Series and forced a game seven against the division rival Houston Astros. The Cardinals would win that game seven before going on to lose a four game sweep at the hands of the Boston Red Sox. Edmonds was not a native of St. Louis, but this town adopted him as one.
In 2007, injuries and time would begin to catch up with the outfielder that had a flare for the dramatic. The Cardinals would make a decision to move Edmonds and his salary, if they could find a bidder. They found one in San Diego, who shipped a once promising prospect that had fallen out of the spotlight in exchange. Many fans despised the trade of a fan favorite ballplayer and the return that it garnered left little confidence in most minds.
David Freese would join his hometown team for Spring Training 2008. He grew up attending Lafayette High School in a suburb of St. Louis. He would play baseball there alongside Ryan Howard. He would dream of someday getting the opportunity to wear the birds on the bat.
When he gained that opportunity, he never imagined he would be in the situation he found himself in during game six of this year’s World Series. In front of a sellout, home town crowd, Freese would be down to his final strike in the ninth inning. With two runners on and his team trailing by two, he launched himself from hometown boy to hero with a game tying triple. His team would battle from behind once again in the tenth and give him the opportunity to stride to the plate in the eleventh with a chance to win it all. A pitch out over the plate, a drive into deep center field, an announcer, as real as can be, with a call that sounded amazingly similar to the call the announcer’s father had made 20 years prior echoed through homes everywhere.
We will see you tomorrow night for game seven.
Bill Ivie is the editor here at I-70 Baseball as well as the Assignment Editor for BaseballDigest.com.
He is the host of I-70 Radio, hosted every week on BlogTalkRadio.com.
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