It was about a week after Backyard Sports’ first baseball season was announced, and every kid in the neighborhood was excited over it. I was excited too, because I really wanted to show everyone how good I can be as an athlete, you know? So, from the moment I got home from the Clubhouse after the announcement was made, I started practicing like crazy at my backyard! Improving my baseball swing, running the bases as fast as I could without tripping on my two left feet, sliding down the base-line legs first, catching balls from anywhere on my backyard, you name the skill, I put a lot of time into practicing it! My mom was the one throwing the balls for me when I was swinging, running, and catching. But when it came time for me to practicing my pitching, she brought out a training dummy with a catcher’s mitt attached to a metal rod for a right arm and put it at the left side of home-plate, a good stand-in for a catcher, I suppose. She then walked back into the house to check up on Tony. The one skill that I was itching to practice more than any other was pitching, and for good reason. Now, I was already pretty darn good at throwing strikes a plenty, but I knew that I had to get better at it for the upcoming season, because there will always someone better than me, you know? I wasn’t too worried about that, though, because I knew that if I kept my skills sharp, I could out-play any kid out there.
When I was practicing my pitching, I wasn’t just throwing balls over and over again like a broken record. Nah, I had a plan in my noggin, and it was a simple one too; get better at throwing the Heat. The Heat is a really fast pitch, which gives a batter less time to take a swing at it before it zooms past them. It becomes even harder to hit if the pitcher throws the sucker within the corners or sides of the strike-zone. There was just one problem; my Heats were too wide. Now, I could throw Slowballs and Hooks anywhere in the strike-zone that I liked, and to my credit, I could at least throw Heats within the strike-zone consistently. But because my Heats were so wide, I could not aim them at the corners or sides without risking them moving outside the zone. So, as I threw one practice Heat after another at the training dummy’s glove, I quickly realized that I had two options; either improve my aim with this pitch, or make it travel into the strike-zone so fast that no batter could ever hit it. After roughly an hour of trying to aim the darn ball at the corners, only for it to go too high and/or too far to the sides, I decided to go for the second option. Sure, throwing a ball as hard as I could would mean trouble for my arm if I was not careful, but I knew better than to break an arm or leg over this.
As I threw my pitches, with each one being faster than the last, I recognized that I was making progress, as they were all within the strike-zone. But this was not enough, because in my mind, the Heat that I needed had to be much faster than this. So, I stopped for a moment, held the ball tightly in my mitt, and shut my eyes to imagine my ideal pitch. I pictured in my head one that was so amazingly fast that it turned into a blazing ball of fire as it raced past the batter like a rocket before they could even swing! I understood then that no pitch that anyone could throw would do something that ridiculous, but the image was too cool to not inspire me, you know? I kept that image clear in my brain as I took my stance and threw another Heat right at the strike-zone, as hard as my arm could manage. Deep down in my mind, I badly wanted that ball to burst into flames, even though that was impossible. As I did my pitching motion, I felt something that I had never felt before buildup in my belly, something warm that did not come from my body heat. I was too focused on what I was doing to be surprised by what was happening inside of me, but whatever I was feeling, it felt good and harmless, so I left it alone. As I raised my right arm to make the throw, that warmth came rushing up from my belly, up my chest, along my right arm, and up to my fingers. Now that I think about it, it felt as if a part of me was flowing through those parts of my body, a part of me that I had never noticed until then. I left it alone again, simply because it still felt pleasant. Before I knew it, however, what I thought was impossible had happened before my own young eyes.
When I threw the ball, it flew through the air at a speed that I had never seen a baseball travel at before in my life, but what it did as it traveled shocked me the most. It burst into a raging, flaming, fireball, just as I had previously imagined in my mind! It zoomed down the middle of the strike-zone with a furious, unforgettable blazing sound and directly into the training dummy’s mitt, shoving it off of its rod as they both flew onto the ground, almost a foot away from the dummy! I watched as smoke rose up from the open mitt that was now resting on the ground with its front facing the sky, utterly shocked over what had just happened. It took me almost a whole minute to fully process the event; I had just accidently thrown a fireball! The first one ever, as far as I knew. My shocked quickly turned into joy as I started to laugh at this discovery, because if I could get this new pitch figured out, then no batter could ever get a hit off of my throws! As my joy died down, I began to notice that my right arm was feeling really worn out, it even hurt a little too. I held it with my left hand as I then decided to take a break before practicing some more. I slowly walked over to the fallen mitt and looked down on it, while making sure to not get close enough to be burned. I saw that, to my shock, the baseball that was once a fireball was barely harmed. Smoke still rose from it, yes, but there was only a small scorch mark on it! I was surprised by this, as I honestly expected it to be a small pile of ash by now. Heck, I also expected it to still be on fire when I checked. It was at that point that I realized that I needed to get some advice on what to do next, and there were two kids out there who knew baseball better than anyone else in the neighborhood; Stephanie Morgan and Pablo Sanchez.
Stephanie was, to any kid who knew her, a living baseball encyclopedia. She knew everything, and I mean EVERYTHING, about Baseball! So, I was sure that she knew something about that fireball pitch. As for Pablo, there was a reason why everyone in Backyard Sports called him “The Secret Weapon”; he earned that title with gusto! He was simply the best baseball player in the club, the neighborhood, possibly the whole town. He also had a strong distaste for cheating. Seriously, if someone had tried to cheat while playing in the club and he found out, that poor knucklehead would be given one heck of a lecture by an angry Pablo. So, I figured that I would ask him if my new pitch would be too awesome for season play, because cheating hurts everyone in a game, you know? My plan was to speak with each of them, one at a time. But if I could catch them in one place, even better. I had my mom drive me over to Stephanie’s house, as I wanted to talk with her first. I did not tell mom about the fireball pitch, not because she would not believe me, since we Delvecchios were raised to never lie to our loved ones, but because I was worried about her calling me crazy or something like that. All I had to do was tell her I wanted to spend some time with one of my friends and she was convinced enough to drive. I did, however, sneak the slightly scorched ball into my backpack before leaving, thank goodness it cooled down enough to be touched safely! As luck would have it, Pablo was visiting Stephanie’s house when I arrived there, which made my task easier on me. After the three of us walked into her room to chat it up, I took the ball out of my backpack, placed it on her bedroom table, and told them everything that had happened on my backyard. Stephanie was clearly stunned by what she was hearing. As she grabbed the ball and carefully inspected it, she made it clear that she had never seen or heard of a pitch that could burst in flames before in her life, let alone one that could ignite like mine did. Pablo, on the other, was both silent and twice as stunned. I could see the shock in his eyes, and to be honest, that is a sight that I am not getting out of my head for a long time. He then shut his eyes for a moment, took a deep breath, looked me in the eye with a calm look on his face that oozed with seriousness, and asked me, in clear-cut Spanish, what I was thinking of when I made that pitch. It was rare to see him look so serious, and I understood enough Spanish to get what he was asking, so I took a breath of my own and calmly told him the truth. A smile slowly built up on Pablo's face as he then asked us to follow him over to Stephanie's own backyard. Now here is the kicker; he asked us this in perfect English! Now, anyone who was a friend of The Secret Weapon would know that he would only speak English when his words were too important to be misunderstood by those around him. So when he asked us to follow him in that language, both of us girls were inclined to oblige him. I am glad that I did, because as we would soon learn from him, while Pablo had never seen a fireball pitch before, he knew of other crazy stuff like it. This is because he had seen similar things happen before in his life, and he knew actually how they worked. I’ll put what happened next like this; Stephanie Morgan taught us all how to play Baseball, but it was Pablo Sanchez who taught us all how to put our Souls into playing the sport.