I remember it like it was yesterday. It was my very first game on the Milton High School varsity baseball team. It was a cold, clear spring night, with the breeze blowing and the stars out bright in the sky. It looked as if it was a sell out game with no empty seats and people in lawn chairs all along the outside fence watching and cheering for their team. We were playing in our usual pre-season tournament against the highly intimidating Catholic Crusaders. It seemed as if every person on the team was no smaller than six feet and each hard as a rock looking as if they were made from stone. It was the fifth inning and I was sitting on the bench taking the pitching book, and admiring myself in my new varsity uniform, not knowing what was in store for me later that game. We were up by one run in the fifth inning when our current pitcher began struggling.
He had pitched the entire game up until then and was giving it every last bit of life he has left in him, but he just couldn't seem to get that last important out. The coaches then noticed that he was losing it and started talking amongst themselves. After what seemed like hours of debate the head coach looked up and said, "Troy, go get lose in the bullpen"ÃÂ. My heart skipped a beat and my stomach dropped. I stood up and began searching frantically for my glove pushing people and their things as if I was searching for a bomb that was going to explode if I didn't find it. After what felt like hours, I found my glove and hurriedly made my way to the bullpen and began stretching. My heart was beating ninety miles an hour while thoughts of blowing the game and having everyone thinking I'm a failure went through my head. I quickly had to escape my daydream and began throwing with the nervousness growing stronger and stronger while our pitcher was still out there battling. He had just walked the bases loaded when coach called time out and began making his way out to the pitcher's mound. I sat there realizing that this was my time because there was no one else to go out there but me. I got a lump in my throat while watching coach give his final words of encouragement to the exhausted pitcher, when suddenly he looked over at the bullpen and motioned for me. I knew that meant I was in the game and this was my big chance. Excitement, nervousness, anxiety, and confusion ran through my body, all at the same time. I began trotting out to take my place on the mound, looking around at the enormous amount of people who were about to be watching me. The excitement grew with each stride when finally I was standing on the mound looking at coach trying to listen to what he said over my thoughts of disappointment. Coach then said, "Go get em"ÃÂ and began walking back to his place in the dugout. I was standing there all alone on that mound with every eye in the park staring at me burning holes in me like fire. I closed my eyes and took a deep breath, trying to get my mind off the crowd and into the game while giving myself words of encouragement. I turned around thinking I was invincible and stood tall and proud on the mound, ready to go to war with my enemy. The umpire made his way back behind the catcher and yelled, "Play ball!"ÃÂ. I heard my teammates start yelling for me letting them know they were right there with me. I stared intensely at my catcher waiting for him to tell me what to throw. He signaled for a curve ball so I came set and looked the batter in the eye letting him know I wasn't afraid of him. I began my delivery and threw the ball as hard as I could, putting every ounce of effort I had into it. I looked up and heard, "Strike one"ÃÂ. The crowd yelled and clapped and I then realized I could do it; I was going to strike this guy out. The catcher threw the ball back and I stood once again on that mound staring that batter in the eye, showing no fear. I got the signal and came set, except this time with a bit of cockiness to me. I reached back and threw a fastball on the outside corner; it was a swing and a miss. The crowd went wild again now cheering even louder with more excitement. The catcher hurled the ball back and I paused. I realized I could be the hero. With one more strike, I would save the game and we would win, and we would beat what seemed to be an unbeatable team. I strolled around the mound for a second gathering myself for this next all important pitch. I returned to the mound and glared in at my catcher to get my signal. I came set thinking how great it would be to win this game and have everyone love me. I reached back, delivering the pitch with all of my might, grunting with effort. I looked up and it seemed as if the ball was moving in slow motion. What seemed like minutes later the ball crossed the outside corner of the plate and the umpire yelled, "Strike three!"ÃÂ. I stood there not knowing what to do, not knowing how to react. The crowd was standing, cheering at the top of their lungs, and all for me. I had done it. I was the hero. I started confidently jogging off the field, smiling from ear to ear. I couldn't believe what had just happened. It's all still like a dream to me, almost like it's something too good to be true. It was one of the greatest nights of my life and I will never forget the one moment I got to be the hero.