What a Way to Start the Season

Zach Piatt

Sports Editor

I woke up last Wednesday to “Bailando” as my alarm at 7 a.m. Butterflies ran through my stomach as I heated up my miniature pancakes in the microwave. 

As I waited for my breakfast, I stared at the quote I wrote on my whiteboard the night before. It read “Game Day Baby.” I admired the thought that it was game day, the first one since June. I was so caught up in fantasizing about playing ball I was startled when the microwave beeped right next to me.

After making quick work of my mini cakes, I went back downstairs to get ready to leave for school. I blared “Shipping Up to Boston”, “Danger Zone”, and “Thunderstruck” on repeat, like I do every game day, as I brushed my teeth and got dressed. I packed my uniform and equipment and headed back upstairs.

My dad was already on spring break, so I got to see him before taking off in the morning, making this day even better. I picked up a Cliff Bar, fixed up a water jug with Gatorade, grabbed my keys, and headed out the door.

I pulled into Northrop’s parking lot a little early and turned up my music like every other morning. My excitement for the game skyrocketed once I saw my teammates who were just as anxious as me. We walked in together screaming “Game day!” all throughout the halls.

All I could think about in class was the game. I took it easy in strength training and focused on staying fresh. I worked out math problems for two class periods because our class didn’t go to the fine arts showcase. I wanted to go, but I had that class with my man Garrett who was starting on the mound, which made me feel a little better about not attending the showcase. My next three periods basically all had free days, which gave me even more time to think and talk about the game. Seventh period I helped in guidance, which was pretty convenient because I stored my water jug in their break room refrigerator. Of all the days to have an earthquake drill, this just had to be the one, 15 minutes before the final bell rang too. It passed by quickly and I, along with a few of my teammates, were out the door.

I was the first one in the locker room. As more guys filtered in, I turned up “Shipping Up to Boston” again. This was the most excited I’d been in a while. I walked over to the mirror and watched myself button up my jersey, another game day ritual, and thought, “I look good.” Everything was perfect. I put on my shades and began to gather up my things when I remembered… I forgot my water jug in the guidance fridge.

Not my best moment. I don’t think I’d ever ran so hard in work boots. My hat flew off right before I reached the crosswalk. Luckily Steve-O was right there, so I kept running and hollered back at him to pick it up. As I weaved through traffic down the halls, kids reached out their hands for high fives and said, “Good luck!” I got to guidance and opened the fridge. There it was, right where I left it.

I got back to the locker room, winded, grabbed my bag, and headed for the bus. Steve gave me my hat and I breathed a sigh of relief.

You could feel the anxiety in the air when we pulled into Leo’s parking lot. Everyone was ready to play. I claimed my spot on the bench, put my spikes on, and trotted out to the right field line to warm up. We jogged to the center field fence as a team and I noticed I would only have a step or two on the warning track before the fence. I put that in the back of my mind as we started our stretches. I played some long toss with Yoss. My arm was feeling good airing it out. I started bringing it in and flipped the ball to Yoss behind my back once I was close enough, ending our warmup.

Northrop baseball players Jack Hayden (10), Zach Piatt (9), Alec Agler (11), and Jacob LeMonte (5) look on as their team bats. The Bruins would go on to win their first game of the season 7-4 after scoring four runs in the seventh inning. Photo by Evelyn Slabach.

When I got back to the dugout everyone was swarming around the lineup card. I waited patiently to take a look, not that I really needed to. When it cleared out a little and I was able to see the lineup, I was not surprised: batting leadoff in center field, same as the previous two years.

As Leo took pregame infield, I started my pregame ritual, going around telling everyone, “It’s game day” while shaking their hand. Coach Gatch is always my favorite, and he was one of the last ones. I shook his bear paw of a hand and he said, “Have fun”, and I promptly responded with, “Will do.”

Leo finished their infield and it was our turn. The outfielders made good, clean throws all around and our job was done. We took a few more fly balls on the side before running back in. The infielders finished pregame smoothly and it was almost game time.

I was so pumped. I took a few dry swings as we waited for the umpires. A game of two-ball started up, so I tried joining late, but I was rejected. I took a couple leads from what would be first base in the outfield. Gatch came out and told us what their pitcher was looking like in the bullpen. We broke it down one last time and ran to the dugout.

Ben and I did our handshake and I walked out to the on deck circle. I looked at our crowd, more packed than Leo’s, before timing up the pitcher. I saw my family, my best friend in my old hat I gave her earlier that day, and so many other familiar faces from the previous season. I turned to Kyler, our two-hole hitter, and we both said, “One-two knockout baby.”

The pitcher didn’t look like anything special. I was so ready. The catcher, who was a former teammate of mine for travel ball, yelled,” Two!” I watched his throw down and walked up to the plate. My teammates were yelling any and everything that popped into their heads. I asked the umpire and catcher how they were doing and completely ignored their response. I dug in and the ump hollered, “Play ball!”

I was taking until I got a strike. The first pitch was outside for ball one. Our dugout went nuts and the season was officially underway. I took the next one. Of course it was right down the middle. The next pitch was a curveball that broke on the inside corner for strike two. I choked up as he threw another curve. This one was in the dirt. 2-2. The dugout got even louder. I readied for the next one. It was a fastball on the outside corner. I took a hack and foul tipped it right into the catcher’s glove for strike three.

What a way to start the season.

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