Danny works hard to improve his high jump.

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“Stee-rike one!” the umpire howled.


“Oh great,” I thought. “It’s bad enough that I’m facing my big brother, the best pitcher in the league. Now the umpire is giving him the outside corner, too.”


I stepped out of the batter’s box to think. I looked over at my brother, Mark, who was toeing the rubber on the pitcher’s mound. I thought back to all the times we had played catch in the backyard. I could still remember how my hand had ached from catching his sizzling fastballs. No matter how red my hand got, I never let on that it hurt. Mark would smirk and ask, “Had enough yet?” That only made me want to play more.


I had spent the last two years in the bleachers watching my brother pitch. I had cheered with every out and held my breath with every hit. I had always dreamed of being as good as my big brother one day.


How I hated that look!


This year I was old enough to play in the same league with Mark. But we had been assigned to different teams, and now we were playing against each other. Mark needed just one more out to record his first no-hitter. I was all that stood in his way.


“Let’s play ball,” said the umpire. I stepped back up to the plate.


“Don’t give in, Freddy!” someone hollered from the bench.


“But it’s my brother,” I thought. I wished I could be in the stands cheering for my brother instead of down here hitting against him.


The next pitch smacked into the catcher’s mitt like a pistol shot.


“Strike two!” called the umpire.


I stepped out again and looked at the coach, pleading silently for a pinch hitter. The coach just pointed at me and made a fist, signaling for me to bear down and make some contact.


With one foot in the batter’s box, I glanced again at my brother on the mound. This time Mark wasn’t looking in for the catcher’s signal. He was looking right at me. There was something about the way he was staring that bothered me. I casually pushed around the dirt in the batter’s box with my toe while I studied his face. “That’s it,” I thought. “It’s his eyes. His eyes are laughing at me!” It was the same old “had enough yet?” look.


As much as I loved my brother, that was how much I hated that look. I felt the hair on my neck bristle and my cheeks flush with anger. I dug my foot in and prepared to hit. The bat now felt weightless in my hands as I leveled it over the plate.


My brother started his wind-up. I concentrated on keeping my eyes on the ball from the moment it left his hand.


Another fastball, this one high and inside. I pulled my hips out of the way and shot my bat around at the blurred white target as it sped toward the catcher’s mitt.


I felt the sting of a thousand bees in my hands as the ball crashed into the bat. I dropped the bat and looked up to locate the ball. I was shocked to see my brother and the other infielders looking out toward right field.


In the excitement I had to remind myself to run to first base. The ball seemed to float in slow motion as I sprinted up the base line. I watched the second baseman racing out into short right field, looking over his right shoulder. Then, just as everyone met in right field, the ball dropped untouched onto the grass. I had a single!


I rounded first base and returned to the bag, feeling ten feet tall. The first-base coach hugged me, and my teammates cheered wildly from the bench. Then I saw Mark. He was glaring at me, the laughter gone from his eyes. I remembered his no-hitter.


I glared back, not giving an inch, as Mark turned away to face the next batter.


He made short work of the last hitter—three quick fastballs and the game was his. I walked across the field to our bench, watching as the players on the other team mobbed Mark, congratulating him on his one-hitter.


I had gathered up my gear and was heading for home when Mark came up behind me and grabbed my arm. “That was my no-hitter you ruined,” he said.


I stopped and looked him straight in the eyes. For a few moments neither of us said a word. Then I felt a broad, proud smile creep across my face.


“Yeah, I know,” I said.


Mark just stared, speechless, sizing me up. The look of anger in his eyes slowly faded. I thought I saw a flash of a smile before he said, “Good job,” and turned to walk home.