Will Josh ever learn to spot Lefty's curve ball?

Source : http://www.highlightskids.com/Stories/Fiction/F0498_hanginthere.asp...

Josh had to learn to hit the curve.The big left-hander on the mound fired the baseball home.

“Hey!” Josh had only a fraction of a second to jerk his head out of the path of the speeding baseball. He flopped onto his back with a thud, the air kicking out from his lungs on impact.

“Strike one!” the umpire yelled.

The Mudcat catcher towered over Josh, holding the ball. “Nice curve, huh?” he chuckled, smirking down at him, then threw the baseball back to his pitcher.

“You have to hang in there on that curve ball, Josh!” Coach Schmidt hollered from the third-base coach’s box.

Josh, a left-handed hitter, was not used to seeing a left-hander’s curve ball breaking away from him. All the right-handed pitchers in the league threw curve balls that curved toward him, right into his swing, right where he liked it.

Josh dusted off his uniform and eased back into the batter’s box.

“Let’s give him another curve. The kid’s a big chicken!” the Mudcat catcher yelled to the grinning pitcher.

“Just hang in there,” Josh told himself. The next pitch came whistling in just like the first pitch, heading right at him. Every muscle in Josh’s body screamed at him to get out of the way. He remembered how foolish he had felt jumping away from the first pitch before it broke sharply over the plate for a strike. He decided to hang in there.

But this time the pitch didn’t break. It was a fastball. The ball crashed into Josh’s shoulder, and he bent over, clutching at the pounding pain in his arm.

Josh slowly trotted down to first base, shaking his hand, trying to coax some feeling back into his arm.

When Josh came up to hit the next time, the catcher shouted out to the pitcher, “Let’s put one in his ear this time!”

Coach Schmidt called Josh over for a conference. “Remember to hold your ground on that curve ball. Don’t let yourself bail out.”

“But how can I tell if it’s going to curve?” Josh asked.

“You’ll learn. Just watch the seams.”

But what if I’m wrong, Josh thought. He stretched his stiff arm over his head. Sooner or later he would have to learn to hit the curve.

The ball seemed to pause for an instant.Josh stepped back into the box, getting ready to focus on the ball as soon as it left the pitcher’s hand. The pitcher got his sign and went into his windup.

The ball spun in toward home plate, then seemed to pause for just an instant before it broke sharply down across the outside corner for a strike. It was the curve ball.

That pitch almost seemed to be rolling over on its way to the plate, Josh thought.

The next pitch smacked into the catcher’s mitt, fastball, high and outside for ball one. Josh stepped out of the box and rearranged the dirt with his toe while he thought. That last pitch was totally different from the curve ball. There was no pause, and the seams were spinning so fast that he could barely see them.

As he dug his foot back in the box, it occurred to Josh that he had never really thought about what the ball looked like on its way in.

On the next pitch Josh watched the red seams of the baseball rolling over as it came in, and then—a pause. It was the curve ball again, Josh realized. He swung awkwardly at the pitch, but it had already curved away from where he thought it would be.

The umpire signaled strike two.

“Nice swing, kid,” the catcher heckled.

Josh ignored the taunt. He knew that he was on to something. He checked his swing when the next pitch sailed in high for ball two. That was the fastball—it came as straight as an arrow, spinning so fast that he couldn’t see the seams. Josh was sure he could tell now. But could he tell quickly enough to get his bat on the ball?

The pitcher went into his windup and let the ball go.

There were the rolling seams, a little slower, and the pause. Josh wanted to swing once he was certain that it was the curve, but he could see that this pitch would break low and outside. He watched the pitch go by for ball three.

Now!Josh finally felt ready to hit. His aching shoulder reminded him that he’d better be sure about the spin. The Mudcat lefty kicked his leg and delivered. The ball came speeding in, straight at Josh’s tender shoulder. This time, though, the pitch looked fat. There were the rolling seams. It was the curve. Just wait for that pause … now!

He swung the bat around hard, right to the spot where the first pitch had been, the one that had sent him flying to the ground. His bat met the ball with a solid crack. The line drive rocketed right back at the Mudcat pitcher, sending him sprawling to the ground. The pitcher reached up for the ball, but the ball bounced off his glove and dribbled toward second base. Josh was sprinting down the baseline when the second baseman picked up the slow-rolling ball and flipped it to the first baseman for the out.

Josh walked past the Mudcat pitcher on his way back to the bench. The lefty was staring at his glove in disbelief.

Josh couldn’t wait for his next time at bat.