MEANT TO BE
Desiring as much privacy as possible, Trevor and Cindy chose a table in the farthest corner of the ice cream shop. As they seated themselves, Cindy spoke.
"You said we were celebrating a couple of things," she said to Trevor. "What else are we celebrating besides the championship?"
"Well, I don't know about you," replied Trevor, "but I'm celebrating us meeting. I'm SO glad that happened!"
"Oh, right!" said Cindy. "Me too, obviously! Gosh, I'm embarrassed that I didn't think of that myself."
"Don't be," said Trevor. "Obvious things have been known to go right past me, too. Like yesterday, when it never even occurred to me that I hadn't told you my name."
"Well, you were just nervous," replied Cindy. "So was I."
"All right, I'll give you another example," said Trevor. "When I was twelve, I started taking guitar lessons. I wanted to learn so I could play at Church, at Sunday School, when I got older. The guy who led the singing at the beginning of Sunday School every week played the guitar, and I decided I wanted to do that someday too, so my Mom and Dad let me get a guitar and take lessons. Then the next school year I had a really neat teacher for Sunday School, and I started thinking that I wanted to be a Sunday School teacher when I got older, too. While we were going home from Church one week I told my Mom that I couldn't figure out whether I wanted to be a teacher or a music leader when I grew up. She said, 'Why couldn't you just do both?'. There was no reason at all why I couldn't do that, but that possibility had never even occurred to me."
"I think I see what you mean," said Cindy. "After all, here we are on our first date, and you're busy telling me how dumb you are."
Trevor laughed loudly enough to cause some of the other people in the dining area to turn their heads in his direction.
"You've been holding out on me, haven't you?" he finally said. "You said all those nice things about my sense of humor, and it turns out you're funnier than I am!"
"Come on now, stop it," replied Cindy. "I believe that you think I'm pretty, but I'm not funny, not anything like you. That's not a matter of opinion, that's a fact. I hardly ever make up jokes that get laughs."
"Yeah, right," said Trevor. "I'll ask your Mom and brother about that next time I see them."
"Go ahead," Cindy challenged. "You think I'm lying to you or something?"
"No, no," Trevor answered quickly. "I thought you were kidding. I..." He paused for a long moment with a frown on his face. "You said you don't get laughs," he continued, "but I bet you THINK of a lot of jokes that you don't say. Right?"
Cindy's eyes widened a bit. "Well, yeah, I guess so," she replied, "but I don't say them 'cause I know they're not funny. How did you know?"
"Easy," Trevor shrugged. "That line about telling you how dumb I am, and the one to the clerk about shock treatment, those WERE funny. And you came up with them right away, just like me. I know enough about comedy to know that that's not the work of a rookie. You must have been a student of comedy for a long time, just like I've been. The only difference is that you've kept most of it to yourself."
"That's amazing!" declared Cindy. "I feel like I'm on a date with Sherlock Holmes or something!" She took a big spoonful of sundae, lifted it into her mouth and savored it for a few seconds. "Ooh, that's good!" she said after she had swallowed. "Yeah, you're right, Trevor. I've always liked comedy, and I've always wished I could be funny like the people on TV and in movies. Once in a while I've tried to make a joke, but usually if I got a laugh at all it was only a little one - or a boo, like you said. So I usually just keep the things I think of to myself.
"In the last couple of years, when I started thinking seriously about boyfriends and potential husbands, one of the main things I decided was that he had to have a good sense of humor. He had to be able to make me laugh. That was the main reason I liked you so much right away when we met yesterday. Of course, it did help that you're also cute, and that you said I was pretty."
"That's a coincidence," replied Trevor. "The thing I liked most about you was that you laughed at my jokes. I should have realized right then that you had to have a great sense of humor yourself. Which you do, believe me! Even though you kept most of your jokes to yourself, just thinking of them must have caused your sense of humor to develop, to get really good." He paused. "I only have one question: since you don't usually share your jokes, why did you say two of them within five minutes?"
"I don't know," answered Cindy. "She thought for a moment. "Probably just because I didn't think you'd make fun of me if they were no good. You would understand, where most people wouldn't. Or maybe you just kinda got me into the spirit of it with your jokes. Especially at the counter, where I just followed your lead."
"Probably some of both," commented Trevor. He ate a spoonful of his ice cream. "You know what I think? I think you should just start saying more of the things you think of, and don't worry about what people might think. You ARE funny, and I'm sure you'll get more laughs than boos."
"I'd like to do that," Cindy replied, "but I'm not sure I'm brave enough. At least when you're not with me. But it makes me feel better to hear someone like you, who I KNOW is funny, tell me that I should do it. Maybe I'll try."
"Go for it!" said Trevor, with a little pump of his fist.
They both ate in silence for a minute or so, then Trevor spoke again.
"Listen, I gotta ask you," he said. "Exactly how did you learn to pitch so good? I'm a big baseball and softball fan, and I've never seen anyone as good as you are. No one even close, really."
"I did do good yesterday, didn't I?" replied Cindy with a smile. "That was maybe the best game I ever had, except for the homerun. But I had an advantage. Two, actually. One, there was practically no wind at all yesterday, so I could control my pitches extra good. And it was late in the season, when I've been practicing all the time for months, and when I'm playing against teams I've faced twice earlier in the season, so I already have a pretty good idea how to pitch to their hitters. I always give up more hits and runs in the first part of the season. I did pretty good this year, though, considering I had never seen any of the hitters before, even in previous seasons."
"You moved, right?" asked Trevor. "From out of town?"
Cindy stared at him, then assumed a British accent. "Extraordinary, Holmes!" she exclaimed.
"Elementary, my dear Watson," replied Trevor, doing his own British dialect. Then he resumed his normal voice. "I tried to look up your number last night. It wasn't in the book, but Information had it. I figured that could mean only one thing. It also explains why you weren't on that team last year."
"You really are good at deductive reasoning, aren't you?" commented Cindy. "Have you read the Sherlock Holmes stories?"
"Actually, no," answered Trevor. "I get most of it from my Dad. He likes all kinds of puzzles, anything that has to be figured out. I don't have the patience for most of those things yet, but I like figuring things out that directly affect me. Dad's an old 'Star Trek' fan, and he says I combine the logic of Mr. Spock with the emotionalism of Dr. McCoy. The emotionalism is why I'm impatient sometimes."
"You should read the Holmes stories," said Cindy. "You'd like them. I've read them all. Did you know that the phrase, 'Elementary, my dear Watson' isn't in any of the original stories? My Mom said they only used that in some of the movies."
"Really? That's interesting," replied Trevor. "But right now I'm more interested in your career as a pitcher."
"Oh, yeah. Well, it started when I was in fourth grade in Minneapolis - that's where we moved from. I had played tee-ball for three years before that, but in fourth grade it changed to normal softball, with a pitcher. My Mom had taken Toby and I to see my Uncle Bill play softball a few times, and he was a pitcher - a good one, too. So I decided I wanted to pitch like him, instead of playing in the infield like I did in tee-ball. But I didn't know what I was doing, and when we started practicing at the beginning of May, two other girls beat me out. I ended up playing second base.
"I worked hard in practice at second base, but I was kinda mad that I couldn't pitch. I really wanted to. So I asked Uncle Bill to teach me about pitching. He said that at my age I only needed to work on two things: arc and location. And that the secret to both was good mechanics. He helped me find an exact delivery motion that felt smooth and natural to me, and that also would tend to result in a nice, high arc, as high as the rules allowed. He said I had to keep practicing it until I could do it without even thinking about it. It took a couple of years before I got it down THAT good, but I got pretty good at my motion pretty fast.
"Then he had me work on location. He said that the best place to pitch is over the outside corner around the knees, that most hitters don't like the ball there and will take at least one strike before they swing at it. Then if they start moving closer to the plate, he said I should pitch one on the inside corner.
"So I practiced hitting the corners. I practiced with Toby a lot, with one of my friends sometimes, and even with my Mom once in a while. When no one could help me, I went out by myself with four old balls I borrowed from the coach, and I practiced alone. I was lucky that we lived only two blocks from school, and my school had an official ball diamond. I couldn't practice a whole lot while the school year was still going, but once vacation came I was out there almost every day for at least a little while.
"Uncle Bill couldn't believe how good I got at hitting the corners in just two months. He said I had a real gift for pitching. But I was still stuck at second base on my team.
"I talked to my coach about switching, but he said he needed me at second base, and that the two girls who took turns pitching were doing all right. That was after three of our six regular season games, and we were 1-2. But the next week one of the pitchers was on vacation, and the other was having a bad game. We played six inning games, and after two and a half innings we were losing, 12-5. While our team was up in the bottom of the third I asked the coach again about pitching - I begged him, really - and he finally said, 'Why not, we've got nothing to lose at this point.' So I finally got to pitch in a game.
"I was nervous at first, and I had trouble putting the ball where I wanted it. I gave up two hits, a walk, and then another hit. The other team had scored a run and had the bases loaded, and there was still nobody out. I was afraid the coach would take me out, but he didn't. So I took a couple of deep breaths and really concentrated, and I tried to pretend that I was just practicing, not pitching in a game.
"I got the next batter to swing at a pitch over the outside corner, and she popped it up. The next one I struck out by getting two outside corner strikes, then coming back over the inside corner. The next batter hit another outside corner pitch on the ground right back to me, and the inning was over.
"Getting out of that inning with only one run scoring seemed to energize our team a little, and we scored four runs in our half of the fourth. I kept hitting the corners pretty well, and allowed three more hits over the last two innings but no more runs, and we scored two more runs in the fifth, and then three in the bottom of the sixth to win the game."
"Cool!" exclaimed Trevor. "What did the coach have to say about that?"
"He said I did a great job," replied Cindy, "and that he hoped one of the other pitchers could handle second base, 'cause I was going to keep pitching."
"That's a great story," said Trevor. "It's so neat how you wouldn't give up, and kept at it till you got what you wanted. And you helped the team, too."
"You don't know all of it yet," said Cindy. "I pitched three innings of each of the last two regular season games. I allowed two runs in the first game, and only one in the second, and we won both games by three runs, 10-7 and 8-5. In that league, the top two teams at the end of the regular season play for the championship - not like here, where all the teams get a chance. By winning those last two games we ended up in second place."
"And that probably wouldn't have happened if you hadn't started pitching," said Trevor. "Wow! So, did you guys win the championship?"
"Unfortunately, no," answered Cindy. "The team we played was the team we came from behind to beat the first time I pitched. That was the only regular season game they lost, and I'm sure they wanted to prove that our win was a fluke, because they were really psyched up. Plus, I got nervous again because it was my first championship game, so I didn't pitch very well. We lost, 15-6. But I had the last laugh: we beat that same team for the championship the next two years."
"And I bet your pitching had more than a little to do with that," said Trevor.
"I don't mean to brag," replied Cindy, "but yeah, it did. I kept working to get my control better, and I got some more coaching from my uncle, and I figured some things out myself. For example, I usually start with the outside corner pitch. If the batter just stands there, it means she really doesn't want the ball there, and she'll often take a second one for strike two. And if she does swing, she usually won't hit the ball hard.
"But if the batter takes it but looks like she wanted to swing, or checks her swing, I'll throw the second pitch a little outside. A lot of the time she'll swing at it, even though it's a ball, because she doesn't want to get a second strike called on her. And because it's outside, she usually won't hit it very well.
"If I see a batter standing close to the plate, though, I'll try to hit the inside corner on the first pitch. My next pitch depends on how she reacts to the first one. But if that kind of hitter looks eager, sometimes I'll pitch one a little high and outside, and she'll usually hit it in the air. Are you following all this OK?"
"I understand perfectly," Trevor replied. "Well, all of it except the part after, 'I usually start with the outside corner pitch'."
Cindy giggled. "Don't feel bad," she said. "I'm trying to explain things in a simple way that it took me four or five years to learn, and I really can't explain all of it anyway. It's partly sort of a developed instinct. Starting with my fifth grade season I tried to pay close attention to every batter and learn what kind of pitches different types of batters like and don't like, and I also experimented with different sequences of pitches, and eventually I just started to KNOW what the best way was to pitch to each batter. I'm not ALWAYS right, of course, but I don't have to be. As long as I figure right for most of the batters, and put most of my pitches where I want them, they won't score many runs off me."
"Y'know, I thought I knew a lot about softball," said Trevor, "but you're making me feel like a first year tee-baller."
"Well, it's only pitching that I know THAT much about," replied Cindy. "And I really only began to explain that. There's lots of other things, like changing speeds sometimes, or throwing more pitches a little out of the strike zone in the late innings when we're ahead, or-"
"All right," chuckled Trevor, "That's enough for now! You're overloading my brain!"
"I'm not worried," said Cindy. "I know your brain can hold as least as much as mine. I'm sure it holds more general knowledge about baseball and softball than mine does. I might be a better pitching coach than you, but you'd be a better manager."
"I bet you're a better student, though," said Trevor. He scraped out one last spoonful of ice cream, ate it, then dropped the spoon into the empty bowl. "I bet with your brains and your work ethic you've gotten straight A's all your life."
"Don't bet much," replied Cindy. "My memory tends to be kinda selective for some reason. I have no trouble remembering things about pitching, even things about opposing players. Not only as batters, but sometimes in other ways. Like last night when the coach was waving me to second on my first hit, and I suddenly remembered that the leftfielder had a real good arm because she threw out a couple of our runners in our first game, so I stopped and went back to first. But when I have a test in front of me, my memory's not so good. Of course, not studying as hard as I could might have something to do with that, too."
"Amazing," said Trevor. "That's one more thing we have in common. I've always worked hard to be a good ballplayer, but I'm a notorious underachiever when it comes to school. My parents always tell me I'm smart enough to get A's, but it's always seemed to me that B's are good enough, with an occasional A in a class that I really like, or a C in one that I really don't. I figure if I get a B I got all the basics of the class down. To get the A I would have to spend extra time studying to learn some specific things that I'll have mostly forgotten in a few months anyway. It'll be worth the extra effort when I'm a senior and need the grades to impress colleges, maybe even next year as a junior to have two great years for them to see. But not now.
"On the other hand, I've never minded working extra hard at baseball. For one thing, I love playing ball. For another, I'm not a real gifted athlete, so I need to work at it to be good. And finally, it's not just me that's affected if I get lazy. My team is depending on me, and I don't want to let them down. With grades, no one but me is involved."
"That's exactly how I feel about pitching," said Cindy. "At first I just wanted to prove that I was good enough to do it. But after that first season, when my pitching helped us get to the championship game, I started wanting to get better as much for the team as for me. Like you said, I feel like they're depending on me. But tell me more about your baseball career, so I can finish this sundae before it turns into chocolate milk."