The Perfect Play

By Heradio Luna —

The wives of the players and the faithful fans cheered approvingly.
They sensed that the team's manager had the team practicing a secret
play designed to keep Van Horn's season record perfect.

They had not lost a single game that year and had no intention of doing so.

Time and again the pitchers hurled the baseball to home plate while a
player feigned swinging at the ball to sharpen the catcher's skills.

The manager would walk out to the pitcher's mound and instruct the pitchers.

“Remember, as you release the ball lean forward and stay down until the catcher fires the ball to second base.”

The manager would pretend he was the pitcher and demonstrate the
moves to make sure the pitchers understood. As the pitchers took turns,
they would follow instructions by throwing and leaning forward to allow
the catcher to throw the ball right over them to second base. The play
had reached perfection.

After practicing for two weeks every day, no less than 200 times,
they were now assured no one would steal second base from the Van Horn
Stars.

David Lujan was the catcher, and a powerful one at that. He was the
type who could catch the ball and return it to the pitcher in less than a
second.

Everybody admired his strong arm, and some would tell him he should
be a pitcher. The more he was extolled on the magnificence and accuracy
of his throw backs, the quicker and faster the pitches came back to the
pitcher.

Why, it got to where the ball came back to the pitcher almost as fast as the pitch itself. Everybody loved it, and he knew it.

Van Horn had such good pitchers that year the opposing teams were
lucky to get a man on first. But, if they were lucky enough to make it
to first, this new play would ensure the runner would never reach second
base.

The all-important game was coming up shortly against the other team with a perfect record, the Valentine Pirates.

They also had not lost any games to any of the teams in their
district that year. Their pitching staff was equal to, if not better
than Van Horn's, not to mention the outstanding batting by the team.

They were just as sure and just as cocky they would win this game.
This was visibly and audibly exhibited to the Van Horn crowd as they
practiced before the game.

It was a beautiful, cloudy day.

Hardly a breeze was blowing and the most important game of the season
was about to begin. A larger than expected Van Horn crowd was on hand
to view the spectacle, not to mention the many fans who made the trip
from Valentine.

On that particular Sunday the starting pitcher for the Van Horn Stars
was to have been Johnny DeAnda. Everybody in the baseball circle had
heard about his fast balls. He was, without a doubt, the most feared
pitcher because of his 90 mph pitches.

But Van Horn had another hurler just as well known for his curve
balls, his change ups, and his reverse pitches. Pitches that were so
slow they seemed to be going backwards. He also had the best record.
That pitcher was no other than Mighty Moses.

Everyone on the team was very much aware of the often practiced play.
It had become second nature to them. After seven innings the scoring
had gone according to expectations. Van Horn had a single run, while
Valentine remained scoreless. As the game reached its climax in the
ninth inning, the Valentine Pirates were at bat.

As tensions grew one of the Valentine players finally got a hit off
Moses and the runner reached first. Not to worry. The fans, the players'
wives, and the entire team had their eyes fixed on the Star's manager.
They all spotted how nonchalantly he had signaled the pitcher. They knew
the new play was in effect. There was only one fly in the ointment —
the catcher. He was so enthused, and so engrossed in throwing the ball
back as quickly and accurately as possible, he missed the signal.

The catcher was so eager for his fans' approval of his prowess as a catcher, he totally missed the cue.

The runner at first meant to score. He came off the base and taunted
the pitcher. He would pretend to make a dash for second, and Moses would
have to throw to first to make him stay put.

The runner gave every indication he intended to go as soon as pitcher released the ball. Moses was not worried.

He had absolute confidence in the catcher's throwing ability, and all
the while he was surveying the teasing player he was thinking,

“We have a surprise for you, buddy. You go ahead and do your thing
and we'll do ours.” He got on the mound, raised his hands up high, and
when he came down with the pitch, a fast ball, he launched the missile
and lowered his head way down just like they had practiced over a
hundred times.

The ball loudly smacked into the catcher's mitt and David instantly
shot back the ball with as much fervor as he had received it.

Moses was sure the ball would fly right above his head to second base
and catch the culprit trying to steal second. But the ball came
straight for his head, where his glove ordinarily received the catcher's
return. With a loud thunk the ball bounced off his head a good 10 feet
up in the air, and Mighty Moses melted into the ground. The runner stole
second, and whole team came in to the pitcher's mound to help Moses,
who lay unconscious on the pitcher's mound.

The catcher, realizing his mistake, also came to the rescue, and
amidst all the commotion, the runner went all the way home. It took a
while for the Moses to regain consciousness and return to Van Horn and the baseball world. He was replaced and the game continued.

Oh, somewhere in this favored land the clouds had dissipated and the
sun was shining brightly, the fans were cheering loudly, and somewhere
hearts were light, and in Valentine people were laughing and little
children shouting; but there was no joy in Van Horn — mighty Moses had
been knocked out. And by the end of the day, the fans, the players'
wives, and even the players had discovered there is no such thing as a
perfect play.