This is Part II of this blog’s newest writing project. If you missed Part I, you should probably click the link and go read it first.
The thunder of their feet as they came down the line was only eclipsed by the thunder of the crowd as they roared to a crescendo with the game on the line. Brian Hawthorne, the Louisiana State third-baseman, charged on the infield grass. Billy Wirkin, the potential winning run for Alabama thundered down the third-base line toward home plate. Waiting there was LSU’s junior catcher, Danny Salverro, poised for the possible play at the plate. The baseball was dribbling through the infield grass towards the charging Hawthorne. The SEC Championship had come to a head in the bottom of the ninth inning on a gorgeous Saturday night in Alabama.
Everything seemed to slip into slow-motion in Hawthorne’s mind.
Hawthorne bent down and snared the baseball with his bare right hand. He fielded sure-handedly and flipped the ball underhand towards home plate. Salverro dropped his left knee, clad with its purple shin pad to the dirt to block any straight-line slide attempt to the plate. Wirkin went into a hook slide toward the outside of the dish. He hoped to slip around Salverro’s leg and stab at the plate with left hand. The ball plopped into Salverro’s gloved left hand. He covered it with his bare right hand and dove head-first in the direction of the sliding Wirkin. The glove hit Wirkin, Wirkin’s hand hit the edge of the plate, but which happened first? Tension rolled over Sewell-Thomas Stadium as if a weather front had suddenly rolled in and a momentary hush fell over the field as all eyes focused in on home plate umpire Todd Cirillo.
Cirillo pointed with his left hand down at the area where the tag play had just taken place. He stepped forward with his left foot, which was clad in a freshly-polished black shoe. He formed his right hand into a fist which he the drove through the air in front of him with such enthusiasm that his momentum brought his trailing right foot off the ground.
With two words, the game snapped back into real-time in Hawthorne’s head. “Yes!” he exclaimed, to no one in particular as he gave a fist pump with his right hand and pointed at Salverro in appreciation of the tag applied on the play. Salverro rolled the baseball back to the mound and pointed right back at Hawthorne as they trotted off the field toward the Tigers’ dugout on the first-base side. The SEC Championship would go into extra innings tied 6-6. The crowd in Tuscaloosa, which largely favored the host Crimson Tide, was stunned into a temporary silence.
The play at the plate seemed to energize the LSU squad. Hawthorne in particular seemed to have his engine revved up by making the play to get out of the jam. He clobbered a one-out double off the wall in left-center in the top of the 10th inning. He made a diving snag of a line drive hit to his right to save an extra-base hit in the bottom half of the inning. He fielded a hot ground ball and started a 5-4-3, inning-ending double play in the bottom of the 11th. Hawthorne was so in the zone that he barely saw the hit that would eventually be the game-winner.
There were two outs and a runner on base in the top of the 12th and Hawthorne was standing in front of the bat rack at the end of the dugout. He was “in the hole” and getting himself mentally dialed in for his upcoming at-bat when Tiger senior second-baseman Lance Donnelly turned on a 2-1 fastball and hit it over the wall in left field for a two-run home run and an 8-6 LSU lead. Just like that, after the next batter struck out and Alabama went in order in the bottom of the inning, the Tigers were SEC champions.
After the celebration started to die down a little, Hawthorne picked up his cell phone, headed for a quiet corner of the locker room and made a call.
Hawthorne could barely hear her over the loud background noise on the other end of the phone.
“Yeah, hey… What’s up?” came the reply from the other end, as the background noise faded off a little bit, but remained present.
Sarah Miggalo was Hawthorne’s girlfriend of two-plus years; a fellow LSU senior who originally hailed from Minneapolis, Minnesota. Her sing-songy voice always left Hawthorne feeling a little weak in the knees.
“Did you listen to the end of the game tonight?” asked Hawthorne.
“Huh?–… … Oh, the baseball game!? Nope… Sorry, hun… I’ve been studying all night, I’m swamped this weekend.”
“Oh… That sucks… Well, we won, so we’re going to the N-C-double-A tournament.”
“… … … Congratulations, sweetie… That sounds like fun…”
“So, what’s going on at your place tonight? I’m having trouble hearing you over the noise.”
“Oh, that? That’s just the TV… it’s keeping me company while you’re kicking ass in Alabama.”
Hawthorne could make out the sound of a door closing and suddenly the background noise stopped.
“Awwww… How sweet,” Hawthorne said. “Well, just wanted to let you know what was going on. I’ll let you go. Try not to stress out over school.”
“Alright. Congrats on winning your ballgame. When will you be back on campus?”
“We’ve got the conference banquet tomorrow afternoon so we won’t be back until late tomorrow night. I’ll see you Monday.”
“See you then. Love you”
“Love you too.”
Hawthorne closed his phone, picked up his equipment bag and headed for the team bus to go to the hotel for the night.
Sunday was a busy day. Still riding an adrenaline high from last night’s win, the team spent the afternoon mingling with the rest of the SEC at the conference banquet. Then, they loaded up on the bus and started the five hour trek back home to Baton Rouge. The bus rolled up to the athletic center at about quarter after midnight.
“Hey Hawsy!” yelped Salverro as they got off the bus. “A few of us are gonna head for the bar and celebrate some more. You in?”
Hawthorne wasn’t sure what he wanted to do. He kind of wanted to go out with the guys. But, at the same time, he really missed Sarah and kind of wanted to go drop by her room and surprise her. Further still, part of him just wanted to go back to his room, throw in a movie and crash off the adrenaline rush he’d been riding for a full four days now.
Hawthorne turned to reply…
So, that’s where you come in. There’s three options for Hawthorne this time in what is a social dilemma rather than an on-field one:
1. He can join Salverro and some of his teammates and head for the bar.
2. He can surprise his girlfriend and go see her after a week on the road.
3. He can go back to his own room, unwind and crash on his own.
The decision is up to you. Leave your votes as comments here, or drop me an IM, or get in touch with me whichever way you know how. Sometime next weekend-ish, I’ll tally up the votes, find out what you have chosen as Hawthorne’s decision and go from there.