"Good afternoon everyone and welcome to the opening softball game of the Richardson Family Reunion," said the PA announcer. "It looks like Dakota Richardson, the starting center fielder for the blue team, is walking towards the plate getting ready to leadoff." With that the announcer played the refrain to No Doubt's "Just a Girl" over the PA system.
Dakota walked towards the plate shaking his head. His older brother had picked on him for having a unisex for as long as he had remembered. He lined up at the plate and awaited the first pitch. Uncle Steve's delivery seemed to take forever, but when the ball finally reached the plate Dakota pounded a line drive into foul territory straight towards the announcer's microphone. He watched his older brother dive to the ground and as he stood up and brushed the dirt off his pants, Dakota winked at him.
"Not quite the opening shot we would have expected here from a former AAA ballplayer, but then again, maybe that's why he never reached the big stage" Sirus Richardson ribbed his brother over the PA, fully knowing that ball had gone exactly where Dakota had intended for it to go.
Dakota smiled and waited for the next pitch. This time he belted the ball about four hundred feet into center field. He walked to first base and waited for the next batter. Because of his history playing in the minor leagues, Dakota had volunteered to only hit singles in the game. His brother, Sirus, on the other hand, had played briefly in the majors and preferred to work the PA as opposed to playing the game with anything less than a complete effort.
"...and the batter pops one up towards second base and this should be an easy grab for Aunt Eileen," Sirus said.
While conventional wisdom would have kept Dakota on first, he chose to sprint towards second base where he congratulated his aunt on becoming a grandmother.
"What!?!" she exclaimed as she quickly turned her head towards Dakota.
"Oh, nothing," he replied. "I was just messing around, but thanks for the free base." He quickly gave her a kiss on the cheek and tagged second. Meanwhile, his sister reached first on what should have been a pop out.
The next batter, Grandpa Joe, hit a grounder straight towards his daughter at third base. As Dakota ran towards third, he pulled up, grabbing his right hamstring and fell to the ground. His mother, who had fielded the ball, threw her glove down and ran over towards Dakota. "Oh, my baby! Are you okay?" she said.
"I didn't think so," he said, "but I am now!" Dakota rolled onto his hands and knees and sprint-crawled down to third. "Thanks ma!"
"After another cheap ploy, Dakota Richardson has made his way down to third base. It will be up to his cousin, Blake Sanders, to keep him from making it home."
Dakota looked up at his cousin and growled. They had been not only close friends, but also rivals, since they were little kids. At the age of nine, Dakota had lost his favorite baseball card, a caricature of Don Mattingly showing off some ridiculous sideburns. Blake had always coveted this card, so Dakota had assumed that his cousin had taken it. This was not the case. Dakota found the card three years later in the back of his sock drawer, but he never told anyone.
"Uncle Steve delivers the pitch, and Junior squares up to bunt...He deadens the ball too much and it's an easy grab for Sanders. Sanders has a force at home, but chooses to try and tag the runner out instead..." Sirus called.
Dakota charged towards his cousin, and then skidded to a dead halt. He reached into his pocket and picked out the Mattingly caricature card. Blake's eyes bugged out of his head as Dakota flipped the card towards him. Mesmerized by the card, Blake momentarily lost his focus on the game and allowed Dakota to run right by him for the score. All runners safely advanced.
Dakota trotted towards the microphone where his brother sat and gave him a high five. "Sirus," he said, "I'll be the first to admit that your skills are much greater than mine, but I've got something you'll never have. I've got game."
Sirus grabbed his brother and put him in a headlock. "You may have game, but I'll always be your big brother," he said.
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