Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: ZEST (10/01/15)
- TITLE: The Game of Life
By Francy Judge
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“Benny, we’re leaving.” Coach Jim patted him on the back.
“I know, coach. I’m coming.”
“Okay. Meet us in the locker room.”
Benny nodded. Once the coach left the field and he was sure the other players had gone inside, he wheeled over the bumpy turf to the pitcher’s mound. He turned the lever on his wheelchair counter-clockwise until he faced home plate. He remembered feeling the dirt on the mound and dusting his sweaty hands with it, releasing the earthy scent of the game. The air seemed empty without the cheering teams.
He took a ball out of the duffle bag and circled the ball in his hands. He tossed one pitch after another, each barely crossing home plate. “Stupid wheelchair.”
“Why, God?” He had promised he would not take pity from anyone, even himself…but some days seemed to wrestle him to the ground and drag his heart into a pit of despair. Did part of him secretly hope the doctors were wrong and he would play again?
Only six months ago, the world seemed different…
Benny laid the four letters across the dining room table. “Mom and Dad, can you come here? I want to show you something.”
“What’s all this?” His mom looked concerned until she began reading: “After watching you play and reviewing your record-breaking stats, we would like to offer you a full scholarship to attend Cortland University and play for our baseball team…”
“Really?” His mom squealed. “A full scholarship?”
“Three other schools are offering the same.”
“That’s awesome, Benny.” His dad hugged him. “We are so proud of you. Now you have to decide which school. We’ll have to visit each one.”
Benny couldn’t remember feeling more excited than that moment-except for the day he threw his second perfect game for his team.
How could everything change in an instant?
He remembered his ears popping as the roads dipped heading towards the mountains. They were almost there…then the siren and flashing lights and piercing pain in his legs…then blackness. He and his mother woke up in the intensive care unit. His father died at the scene of the accident.
At his funeral, Benny made the promise. His father was his biggest fan and had watched almost all his games. He would stay on the team and carry the equipment and cheer his team on for the rest of the year. He knew his father would tell him not to quit, that God had a plan for his life.
Coach Jim walked past the dugout and leaned against the chain-link fence. “Hey, kid.”
“Sorry, Coach. I was just about to…I mean…I love it out here. I’m gonna miss it.”
“Lincoln High will miss you too. You pitched three great seasons. I hope you’ll show up to the awards dinner. Second in the playoffs wins an award, and you’re still part of the team. We might have won if you were pitching.”
“I’m not sure. I’ll think about it.”
Benny’s mom helped him out of the car and into the wheelchair. He sighed. “I’m only doing this for you, since you begged.”
“Your team will be glad I did.” She pushed him into the crowded room just as they were calling out names for All-County winners, the award he would’ve gotten. Then his coach took the microphone and began a speech about his team. “…and now I want to talk about a special player on our team. This player broke records with his natural pitching ability, but more important than that, he was an example of character and team spirit. He couldn’t pitch this year after a tragic accident, but that didn’t stop him from showing up to every practice and every game. He loves baseball and loves his team. I am proud to be his coach. And with that I’d like to present the award for most valuable player and a full scholarship to the college of his choice.”
Benny could hardly stop the lump in his throat and tears as he wheeled through the aisles to accept the award. Every person in the room stood and cheered for him. He hugged his coach and looked up toward heaven. “I think Dad was right.”
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