Harris Walker jogged out to the mound of Citi Field in the bottom of the ninth. His blood was pumping; the fatigue that should have set in was nowhere to be found.
He was in a pitcher’s dream right now. What everyone hoped for. What they wanted to achieve and very few would.
Three more outs and he’d have his no hitter.
At thirty years old he knew he wouldn’t have too many more years in his pitching career.
A top prospect at just seventeen, he didn’t really develop until about five years ago. He didn’t get to show what he was made of and many started to write him off.
But, bam, out of nowhere, two years ago he grabbed control of his fastball, he mastered his changeup, and his curveball seemed to throw everyone off.
He was the pitcher players didn’t want to face. He signed one hell of a five-year contract to stay with the Mets when plenty were willing to pay him more.
Why? Because he was born and raised in Upstate New York and he’d been a Mets fan his whole life. Talk about a dream come true.
They drafted him, they put their faith in him, they gave him what he wanted in his contract. He was staying loyal because that’s who Harris Walker was.
And now he was going to prove to the owners he was everything they thought he was. He was going to show his pitching coaches they had every reason to believe in him.
Ace Reynolds got up to bat for the Atlanta Braves. He was seventh in the lineup and Harris couldn’t have planned this any better.
First pitch straight down the middle, ninety-eight miles an hour. Ace swung, missed, the crowd went nuts. Harris was like a squirrel going after those nuts himself, but he’d always been in control internally and he wasn’t letting anyone see the excitement he was feeling.
Second pitch, curveball, a little wide, called ball. One and one.
Third pitch, fastball down the middle, swing and—shit. Ace connected. Harris watched as the ball sailed into center field, but there was Johnny Reed, racing, diving, and catching it. One out. Two more to go.
Second batter only took three pitches too, pop fly that the catcher nabbed, and they were down to the last out.
The Braves put in a pinch hitter. Miller Smith who was on a hot streak. Bastards. They were already down three to one. Come on.
Harris didn’t care. Well, he did, but he wasn’t showing it.
He wiped his sweaty hand on his pant leg, he took a deep breath, and then wound up and threw a slider. Way out of the strike zone, but Miller swung, strike one.
The crowd was in a frenzy. The stadium felt like it was rocking.
He was going for speed. He wanted to prove he still had it with a hundred and five pitches down tonight.
Fastball, here it comes.
Miller connected, line drive, right at Harris, but not close enough for him to dive and catch it. He didn’t need to worry, because the second baseman had his back, plucking it right up over his head and bringing it in.
His teammates raced him on the mound, everyone slapping him on the back. The tears were rolling down his face and he didn’t give one shit about it.
He was man enough to cry over throwing the best game of his life.
And three hours later when he and Johnny and a few others were tossing back shots in a bar in downtown Manhattan, he was living the dream.
Women were hanging out around them, many rubbing against him…whispering in his ear. Yeah, he could go home with any of them, but he didn’t have plans on it.
He wanted to celebrate with his buddies. They had a game tomorrow and though he wasn’t playing, the rest of the team was.
Matt Greene, the Mets’ babysitter as they called him, walked over between him and Johnny. “Time to pack it up, boys. There’s a game tomorrow.”
“I’m not playing,” Harris said.
Johnny laughed. “Lucky shit. You play once every five games, get all the money, and more than half the chicks.”
Harris slapped Johnny on the back. “You like being my wingman, admit it.” The “half the chicks” was a running joke since many knew Harris barely took a woman up on an offer.
“Some wingman you are. We are both going home to empty beds tonight.”
The two of them laughed and followed Matt out of the bar and to his SUV. Matt was a good guy, just doing his job, making sure the players stayed out of trouble.
“Shotgun,” Harris called. “Since I’m the man of the hour.”
“You’re the man, all right,” Johnny said. “Ride in the front. I’ll just stretch out back here behind Matt anyway. You always push the seat back so far that the rest of us are squished. You aren’t the only one over six foot, you know.”
“Ah, but I’ve still got four inches on you,” Harris said, climbing in and putting his seatbelt on.
They were driving back to the building that he and Johnny both lived in. Not only were they teammates but darn close to best friends as well, always riding back and forth to Citi Field and the airport together.
Just blocks from their place, they were sitting at a red light when Harris caught a flash out the right corner of his eye. Headlights coming fast and nowhere to go, then the pain as it slammed into his door.
Nothing else after that. The rest was just darkness.