The Bench is Warm
It’s the bottom of the ninth and the concession stand is empty. On the field the lowly Cobras stare down a potential win against the dominant Trojans. The Cobras look like normal nine-year olds but the Trojans look like a team full of Dominican prospects that faked their birth certificates. Despite all this, the Cobras are somehow up 3-2. No one is more shocked than medical sales rep/head coach of the Cobras, Trevor Evans.
The atmosphere in the stadium, if not electric, has a light static charge to it. But then the Coke machine’s syrup mix has been a little off all day.
Of the 16 players on the Cobras roster, only 12 have contributed to this narrowest of leads. There in the Cobras dugout sit Tyler Stanton, Chris Steely, Jordan Horowitz and Ricky Eaton. They watch as the Trojan’s Mason Treadwell, easily a half foot taller than any of the Cougars, strides to the plate with the hopes of driving in the winning run. The four boys hope their teammates on the field pull out the win but right now they’re happy to warm the bench. There’s honor in it. After all, not everyone gets to be the lead singer. Someone’s got to play bass. And these boys play it better than anyone.
Young Tyler Stanton’s mother signed him up three seasons ago after fearing his interest in piano wasn’t fostering a proper boyhood. Unsure if he was even right or left handed, it was safe to say Tyler was not a natural. As such, his .000 average and miserable arm had yet to land him in the starting lineup.
Chris Steely, on the other hand, had showed early promise. The product of an overbearing father, he’d been groomed to succeed. However, with intense preparation came intense pressure and Chris did not respond well. His father’s incessant shouts of “get your head in the game!”, “pull your head out of your ass!” and “damn it Chris, swing the bat!” had taken their toll on the young outfielder. Not only had his bat gone cold his glove had gone missing somewhere in the dugout. But it didn’t matter.
Jordan Horowitz was Jewish. But he was good at sitting and enjoyed the trips to the ice cream shop after wins.
Ricky Eaton was simply terrified of the ball. He’d never actually been hit by the ball but he imagined it to be so painful it was worth not playing. At the plate he routinely fled the batter’s box as if he’d slept with the pitcher’s wife. In the field he avoided the ball like an ex-girlfriend at a high school reunion. He was a natural. A natural disaster.
There they sat, the MVBW’s. Perhaps the best in the entire North Hills Little League. If they retired jerseys for bench warming, theirs would surely be adorning the right field wall. If there were a Copperstown for bench warming, they would be first round inductees.
The Cougars ended up losing the game 4-3 but Coach Evans rewarded the team’s near victory with a trip to the ice cream shop anyway. There in a back both sat Tyler, Chris, Jordan and Ricky, their faces sticky with rocky road, their uniforms as clean as if they’d just left the house. They quietly smiled at one another before Jordan offered, “We’d have won if they’d put us in.” They lifted their cones in a celebratory toast.