The team had developed the habit of turning players’ initials into nicknames.Thus was Charlie “CP,” Jason was “JT” and so forth.This principle wasn’t universal,
though.Tony, for instance, was simply “T.” “Let’s go T!” came the cry from the dugout as he stood at the plate, bent at the waist and turned slightly, intending to see the ball all the way from the
pitcher’s hand to the moment when it hit his bat.
The reliever straightened, pausing momentarily, ball clasped in hand buried in glove at his waist, then whipped his right arm back and through. His arm came forward and Tony knew: this was going to be a home run.As the ball hurtled towards the plate time slowed down.Tony could see every stitch in the seams as the ball turned slowly over and over.He readied himself, then brought his bat from where it had been hovering just above his shoulder down, past the catcher and out to meet the ball precisely one-third in from the front edge of the plate and sweetly on the barrel of the bat six inches from the end.
Tony felt nothing except a sudden peacefulness, like a moment of intense anticipated pleasure that had been realised and left him separated from all that surrounded him, floating, suspended in time and space.
As his spikes clattered on the dugout steps he realised suddenly that he must have run around the bases.His teammates were mobbing him, holding their hands aloft for high fives or thrusting their fists forward to be met by his in wordless communication of congratulation and joy.He saw over the edge of the dugout roof that the hometown fans—a dizzying mass of white and blue and red and purple and more white—were standing, pumping their arms into the air; he realised suddenly also that he was surrounded by noise.All at once, the movement of his teammates’ mouths translated into shouts and from the crowd he heard a chant that he with dawning comprehension deciphered as his name.“Tony, Tony, Tony,” they were calling, demanding that he acknowledge them, that they have a chance to feel that they had personally congratulated him themselves.
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