Dreams and Traditions: Story Sunday

This week’s prompt from StoryADay is to write a story using these words: die, ago, seat, time, imagining, even, making, league, sacrifices, rose. Here’s my version.
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Dreams and Traditions

Sammy was in the on-deck circle, swinging his bat to warm up. His batting helmet was a little too big and it continued to swing around even after Sammy brought the bat back to his shoulder. He looked over at his father in the stands.

Logan gave his son the thumbs-up sign, then brought his finger up to his own eye. It was a signal for Sammy to keep his eye on the ball.

Stewart was in the batter’s box. His father, Ben, was sitting next to Logan. There was no mistaking his communication method.

Ben yelled, “Don’t strike out! Don’t lean too far forward! Don’t forget to shift your weight when you swing!” He rose out of his seat with each exclamation point, as if to command his instructions to penetrate the batting helmet, settling inside Stewart’s skull just in time for the next pitch.

Stewart struck out. “Stewart, why didn’t you listen!” Ben held back none of his disappointment. Hunched over, Stewart made his way back to the dugout, sitting at the farthest point of the bench.

Logan leaned over, “Stewart is making progress. With practice, he’ll figure it out over time. It’s just Little League.”

Ben glared at Logan. “That may be good enough for your son, but not for mine. If Stewart doesn’t learn to listen, he’ll never amount to anything. I’m not having my son think he can get away with failure.”

Logan turned his attention back to the field as Sammy stepped into the batter’s box. Sammy let the first pitch go by.

“Strike One!”

Sammy adjusted his stance, held the bat up over his right shoulder. The pitcher leaned forward and hurled the baseball over home plate.

“Strike Two!”

“Atta boy, Sammy! Focus!” Logan hoped he wasn’t distracting his son. Logan clapped for support, along with Sammy’s teammates and the other parents.

Sammy swung at the next pitch, just managing to nick it, sending it up and over the catcher’s and umpire’s heads.

“Ball One!”

The umpire called time and brushed off the dirt from home plate. Sammy returned to the batter’s box, imagining the bat meeting the ball, hoping for a successful run to first base. The next pitch was just a blur to Sammy.

“Strike Three!”

And the game was over, with Sammy being the last out. Logan waited for Sammy at the dugout opening.

“Dad, I struck out twice. Let’s just go home.”

Logan looked at his son. He knew he couldn’t let his son’s dreams die here on a Little League baseball field.

“Yes, you did. But did you see how high that foul ball went? I mean, the Jolly Green Giant couldn’t have caught that one. You struck out today, but you kept your eye on the ball and I’m so proud of you!”

“Really?” Sammy looked up, hearing the positive note in his father’s voice. “This week I’ll practice really hard and in the next game, maybe I won’t strike out at all!”

“Sounds like a plan! Now, how about some ice cream. After all, a good baseball player follows his traditions, right?”

“Right!” Sammy smiled. Logan tossed the car keys up into the air and Sammy caught them in his glove. Sammy ran to the car ahead of his dad, opening up the trunk to put in his gear. Another one of their small traditions.

Logan noticed Ben and Stewart walking towards their car. He couldn’t make out exactly what Ben was saying, but from the tone of his voice and Ben’s hunched shoulders, he knew it wasn’t pleasant. It wouldn’t be hard to guess why Stewart’s outlook might be bleak, Logan thought.

Logan decided he’d call Ben in a few days to volunteer to pick up Stewart for practice. They lived in a different neighborhood, but Logan thought he could make a few small sacrifices in time and effort to give Stewart a break from Ben always breathing down his back.

“C’mon, Dad! Let’s go!” Sammy was in the car, his seat belt already on.

“You got it, slugger.” Logan slid into the driver’s seat. “So, what’s the ice cream flavor of the day today?”

“Chocolate with sprinkles. Or maybe butterscotch.”

Logan smiled. He wondered where the time had gone, how his chubby little baby boy had grown up enough to be sitting next to him, all decked out in a baseball uniform, dirt clods stuck in his cleats. It wasn’t that long ago that Sammy was just learning how to walk. At least that’s how it seemed to Logan.

“Dad, when will I be eligible for the draft?”

“Well, let me think. If you study hard and graduate from high school, that would make it in 2028. But it would be better if you went to college before starting a professional baseball career.”

“2028?! I can’t even imagine that. It’ll take forever to get here.”

Logan started the car. Let’s hope so, he prayed silently, knowing full well that no matter how long it seemed to Sammy, it would arrive before Logan was ready.

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