Pop Fly

There was ease in Madie’s manner as she crouched behind the plate.

La Mancha is the posh section of town where the streets are

winding and the house numbers are hand painted on Spanish tile.

The La Mancha girl softball team—the Amazons–had worked their

way to the final game of a double elimination regional tournament.

The Amazons’ catcher Madison “Madie” Sommerset was a

prototypical example of a self-absorbed La Mancha teenager. She

imagined the adulation she would get when the Amazons won.

Photographers would run onto the field. She saw herself yanking off

her brand new $140 catcher’s mask as news photographers

crowded around her.

The Amazons had won their first game against the Fairfield

Fusions, but to everyone’s surprise, had lost the second game. In a

powerful effort to put the Fusions away, the Amazons scored four

runs in the first inning. Then their bats went cold, but they led 4 to 1 in

the top of the final inning of the tournament.

Before the last inning, officials called a five-minute time out to

re-chalk the batter’s boxes and check the infield. Madie slipped

away and ran to her car. Open cosmetic containers were spread

across the front seat. Madie grabbed a hand mirror and applied a

thick coat of a New Air Foam foundation to her face. Advertisers

said the air foam foundation make-up would give her face a

“perfect matte surface.” She sprayed the foundation on thick,

smoothed it quickly, jammed on her catcher’s mask, and dashed

back to the dugout.

“Play ball,” the umpire shouted.

The bottom of the Fusion batting order was coming to the

plate. It was time to send the Fusions home with a runners-up cup.

The Amazon pitcher wasted two inside pitches trying to intimidate

the first Fusion batter, but the batter refused to back up. The next

pitch zinged in waist high and right over the plate. “Crack!” The

batter slashed a sharp line drive between first and second into right

field. It went all the way to the fence. The Amazon short stop cut off

the throw as the batter slid into second. The next batter got a single,

and the runner held at third. The Amazon pitcher walked the third

batter purposely to load the bases and get at the last batter in the

Fusion line-up. She was a scrawny substitute who had come into the

game after a Fusion player was hurt in a collision with Madie at the

plate. The first two pitches came in straight, fast , and right over the

plate.

“Strike one. Strike two,” said the umpire.

Then the Amazon pitcher’s fingers slipped and the pitch came

dawdling toward the plate looking as big as a volley ball. Scrawny

Arms closed her eyes and swung. When the dust had settled the

Fusions had three runs in and the batter was hugging third.

Fusion’s lead-off batter stepped to the plate. The pitch.

“Crack!” It was a broken bat pop fly. The ball sailed high, looked

foul, then drifted fair between home and third.

“I got it,” yelled Madie. The other Amazon players held up.

They had learned long ago what it meant when Madie yelled, “I got

it.” It meant “Get out of the way or get clobbered.”

Madie yanked at her new catcher’s mask with one hand as she

raced toward the fly ball. The mask wouldn’t budge. Somehow the

foundation make-up that Madie had just put on had bonded –like

glue–with the inside of the face mask.

The ball fell into fair territory two feet from Madie and rolled

toward the pitcher’s mound. The runner broke for home and

crossed the plate standing up.

The Fusion team picked up the scrawny sub and marched her

around the field on their shoulders. Photographers had a field day.

Madie was able to wrench the mask off just as three

photographers reached her. A three column by eight-inch photo

close-up of Madie’s face ran on the sports page the next day. The

padded mask had left inch-wide tracks in the thick make-up down

both of her cheeks. She looked like a raccoon.

-30-

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