Indulge me for just a second.
Jake glanced out at the mound. Ricky looked a little shell-shocked, but the moment was undeniably his now. The shadow of Haywood’s hulking frame flickered off to the left of Jake’s peripheral vision, every little chopping check-swing designed to intimidate. And why wouldn’t it? The Yankees had been here before. The Indians hadn’t. Jake returned the last warmup pitch, shook out a few quick, involuntary hop-stretches as he always did before settling into his crouch, and prepared himself to talk Haywood’s ear off the second he stepped into the box.
Sixty-odd feet away, Ricky toed the rubber, as ready as he’d ever be. He tried to lock in as the stadium tensed up around him. This was it; this was the whole dream, strung out on a line. One of those excruciating, salivating, only-in-baseball confrontations had been laid at his feet. 2–2 game, ninth inning, bases loaded, slugger up, loser goes home. No matter what else Ricky had done, or would do, he’d always have this.
It was impossible not to sense the moment; everyone in the stadium – hell, the state – could feel it. And during that brief, hanging hesitation between the last warmup toss and a hardy “play ball” from behind the plate, Roger Dorn did too. He bolted from his spot at third towards the mound. Ricky looked over in surprise, and then briefly off into the distance, hoping something would save him. Now? Really? Ah, shit, Jake muttered to himself. Of course Dorn would do this now.