Authors note: The lead character in this story, Frisbee, was invented by my brother-in-law Greg Hart who featured him in a screenplay called Nine on the Pine. I was always taken with Greg’s ability to draw a character so vividly with just a few strokes. This story is Greg Hart and Frisbee fanfic, of sorts, telling a story from Frisbee’s youth.
Ever since he was about 10 years old, Frisbee could see into the future. Or at least, that’s when he first realized he could. It was in little league. He was tall for his age so the coaches always put him on first. And he was a lefty. But as he grew he also developed a live arm.
Coach Ford asked him to pitch for the first time during a game. Donnie wasn’t able to throw that day because it was their second game in a week and he’d already gone all the innings he was allowed. They were playing American Fence who had some hitters in their lineup. All righties, though. Coach Ford told Frisbee that he’d be pitching after the second inning.
As American Fence came up in the top of the third, Frisbee took the mound. Mike, his neighbor from one street over, was catching for him. The five hitter for American Fence was their catcher. He was wearing number five. Frisbee knew that before the kid walked up to the plate. Heck before he got into the on deck circle to take his lazy warm-up swings, even. Now, it didn’t seem like a big deal. All the catchers wanted number five back then to be like Bench, or else Pudge’s number twenty-seven. But Frisbee didn’t reason it out like that. He just knew it…he saw it on the kid’s jersey. Saw it about a minute before the opposing catcher came out of the dugout.
It would take Frisbee a few years, right about the time he made the Senior Division All Stars, to learn how to make his talent work for him on the mound. He was a pitcher by then. Hadn’t even touched his first baseman’s mitt for two seasons. He also had a name for his talent, in his head at least, since he didn’t talk about it: previewing. Like the clips that would come on before tv shows as a teaser? His thing worked the same way. He wouldn’t get the full story. He’d get one or two images, usually the juicy parts just like in a movie trailer. He couldn’t pick what to see. And it was never more than a minute or so ahead. Most of the time much shorter. A few seconds.
But on the mound, a few seconds was usually enough. Let’s say Frisbee saw a hitter turning on an inside pitch and driving it over third base. He would ignore his catcher’s sign and bust the guy high and tight on the very first pitch to push him back off the plate. Then a steady diet of sinkers away after that. Result: maybe a strikeout or a dribbler to the second base side.
He crossed up Mike, now his steady battery mate, a lot at first. But soon he and Mike worked out a special set of signs that amounted to “dude, just trust me on this one.” Mike would just sit back and be ready. For just about anything.
Once, pitching against another All-Star squad from Montgomery County, Frisbee was struggling against a third baseman who shelled him every time up. It didn’t seem to matter what preview he had or what actions he took, the guy had him ten ways to Sunday. And he was huge. Definitely did not look fourteen. The kid was a head taller than the rest of his team and had a mustache. Coach Ford even joked that he saw him driving to the game.
When Frisbee faced this guy at the bottom of the fifth inning, he was two for two with a double and a single. The double was crushed. Hit the fence in center left just a few feet from the Dairy Dream sign which would have earned his whole team a hot fudge sundae. That had produced a cheer followed by an audible groan from their dugout.
Coming to the plate, he stared Frisbee down. With a man on first already, Frisbee was working from the stretch. As his foot hit the rubber, he drew his glove hand to his chest, spinning the ball in his glove with his left hand, looking over at the first base bag. Preview kicked in. A home run. Opposite field, just over the right field fence. Off an outside pitch too. Like, way outside. Pure brawn.
Frisbee stepped quickly off the rubber and made a lazy throw over to first, checking the runner, their catcher, who had zero intention of trying to steal. Frisbee needed to reset. Coach Ford gawked at Frisbee to indicate his confusion. Frisbee shrugged.
“Bear down, Friz” Coach Ford called from the top step.
He came to the back of the mound, juggled the rosin bag, and got another preview. Another hit. Hot shot up the box. Over his head into shallow center. Sending the runner to third and giving the hitter another single. Better, Frisbee thought briefly. And then he got an idea. He called Mike to the mound. Coach Ford watched, glaring, but stayed put in the dugout.
“Ok Sharpie,” Frisbee said “I want you to do something. When I shake you off this time, I want you to yell at me. Like you’re pissed.”
“What the…?” Mike began, fidgeting with his chest protector.
“Just do it. Say something like ‘dammit he’s gonna crush that. Just throw what I tell you to throw.’ Whatever. Just get mad at me.”
“All right man,” Mike said, slipping his mask over his helmet and turning back toward the plate. “He probably is gonna crush it anyways.” Frisbee turned toward second based and grinned.
Mike put down the sign. Frisbee shook it off. Mike let out a loud sigh of frustration. “Jeez, Friz. He’s gonna crush you again. Will you just throw what I tell you to throw?” Mike screamed, his voice rising. He sounded like he meant it. He might have.
The other dugout perked up. A few of their guys started to laugh. Coach Ford came out of the dugout, arms folded, and stood near the on deck circle.
“You know what Sharpie? You’re right.” Frisbee yelled back, in full faux-excitement, dripping with sarcasm. “I’m just gonna serve up a juicy fastball right down the middle. I mean, you are a genius. How could that not work? Let’s do it!”
The hitter grinned. He looked back and forth between Frisbee and Mike. Frisbee came set and before the burly third baseman knew what was going on the pitch was on its way. Not a fastball. A floater. The hitter took a huge cut thinking fastball, missing by a mile, spinning him around to face his own dugout.
Mike knew what to do.
“What the hell, man?!! Are you trying to give the damn game away?!!”
Frisbee didn’t respond, coming from the stretch again with the same pitch: a big lazy floater. This time the hitter watched it all the way in. Strike called. Strike two.
As Mike threw the ball back Frisbee mouthed at him “fuck you, Mike.” That made the hitter laugh. He dug in for the next pitch. He figured he was about to get the spoils of a nasty breakup between batterymates. He would crush the next lazy throw into Buck Creek. But that’s not what Frisbee had seen.
Frisbee looked in as his catcher threw down a single finger. Not the index, but his middle finger. And then he turned it up. “Fuck you Friz,” he whispered just loud enough for the opposing third baseman to hear, grinning ear to ear behind his mask.
Frisbee delivered. A screamer inside at the elbow. The hitter flailed, late. Strike three. Just like in the preview.