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The Big Game
A little apartment in The Bronx…it had always been the home of fourteen year old Salvador Ramiro, known by friends and family as simply Sal. Sal was eight months old when both of his parents were killed in a car crash, and he had been raised by his Aunt Manuela ever since. He, his Aunt Manuela, and his now eighteen year old brother lived together in a small, one bedroom apartment in The Bronx, and it was cozy to say the least. His Aunt Manuela slept in the bedroom, while he and his brother Francisco, better known as Frankie, shared the couch in the small half living room/half kitchen just outside the small bedroom. These ill-equipped living conditions were enough to drive anyone crazy. Anyone except Sal Ramiro, that is. Sal was a big city boy with even bigger dreams. Baseball was his passion and nothing could possibly get in the way, especially something so trivial as his living conditions. To Sal, it was all about baseball, all day everyday. He played baseball every afternoon with his friends, and while most kids went home for supper, Sal went home to catch the Yankees game. Being a diehard Yankees fan, the game had priority over dinner and he had no problem going to bed hungry if it meant catching the final innings of the game. To Sal, baseball was life. Soon enough, he’d learn how his hard work, passion, and love for the game would change his life in more ways than he ever thought.
It was a breezy Tuesday in late September. The leaves were changing colors, crisping in the cool air and showing signs of bright oranges and reds. Tuesdays were the days Sal’s baseball team, The Bronx Big Leaguers, practiced in the park next to his apartment building. He loved practicing with his team, and to him unlike most, the two-hour practices just weren’t long enough. It if were up to him, Sal would make practices start right after the dismissal school bell rang and would run late into the night, playing under the tall lights that outlined the sandy baseball diamond. Then again, if it were up to Sal, eating, sleeping, and school would be optional and he would replace them with baseball. The next day, was one of the biggest games of their season, and the coach had told them dozens of times.
“Be prepared for the game against the Manhattan Hatters,” he had told them, “It’s the most important game of the season, and we can’t afford to lose it.” Sal knew today was the day to practice extra hard, because they’d need it in the game the next day against their rival team. Sal was having a warm up pass with his teammate Max when his coach made the big announcement.
“Boys, gather around,” Coach Manny said as he reached the diamond just before practice began, “I have a big announcement.” The boys eagerly gathered around their coach, knowing the news probably had something to do with the looming game. “Tomorrow’s game is more important than you might think. I would have told you sooner, but I was told I had to wait. Actually, I’m not really supposed to tell at all, but I think it’s important to inform you boys.” The boys looked around excitedly as their eyes lit up. Thoughts raced through their minds of what the news might be.
“What is it, Coach?” Sal piped in, anxious to hear what the coach was about to tell them.
“Well, tomorrow,” he began, “a scout from the local private high school is coming to watch the game. He’s looking for probable candidates to receive the baseball scholarship the school gives out. It’s an excellent opportunity for you boys, you all know how many talented players have come out of that school. And it’s just one more reason to play your hardest against the Hatters tomorrow.” Sal’s heart began to race as he thought of the possibilities tomorrow’s game could bring. It had always been his dream to attend the same high school as a professional baseball player, but knew only a miracle would ever allow it due to the heavy tuition the school impaled. But this, this was his miracle. Sal knew he would be a shoe in for the scholarship, and he knew he deserved it more than any other player on the team.
The next afternoon, Sal rushed home from school. He quickly changed into his green and yellow striped uniform and inhaled a quick snack. Soon enough, he was off to the field practicing for the game that was now only a few hours away. Finally 5:00 rolled around and the rest of his teammates arrived. They all began warming up for the sure to be exciting game ahead. The coach called them into a huddle just before the game was going to begin.
“Boys, I know we can do this,” he told them, “We have practiced long and hard and we deserve it. Play your hardest tonight, because you never know what good could come of it.” He shot a look at Sal, who immediately realized that Coach Manny had as much faith in him as he had in himself. Finally it was time to play, and Sal was more ready than ever.
The Big Leaguers were first at bat. By the time Sal was up, he was ready for his chance to impress the high school scout. Just as he was about to make his way up to home plate, Coach Manny called him over.
“You know who’s here, Sal,” Coach Manny said encouragingly, “and if anyone on this team deserves a scholarship it’s you. The bases are loaded now, go out and do what you do best.” He patted Sal on the shoulder and left him with a few last encouraging words, “I believe in you Sal, we all believe in you.”
Sal made his way up to the plate and assumed his batting position. The pitcher sent a perfect pitch sailing in, and Sal knew this was his chance. He caught sight of the scout, sitting on the bleachers wearing a black suit and watching closely. He looked back at the ball. It was soaring faster now. Closer, closer, closer. Finally, the distance was right. Sal swung the bat around and sent the ball sailing out straight deep into left field. He saw the left fielder try to catch it, but the ball was well over his head. Without thinking, Sal darted for first base, and then second, and soon rounded towards third. He heard the crowd shouting with pleasure, “Go home! Go home, Sal!” He had done it, he was on top of the world. He approached the bag and tapped it with his left foot. He rounded the base and started heading for home. The crowed continued cheering excitedly.
Suddenly, in the distance, he noticed a man in the alley behind his apartment complex. He seemed to be brandishing a bat and waving it at what appeared to be an older woman, who was backing away cautiously. The sight caught Sal off guard, and he stumbled slightly. He heard the crowd cheering, “Keep going!” and Coach Manny, “What are you doing, Sal? Go!” and the faint panting of the Hatters behind him. He wanted so badly to head home, to stomp on home plate and feel the glory of his grand slam, but he knew that something was wrong in that alley. He had a decision to make. He could either risk a possible scholarship to go make sure the elderly woman in the alley was alright, or he could continue up the path and complete his grandslam.
Sal knew what he wanted to do. Sal knew what he should do. Sal knew he had to make a decision fast. Suddenly, despite the cheering that got louder with each passing second, Sal sped up faster than he had been running before. His adrenaline kicked in and the crowd got louder. “Go Sal!” “That’s it, Ramiro!” “You got it, boy!” Louder, louder, louder. Faster, faster, faster. Then the crowd went silent, totally completely silent. “Where do you think you’re going, Sal?” he heard Coach Manny call from diamond. But Sal just kept running. He ran well past home plate and hopped the fence that separated the field from the alley behind the apartments, where he had seen the man cornering the woman with the bat. As he jumped the fence, the loud crash of his cleats hitting the ground scared the man off, leaving the woman crying on her knees. He knew he had given up a scholarship, but more importantly, it looked as though he had saved someone’s life.
“Are you okay?’ he said as he approached the woman who looked to be about seventy years old. She was very short and round, with a pink button down blouse and a long blue skirt.
“Please don’t hurt me anymore!” she cried even louder. Sal immediately knew the woman was injured and called for his coach who was still standing in disbelief back at the diamond. Coach Manny ran over, along with a few other parents, and called the ambulance. The woman was brought to the emergency room and turned out to have a broken arm. Later that night, Coach Manny took Sal to the hospital to visit the woman. As they entered the room, they saw that she was laying very still, with tears framing her silvery gray eyes.
“This,” Coach Manny began, ‘is the young man who saved your life.” The woman turned to Sal and smiled gratefully.
“Sir,” she said to him, “I can’t thank you enough. You saved my life.” Her voice became shaky and she began crying once again.
“It was nothing ma’am,” Sal responded. She continued to weep. “It was worth giving up that possible baseball scholarship.” He added, meaningfully to himself. Coach Manny looked down at him.
“Sal,” he said smiling, “you got the scholarship. The scout immediately knew you would be the perfect candidate for it when he saw you give up that grand slam to save this poor woman. He wasn’t even sure if he wanted to give the scholarship to anyone from our team until he saw you pass right by home plate and head for the alley. Congratulations, boy, you did it.” Sal immediately felt glory he knew that not even completing that grand slam could have brought. This is what it must feel like to win the World Series, he thought to himself. All in one day he hit a grand slam, saved an elderly woman’s life, and won a scholarship to a private high school. Sal always knew baseball would bring him great things and take him to new places in life, but he never knew just how great they would be.
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