THE HAIRS ON THE BACK OF MY neck stand up. A big smile forms on my face. I know he is right here with me. He is always there for me. Right when I need him. You will know what I mean by the end of this story.
Lying in the lush, green grass near my dad’s grave, using my baseball glove as a pillow, I gaze into the clouds above me. The sun beats down on my face. Sweat beads up on my forehead. The sweet smell of springtime is in the air. A gentle breeze rustles the leaves. Squirrels are scurrying about in the distance.
My trusty bat, the “Golden Hammer,” is perched against a nearby tree. The bat, named in part because of my dog, Thor, an energetic Golden Retriever, is rarely far away from me. Thor, the God of Thunder, was known for his mighty hammer. Combining that with my Golden Retriever, I came up with “Golden Hammer.” I know it’s kind of corny, but I like it.
The bat and Thor have proven to be really good to me. My mom often jokes that I probably sleep next to my bat in bed. She’s close. It’s always right by my bed, always within reach. Just like Thor.
About an hour earlier, I left the ballpark after helping to lead the Hudson Redmen to our twelfth straight victory. I’m a freshman and I’m already playing on the varsity team. When I first made the team, some people in town said that the only reason I made it was because my dad, Don, used to play Major League Baseball. He was never a star, but he had some memorable games with the Cleveland Indians and the St. Louis Cardinals. My dad is gone now. I really miss him. I’ll tell you a little bit about my dad − my hero − in a little while.
Just one week into my first season, some of the skeptics who didn’t think a freshman should be playing on the varsity team changed their minds. I had three hits in my first game, including a home run in my very first at bat. My home run ball smashed the windshield of my math teacher’s car in the parking lot. I sort of felt bad about that, but it was a doozy!
We are having one of the best seasons in school history. The Redmen are 21-2 and we’ve been playing solid ball. I’ve done pretty well, hitting .427 with fifteen home runs. I’ve already set a school record for most home runs hit by a freshman in a season. I hit two in today’s game, one right-handed and one left-handed, but to be honest, I think the wind helped push them out of the park. We have a huge game against Stow coming up, and we want to enter the playoffs with lots of momentum.
I’m thinking about the game, resting my head on my baseball glove-pillow, while looking at the clouds that are dancing above me. Some people say they can see bunny rabbits or eagles or bears in the clouds. Me? I see baseball players’ faces, like Albert Pujols or Derek Jeter or Josh Hamilton. I know. I’m strange like that. I’m trying to make out the face in the cloud directly above me when Thor, my hyperactive puppy, snaps me out of it.
Thor, never afraid to explore, comes barreling out of the woods, almost as if he’s chasing a dozen cats. Galloping toward me, a huge, goofy grin plastered on his face and a huge branch clenched in his jaws, Thor doesn’t stop until he pounces on top of me, all seventy pounds of him.
“Oomph,” I utter. All the wind gets knocked out me.
Not much more than a year old, Thor is big for his age. Enormous, actually. His paws are gigantic. I sometimes think we bought a part-horse, part-dog when we got Thor.
“Where were you, big boy?” I ask.
He looks me square in the eye, tilts his head just a bit, and then does this thing with his eyebrows that always cracks me up. One eyebrow goes up, and then the other eyebrow goes up. One goes up, and then the other goes up. This replays for ten times. It almost looks like caterpillars are dancing on his forehead.
“Did you find anything cool out there? Did you find any prizes?”
Thor does one more eyebrow dance, then bends his head down and gives me a giant lick across my face.
“Thanks, pal. I love you, too.”
Thor has already been through a lot with me. My mom got him for my little sister, my little brother, and me when my dad was sick. Thor was there for me when my dad died. I know he will be by my side for a long time. Thor can certainly prove to be a handful, but I couldn’t ask for a better or a more loyal best friend.
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