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Authors: Matt Christopher

Hard Drive to Short

BOOK: Hard Drive to Short
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Hachette Book Group

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New York, NY 10017

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First eBook Edition: December 2009

ISBN: 978-0-316-09568-6


Mary and Joe



Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15


HE Minuteman stepped into Dick Regan’s pitch and smacked a grounder that headed for the hole between shortstop and second
base. It looked as if it were going for a clean hit, and the Minutemen fans roared.

Sandy Varga, playing deep short for the Spacemen, sprang into action. Sandy was short, but deceptively quick for a boy his
size. He dashed toward second, speared the hop and whipped it to first.

“Out!” yelled the base umpire.

Three outs. The Spacemen trotted in, the Minutemen trotted out. It was the first ball game of the season. The bottom of the
first inning was coming up.

Coach Mike Malone smiled. “Nice going, Sandy. You caught two tough grounders out there.”

Sandy returned the smile. “Thanks, Coach.”

“Pick up a bat, Sandy. You’re third man up. Kerry Dean, you’re leading off. Jules Anderson, you’re batting second. Let’s get
that run back!”

The Minutemen were leading 1 to 0.

Kerry, a short, stocky redhead, played third base, threw right-handed and hit left-handed. Mark Davis, the Minute-men’s southpaw
pitcher, couldn’t throw one over the plate, and Kerry walked.

Mark was on the way to walking Jules Anderson, too. He pitched three balls, then rubbed the ball hard and wiggled his cap
before he got ready to pitch again. His next two throws were strikes. His next was in there, too, and Jules blasted it down
to third. The third baseman fumbled the hop and Jules was safely on first, Kerry on second.

“Lay it down, Sandy,” ordered Coach Malone.

Sandy frowned. Lay it down? Why?

The coach knew he could hit. Why did he order a bunt? Sandy punched the top of his protective helmet and strode to the plate.

Mark Davis’s first pitch was a fastball. Sandy shifted his feet, ran his right hand partway up the bat and let the ball hit
the wood. The ball dribbled toward the pitcher. Sandy dropped the bat and bee-lined for first.

He was within two steps of the base when the first baseman stretched and caught the throw. “Out!” cried the ump.

Hiding his disgust, Sandy turned and headed back for the dugout. The bunt had advanced the runners to second and third, but
he still wished he had been allowed to hit. He didn’t like to bunt. How can you knock in runs by bunting?

Center fielder John “Oink” Decker
blasted a double between left and center fields, scoring Kerry and Jules. Then Marty Loomis, the Spacemen’s catcher, struck
out, and Dick Regan flied out to left, ending the inning.

Sandy started out of the dugout, then rushed back to Duke Miller sitting on the bench, his ankles crossed. Duke was the Spacemen’s
alternate pitcher and was holding Sandy’s wristwatch.

“Don’t forget to let me know when it’s twenty minutes to seven,” reminded Sandy.

“I won’t,” Duke answered, then frowned. “What do you want to know that for?”

“I have to, that’s why,” replied Sandy.

“But suppose you’re out on the field when it’s twenty minutes of seven?” asked Duke in puzzlement. “What then?”

“Signal to me,” said Sandy. “And don’t forget. It’s important.”

The Minutemen began tagging Dick Regan’s pitches and scored twice before Sandy snared a line drive for which he really had
to jump. Later he ran behind Kerry and caught a high fly just inside fair territory for the second out, holding runners on
second and third.

The next Minuteman doubled, scoring two runs. Dick struck out the next man, but a lot of damage had been done. The Minutemen
had scored four runs, going into the lead 5 to 2.

Right fielder Stubby Tobin, leading off for the Spacemen, grounded out on the second pitch. Nibbs Spry got on by luck. He
hit a high fly to center, and the fielder dropped it. First baseman Ken Bockman hit three fouls to the backstop screen, then
flied out to third.

Leadoff man Kerry Dean was up again. He let two balls and a strike go by, then singled through short, advancing Nibbs to second

“Hit me in! Hit me in!” yelled Nibbs, who hollered more than anybody else on the team. But Jules Anderson, batting next, flied
out to right, and Kerry died on second.

Sandy started to rush out to short, then ran back to the dugout again. “Duke, what time is it now?” he asked, low enough so
that no one else except Duke could hear him.

Duke looked at the watch. “Almost six-thirty.”

“Wow!” muttered Sandy, and tore out to short. “Let’s get ’em, Dick! One, two, three!” He couldn’t stay later than twenty
minutes of seven. Perhaps one minute longer. But that was

A hot grounder to second, directly at Nibbs. He reached down for it. The ball struck his glove, then glanced off to the outfield!
An error!

Center fielder Oink Decker retrieved the ball and relayed it to Sandy, who had gone over to cover second. The runner stayed
on first. Sandy quickly tossed it to Dick. “Let’s go!” he yelled. “Let’s get two!”

Doggone Nibbs. Why did he miss that grounder?

A blistering grounder between shortstop and second base. Sandy sped after it, sending up dust as he ran. He caught the ball
in the pocket of his glove, rushed over and touched second, then pegged to first. In time by two steps!

A double play!

A Minuteman tripled. The next man hit a skyscraping fly to Oink, and the top of the third inning was over. Even before Oink
had caught the ball Sandy was running off the field. He hadn’t much time left.

“Sandy! Oink! Marty!” Coach Malone named off the first three hitters. Sandy picked up his brown bat, slapped on his plastic
helmet and hustled to the plate.

The first pitch came in, low and inside. Sandy swung. Missed!

“Make ’em be in there, Sandy!” yelled the coach.

Come on, Mark, Sandy pleaded silently. Throw me a good one.

As if Mark heard him the Minuteman pitcher threw one almost squarely over the heart of the plate. Sandy swung. A
line drive over short! He rounded first and stopped on second for a neat double.

Oink flied out. Marty Loomis smashed a grounder to short. The shortstop fumbled it, and Marty was safe on first. Sandy stayed
on second. Then Dick Regan laid into a high pitch and sent it over the left fielder’s head for a clean triple, scoring Sandy
and Marty.

Nibbs and some of the other guys patted Sandy happily on the back. “Nice hitting, Sandy” “You’re playing like a million dollars.”

Sandy grinned and went over to Duke. “How much more time?”

“One minute!”

Sandy took the watch from Duke and slipped it on his wrist. He waited long enough to see Stubby Tobin hit a hard grounder
to third. The third sacker missed it, and Dick Regan scored. Sandy walked up to the coach.

“I have to leave, Coach,” he said softly.

The coach stared at him. “Leave now? Why?”

Sandy shrugged. “I have to, that’s all. It’s important. I’ll… I’ll see you at the next game.”

He picked up his glove and started running off toward the gate. “Hey, Sandy!” someone yelled. “Where are you going?”

Sandy didn’t answer.


OM was waiting for him in the backyard, where she was watching Jo Ann playing with a large doll and Elizabeth in the sandbox.
Jo Ann was eighteen months old and Elizabeth five years old. That was why Sandy had to rush home. To take care of them. Pop
worked overtime almost every night at a typewriter factory. He seldom got home before seven-thirty. And Mom had to start her
evening job at the drugstore by then.

“I think you’d better leave a little sooner the next time, Sandor,” Mom said, pronouncing his name
as if it had an
in it. Mom and Pop had been born in Hungary and had come to the United States when their oldest child, Peter, was only a
year old. That was seventeen years ago. “Mr. Browning would not like it if I arrived there late. Goodbye, dear. And watch
your sisters.”

“Bye, Mom,” he said, and she hurried out of the yard. She had to walk to the drugstore. There weren’t any buses in the small
town of Sharil. And Pop had the car.

Sandy hadn’t liked to break away in the middle of the ball game, especially since he had been playing so well for the team.
But Jo Ann and Elizabeth were too
young to be left alone even for a little while. Since Peter worked at a supermarket every weekday afternoon and evening, Sandy
had to watch over the little ones.

He hoped Pop would get home sooner this evening. Then he could go back to the game. Of course he wouldn’t play, but he’d see
the rest of it.

He wondered how it was going, and felt rather proud about his own playing. He had caught four or five grounders and pop flies
without an error, hit a sacrifice bunt and knocked out a double. That was pretty good for the first game of the season.

“Jo Ann, get back here. Don’t you go through those bushes.”

Jo Ann stopped in her tracks and
turned her huge blue eyes on him. She was blond like Mom, and her hair was long and curly.

“Rex,” she said.

“You’re not going over to see Rex,” said Sandy gruffly.

He got off the steps where he had been sitting, twirling his baseball glove round and round on his wrist, and carried her
back to near Elizabeth and the sandbox. “Stay here,” he commanded. “Play with Elizabeth.”

He didn’t trust Rex, the big shepherd dog the neighbors, the Traceys, owned. Rex was leashed to his doghouse and was allowed
to run loose only when someone was with him.

Sandy didn’t know why he didn’t trust the dog. Maybe it was because Rex was so big. He wasn’t sure. He just never
had been near Rex and didn’t want his little sisters to get near him, either.

At last a car drove into the driveway. Pop was home.

“Hi, children,” he greeted them cheerfully. Jo Ann and Elizabeth ran to him and he stopped and kissed them. “And, you, Sandor.
You are still in your baseball uniform. Did you play?” He pronounced
the same way Mom did.

“Hi, Pop. I played three innings. Sacrificed and doubled.”

Pop had seen Sandy play last year and the year before. Both he and Mom liked baseball and knew what every baseball term meant.

BOOK: Hard Drive to Short
11.92Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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