The Standby Pitcher

    “The Standby Pitcher,” Tambuli, Sept. 1979, 36

    The Standby Pitcher

    David had been playing on a children’s baseball team all season. More than anything else he wanted to be a regular member on the team, and he wanted to be a pitcher. He never missed a practice or a game. Whenever his dad or his older brother could find the time, he’d get them to throw the ball back and forth with him. Even when David watched television he would wear his baseball glove and pop a ball in and out of it almost automatically. Sometimes he’d forget to take the mitt off when his mother called him for meals, and then the family would have to wait while David put the mitt away, washed his hands, and came to the table.

    Near the end of the baseball season the coach told all the little leaguers they should meet at the ball park on a certain Sunday morning to have a special practice and to have their pictures taken. “I can’t come on Sunday,” said David.

    “You’d better,” said the coach, “because we’re going to talk about our team for next year after we have our pictures taken.”

    Usually, David ran home full of excitement after a ball game or a practice. But this night he was late, and he hardly answered when his family spoke to him. He was unusually quiet all week, but on Sunday he didn’t go to the ball park. On Monday he was at practice and at every practice afterward. Finally the day came for the tests to see who would be on next year’s team.

    “You’ll be one of our regular pitchers,” the coach told David, “but you’ll have to play whenever a game is scheduled. We need you, and that will mean sometimes you will play on a Sunday.”

    “I can’t play ball on Sundays,” David said.

    “Then you’ll have to be an alternate pitcher instead of a regular one,” answered the coach. And that is how it was all season. Sometimes David had a chance to pitch a game but more often he didn’t. The other boys on the team played on Sundays, but David went to Sunday School and sacrament meeting with his family.

    In the spring when David was ten years old, the coach called the boys together to begin a new season and to make selections for the team. “We’ll need you for a regular pitcher this year, David,” he said. “But sometimes you’ll need to play on a Sunday.”

    “I’ll have to think about it,” said David. That night he talked the problem over with his dad, and then he said a special prayer for help to have the courage to do what he knew was right. The next day he told the coach he’d have to be just a standby pitcher again. The coach only shook his head.

    Several weeks went by and David was at every practice. One night the coach called the boys around him. He explained that David couldn’t play ball on Sunday even though the team often had a game on that day. “But I’d like him to be our pitcher anyhow,” he went on. “If you agree, we could let David be our regular weekday pitcher and have a standby pitcher for Sunday games. How about it?”

    There was a moment of silence. David could hardly breathe. The team members hesitated only a minute, and then every little leaguer agreed wholeheartedly to the plan.