It was nice weather for the baseball game, 83 degrees, quoting the sign in center field. I got there around 6:30 to scope out the scene, maybe see some batting practice and who was hurling for the night. It was Big John that was throwing for the local Frogs and some Goose Gossage look-a-like that was tossing for the visiting Quails. He came with the trademark mustache, that Goose look-a-like, but nobody seemed to mind. Some kid said, “I’m going for one of those mustaches.”
The game started promptly at 7, with a local girl, Jean Stevenson, singing the national anthem with a soft, angelic voice. She had stage presence along with a voice twice her age. Everyone was surprised, and they said how they would like their daughters to take up signing.
Seats where filled with happy kids and their parents, and the game started as advertised – Big John stroke out the Quails with his ease of control and his heavy fastball and his hovering change-up. He came up with five k’s in the first three innings. While Goose hung in there with four of his own, his accomplished with a good deal of curve balls and other junk, not uncommon in the Mexican leagues, where both of the pitchers pitched in the off-season.
The fans were bored from what I could tell, but me being a purest, I was happy about the game. I thought back to when I played. Always wished I could pitch, toss up some blistering ones up on a plate and challenge anyone who dared.
And during the game the familiar “cold beer, get your cold beer here,” chants where heard as much as the spitting of the seeds that were then stepped on.
It was the fourth now, with Big John looking at the signs from the catcher, and he was up there like bronze. Then he went to work on this guy, Roldan was his name, he played third for the Quails. Roldan had good numbers and liked the fast ball, but Big John served it cold, and he went down like a shotgunned quail, and Big John with the same temperament as before – cool and relaxed. The next two batters were tougher, but John came along well. Minx, the first baseman belted a single that would have been a double if it wasn’t for his speed. Then, looking over to the runner and then the batter with intensity, Big John threw some heat, which was scarred by Avila, the left-fielder batting. The ball hit wood squarely, and then it met the ready leather of Peralta, the Frog’s second baseman, who then made a double play on the play. The fans sure loved the play. The bench of the Frogs livid.
I needed another beer when the bottom of the fourth came along, and then the runs lighted the scoreboard. Albarran with a double, who then got moved to third with a single by Alvarez, who both then scored on a homer by Acosta, the Frog’s shortstop with a smooth inside-out swing. A couple of fireworks went up as Acosta touched the plate, his teammates there to meet him. I had the memory of his swing in my mind, and it stayed there a few minutes, against the backdrop of the game unfolding. It was a calculated swing, perfect in its attempt, perfect in its coordination. And then the sound of wood against leather filled my memory. A powerful smack and then the sound of the cheering. It made my day and the fan’s day. They came for the fireworks and Acosta delivered them.
After the game, which finished 3-0, in favor of the Frogs, held up by the complete game of Big John, I spoke to Acosta.
“What were you thinking, facing Goose?” I asked him.
“You know, get a hit, drive the guys in that were there on the bases.”
“And what else man?”
“You know me. I’m a first pitch swinger. I don’t like to complicate things if they throw me a good one the first time. I saw that he kept on throwing first pitch strikes, and I just guessed, more or less, that it was going to be a fastball.”
“Great game, congrats on the homer, and keep it up. I’ll write about you,” I told him, as he went into the clubhouse.
I would write a lot about Acosta that summer, the kid from Soma they started calling him. And the people from Somerton would go just to see him, and they were proud because one of them made it to the minors.