Commander Joseph Lynch sat silently, waiting.
“You are clear for space walk, Commander. Good luck out there.”
The voice echoed inside Joe’s helmet. He had a very important task ahead, and he tried to focus on it. No matter how hard he tried, his thoughts wandered.
Little Joey Lynch gripped the bat tightly. He watched the pitcher start the wind-up. Here came the throw. Joey brought the bat around as hard as he could. He missed entirely.
“Don’t worry, Joe!” shouted his dad, as Joey ran to get the ball. “Just keep your eye on the ball. Watch it all the way into the bat. You can do it. I believe in you!”
Joey was the smallest kid on his little league team. His birthday had been about a week before the cut-off date for Kindergarten and his parents had sent him, anyway. Being the youngest kid in class had always made sports a bit harder for Joey. He was smart, probably the smartest kid in school. Except for Joanna. She was able to pick things up even faster than Joey. He didn’t mind, though. He thought she was cute.
But, unfortunately, as the years had passed, being smart wasn’t enough to fit in. And so, Joey had decided to join the little league team that summer. Unfortunately, he had never hit a ball in his life.
“Okay, kiddo,” his dad started, “here it comes!”
The pitch sailed toward him and Joey swung with all his might. The bat connected with the ball, but just barely. It deflected the ball behind him, where it missed his mom’s car by a few inches.
“Whoops!” His dad cringed as the ball very nearly landed them both in hot water. “Maybe we should change our angle just a little bit.”
As Joey moved into position, his dad approached him for a little father-son coaching moment.
“Okay, now, Joe,” his dad began. “This is it. This is the one. I can feel it on this pitch. This is your pitch. Can you feel it?”
Joey nodded his head. His dad handed him the ball for a moment. Joey could feel the weight of it in his hand.
“Did I ever tell you what Grandpa used to say about a baseball, Joe?”
Joey shook his head. Dad didn’t talk about Grandpa as much as he thought he did.
“Grandpa said, ‘The act of throwing a baseball is a very important thing. A piece of the pitcher goes with that ball. A bit of his soul. If he loves the game enough, every player that touches that ball leaves a piece of himself behind. A baseball is so much more than a piece of equipment for a game: it’s dirt and earth and sweat and even tears. Every player that plays the game for love is left behind, long after the game is over.”
Joey didn’t quite understand what his dad meant, but he knew it was important. His dad wiped away a tear that had snuck down his face. Joey pretended not to see.
“When I throw this pitch, a piece of me is coming at you. And that piece of me is going to guide that ball right to your bat. And when you hit it this time, a piece of you is going to join me on a journey the likes of which neither of us has ever seen. Now, are you ready?”
Joey nodded, and choked up on the bat. His dad walked back up the alley to the makeshift “mound” he had kicked in the gravel. He pulled back his arm and threw the ball. Joey stepped forward, pulled on the bat as hard as he could andâ€”CRACK! The ball sailed up and over his dad’s head, way down the alley. Joey jumped up and down as his dad rushed to him and held him up in the air.
“I knew you could do it!”
Joey ran to where the ball fell, picked it up, andâ€“
Commander Joseph Lynch snapped back to his current situation. The voice from inside the ship echoed through his helmet once more.
“Sir, are you okay?”
“I’m fine,” Joe responded. “I’m ready to do this.”
“Very good, sir. You are clear to proceed at any time.”
Joe relaxed, took a deep breath, and pulled a baseball out of one of the pockets on his EV suit. “Standing” as best he could in the vacuum of space, Joe hurled the baseball as hard as possible. It sailed out of sight into the black.
“So long, dad. Enjoy the journey. I know I will.”