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Authors: Richard Reece

The Catch

BOOK: The Catch
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Text copyright © 2012 by Lerner Publishing Group, Inc.

All rights reserved. International copyright secured. No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means—electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise—without the prior written permission of Lerner Publishing Group, Inc., except for the inclusion of brief quotations in an acknowledged review.

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The images in this book are used with the permission of:
© Kelpfish/, p. 109; ©
Fromer, p. 112 (banner background); ©
Naphtalina, pp. 112, 113, 114 (brickwall background).
Front Cover: © Stephen Mcsweeny /Shutterstock Images,
(blue sky), © Alfo/Alloy/CORBIS (baseball player).
Back Cover: © Kelpfish/

Jasper, Rick, 1948–

The catch / by Rick Jasper.

p. cm. — (Travel team)

ISBN 978–0–7613–8320–8 (lib. bdg. : alk. paper)

[1. Baseball—Fiction.] I. Title.

PZ7.J32Cat 2012



Manufactured in the United States of America

1 – BP – 12/31/11

eISBN: 978-0-7613-8730-5 (pdf)

eISBN: 978-1-4677-3054-9 (ePub)

eISBN: 978-1-4677-3053-2 (mobi)


“The way a team plays as a whole
determines its success.You may have the
greatest bunch of individual stars in the
world, but if they don't play together, the
club won't be worth a dime.”




t all began with The Catch. If you say that, “The Catch,” to anyone who was playing for the Las Vegas Roadrunners that day, they still know what you mean. And you can still watch it on YouTube and other websites. It will probably live online, somewhere, forever.

It happened a year ago in the quarter finals of the Palm Springs Invitational Tournament. For U17 traveling teams, the Palm is a big deal. It comes at the end of the season, and the best teams from west of the Rockies are there. Not to mention a ton of college and pro scouts and TV cameras.

The Runners were the designated home team in that game, and they were a run up on the Phoenix Desert Eagles in the bottom of the ninth. There was one out and an Eagle on first: Jimmy Toms, one of their speedsters. Unfortunately for Eagles fans, their number-nine hitter was at the plate. That was little Kenny Bailey. He was a terrific infielder, but he had already struck out three times in the game. The outfielders were playing shallow.

Maybe Kenny was frustrated, or desperate. With a 1–2 count, he should have known they were sending Jimmy to second and just tried to hit something sharp behind the runner. Instead, he practically left his feet swinging at a fastball.

There was a sharp
as Kenny connected and sent a rising line drive lasering for the fence in deep right center. You can hear the commentary on YouTube:

“And there it goes! Toms is off, this will definitely tie the game! Hold it, look at the center fielder! Danny Manuel is flying after that drive. There's no way he can catch up . . . but he's gaining, he's gaining . . . He dives flat out and . . . Oh. My. Gosh! He's caught it. He throws from the ground to second, who throws to first and they've doubled up Toms. Game over! Do you believe that? Let's watch it again.”

And they did. Again and again. In Vegas the TV news shows were actually leading with the clip—a sports story beating out the murders and car wrecks. When the video made ESPN, the analysts had a few more words:

“How did that kid catch up with that? He must be psychic!”

“I know, Boomer. It almost looked like he was after that ball before it left the bat.”

The video footage is amazing to watch. The pitcher winds up, the runner goes, Kenny swings for the fences and . . .The rest seems almost like slow motion, even when it isn't.

The fielder is racing after the ball, and then at some point the ball is trying to outrun the fielder. And just when it seems a catch is impossible, Manuel goes airborne and horizontal. Like the dude should have been wearing a cape.

Suddenly Manuel has the ball. He lands on the ground in a heap, but he holds on and raises the ball to show he's made the catch. Toms, the base runner, has just rounded third when he stops, looks back at the third-base coach yelling and waving his arms, and reverses his field. But he knows it's hopeless. Manuel suddenly looks at Perez, who's also yelling, and throws him the ball. Perez throws to first. The crowd goes nuts. Manuel trots in, and when he gets to the infield his teammates swarm over him, finally hoisting him on their shoulders and carrying him to the dugout.

Quite a catch. Quite a play. I can hardly believe it was me.


n the dugout, everyone was hollering and slapping me on the back except the coaches. Coach Harris was writing something in his notebook. Coach Washington, his assistant, finally came over and put a hand on my shoulder. Then he took me to one side.

“Congratulations, Danny,” he said. “Great catch.” There was something else in his eyes, though. “You know,” he said next, “it was the wrong play.”

“What do ya mean, Wash?” I got defensive. “We won!”

“We did, Danny. But what do you think were the odds of you making that catch?”

“One in a million,” I grinned. “That's why it was . . . ”

“That's why it was the wrong play. If you miss, we lose. Bailey had the speed to take all four bases if it got by you. If you play the ball off the fence, we're tied with Bailey on second. You've got a good arm—maybe we even have a shot at nailing him there.”

“But, Wash . . .”—Why couldn't he see this?—“We won!”

“Yeah. We won the lottery.”

Whatever. I wasn't about to let Wash bring me down with all that. I was enjoying the moment. Next thing I knew there was a hot girl in a T-shirt that said PEPPERDINE, the Malibu university, across the front, putting a microphone in my face.

“Danny,” she said, “that was incredible. What was going through your mind when that ball was hit?”

“Just, you know, get it,” I said.

“How did you have the presence of mind to start the double play?”

The truth is that credit belonged to Sammy. All I was thinking at the time was,
I made the catch
. But I didn't tell her that. “Well, we're always coached to keep the situation in mind,” I said, noticing Wash watching from the other end of the dugout.

“Have you thought yet about your baseball future?”

“Nah. I'm just thinking about tomorrow's game.” Another lie. At the moment, I was thinking about PEPPERDINE and also about when I could see video of the catch. And about my dad. I hoped he'd seen the play, and I couldn't wait to hear his reaction.



After we all dressed up the team went to dinner. The Palm is a first-class tournament. The team roomed at a spa, and they always had a huge spread waiting for us at mealtime. I should have felt great, but Wash had spoiled it. I kept chewing on what he had said.

I filled my plate and looked for Nellie.

Nelson “Nellie” Carville is our third baseman. He's more than that, though. Some guys just have the “leader” thing going on, and Nellie's the guy who has it on our team. That's why he's captain.

There was a space next to him at one of the tables, so I sat down there.

“Hey Danny,” he said. “Mad catch!”

“Thanks,” I said. “I'm glad you said that.” Then I told him about Wash.

Nellie listened till I was through, and then he thought a minute. “Don't let it bring you down,” he said finally. “It was a beautiful thing to see. Now, Wash's job is to teach us how to play better. Nobody can teach a catch like you made. But Coach was trying to teach you something, right?”

“Yeah, I guess he was saying, ‘Think about the situation.'”

“Yep. So next time . . . But tonight, enjoy the moment. The team sure is.”

I felt better. Nellie has that effect on people.

A minute later my phone buzzed. It was Dad's number, but when I said, “Yo,” the voice I heard was Sal's. Sal is my dad's “associate.” That's how my dad always introduces him. “This is Sal Ruberto, my associate.” He and my dad have been working together since I was little. I've never been sure exactly what they do, but as dad always says, it puts meat on the table.

“Hey Danny,” Sal said, “You're famous! Your dad's watching that catch on TV. Here, he wants to talk to you.”


anny!” I could tell Dad was in a great mood, and I felt as good as I'd felt all day. “Wow, what a play! I must have watched it a dozen times, fast-mo, slow-mo. It's a thing of beauty, son.”

I could hear a phone ringing in the background. “Thanks, Dad!”

Dad asked me to hold a second. He said something to Sal, and then he came back on. “Sorry, Danny, my phone's been ringing ever since your video came on the news. Ringing with opportunities!”

“Yeah? Like what?”

“We'll talk about all that when you get home, Dan. Right now you just need to focus on baseball. You're in the semis tomorrow. Tough team?”

“Same team. We're both one and one. But we're facing their best pitcher. I hear he could be tournament MVP.”

“Well, you go get 'em. Hey, I need to ask a favor.”


“There'll be a guy at the game tomorrow. Name is Strauss, Jack Strauss. He's a business friend, and he was real excited about your play. He wants to meet you.”

BOOK: The Catch
7.72Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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