Chapter 12 The Cages 2
"The batting cages are lined up easy to hard. You can find the speed and type of pitch listed up there." Noah pointed to the first cage we walked up to. Softball Slow-pitch. "As you can see, this is where little girls will gather. And sometimes old men who play in adult slow-pitch leagues." A bunch of little girls were lined up for this particular cage with parents standing nearby. "There's also a fast-pitch softball machine."
"Moving on to where we want to be. The baseball speed starts at 50 miles an hour. Then 60 mph. 70 mph. Then in increments of five. 75 mph. 80 mph. 85 mph. 90 mph. 95 mph. And 100 mph." Noah took me along the cages, pointing out the difference between each one. "The faster you want, the less you have to wait. Not everyone wants to waste a token on something they can't even hit."
I nodded along. This was my first time seeing so many pitching machines. At my middle school, we only had one machine that could change speeds but you had to do it manually. I was told it was a donation from someone's dad, but it benefited me the most. I use to spend hours and hours in there playing around as the other boys got to play real baseball.
"Where do you want to start?" Noah's smile was the biggest I've seen yet.
I tightened my grip on the bat and walked back to the 50 mph cage, then got in line.
Noah's smile faltered. "Please tell me your joking. This is for grade schoolers."
I shook my head, no. This is where I should start. Warming up is important. Plus I have a new bat that I haven't even tried before.
"Ugh. You suck." He peered over at a further cage, then looked back at me. "I'm going to the 70 and 75 cage. There's not much of line here so just join me when you're done." He handed me half of his tokens, then opened up his backpack. He pulled out his helmet and pushed it to me. "Use this. I'll go back and get one from the counter. You don't really need gloves on such slow speeds."
I nodded. I've never used batting gloves before anyways. Noah patted my shoulder once then ran off after putting his bag back on.
I waited patiently behind a couple of kids, younger than me. The twelve pitches for each token made things go by quickly, and it wasn't long before it was my turn. I put the helmet on and took a few practice swings once I stepped in the cage. Then I put my first token in.
I stepped into the righty's box and got set: feet apart, knees lightly bent, elbow back, shoulders loose. The first pitch came. Seemingly slow, but I waited then perfectly hit the ball, sending it back towards the machine. Good. That's one. The bat felt a bit foreign but it was nice.
I haven't held a bat in about six months. Not since my mom came after me with one. She had broken both of my arms, split my head open, rib fractures, and there was a lot of blood. I don't remember much after the first hit to the head, but I remember seeing a lot of red when opening my eyes. It was sickening. The first two months were easy, just lying on a bed, all bandaged up with casts. The last four months were straight rehab and strengthening all the muscles that atrophied.
Even now, I just don't feel the same. Just...so...weak.
I finished the rest of the pitches, sending them all right back to the pitching machine perfectly. Instead of leaving the cage after, I put another token in, but this time I went to the lefty's box.