30 September 2013

Jesus Toast – Iconic Butter

Greetings Dear Reader,

Yesterday I attempted to lightly discuss the problem I see with seeing an icon in toasted bread.  I received more and a few unhappy comments from some of you, Dear Readers.  Further I was concerned some would see me as being disrespectful and some did.  I think that in every endeavor we find those who traffic in the absurd. 

One person sent me a link that included instructions for buttering toast so that as it browns it creates the desired icon.  The individual had obviously not looked at the link as it was instructions for creating icons for a software called Toast.  I do suppose that one could draw on toast with butter and create the desired iconic effect.

The problem I see is that we seem to care more for the icons than we do that which the icon represents.  The time it would take to create such a thing would not be worth it except for personal gain.  I have rarely seen the value of an image of Christ when we are supposed to be transforming ourselves into that image. 

It is I that is to become the icon.  I am to be the thing that reflects who Christ is.  My toast is just my toast.  I am to be a living icon of the love and grace that Christ offers the world and I am not to indulge in the absurd that detracts from that.

There is much science to support that we are prone to see anthropomorphic images in things.  That research also points out that we are much more likely to see religious images if that is what we seek. 

I am supposed to seek Christ but not in that way.  I am not supposed to look for signs or proofs.  I am supposed to follow in faith.  I am required to see him in the things of the world not in my grilled Ruben sandwich.  I am to see him in the provision of that sandwich not the bread.

When I fail to see his image in the places I am supposed to then I will seek false images in places I should not.  The bread of life is found in life not in toast.

Wishing you joy in the journey,

Aramis Thorn
Mat 13:52 So Jesus said to them, "That is why every writer who has become a disciple of Christ’s rule of the universe is like a home owner. He liberally hands out new and old things from his great treasure store."

29 September 2013

Jesus Toast

Greetings Dear Reader,

Please note that as I write this my tongue is firmly implanted in my cheek.  I mean no disrespect to anyone but this topic has had me up far too early today.  It was spawned by a discussion of racist peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.  That, however, is a discussion best left for later.

It did get me thinking about Jesus toast.  There are several incidents available for view where the image of Jesus has been seen on toast.  I have also found Jesus French toast and Jesus pancakes.  There is Jesus grilled cheese out there as well.  In my searching I also found Jesus tortillas, English muffins, and waffles.  Since most Waffle Houses are in the Bible belt this makes sense. 

Added to my discoveries was that one can purchase Jesus toasters, sandwich grills, and waffle irons.  I would much prefer my encounters with Jesus to be natural rather and arranged through hot iron manipulation.  If Jesus is going to show up on my toast I want it to be because he directly intervened rather than a friend who has a Jesus toaster.

Of course anything that calls attention to Jesus is OK by me.  I think there are things that are absurd like a Jesus toaster.  I also think those things give opportunity for those who take Christ seriously to show a difference in how they respond to things having to do with God.

If I find Jesus on my grilled cheese sandwich I will likely capture the image on my phone and eat the sandwich before it gets cold.  I cannot fathom any honorable purpose for selling said sandwich on eBay.  What intrigues and troubles me the most about all of this is that people will clamor to see the image of Jesus on and English muffin but will not put forth the effort to see him in their lives.

Wishing you joy in the journey,

Aramis Thorn

Mat 13:52 So Jesus said to them, "That is why every writer who has become a disciple of Christ’s rule of the universe is like a home owner. He liberally hands out new and old things from his great treasure store."

28 September 2013

Social Media – Closing Thoughts

Greetings Dear Reader,

I think that the answer here is little different from anything else.  It increases the circle of who is my neighbor if I participate.  It does not change that I am required to love God and my neighbor in all that I do.  It does not remove the requirement for me to love my enemy. 

I am accountable for every idle word I speak.  I am required to capture every thought and submit it to Christ.  What I post, like, or share matters greatly.  Everything I do on any social media will reflect who I am as a Christ follower.  If I hope to honor Christ I must be vigilant concerning this.

When I post it must be kind and loving.  When I share I must consider the source and if I wish to support it.  When I comment I must love the person and show my compassion.  I must not judge, condemn, or hate anyone.  I can oppose positions and viewpoints but I must assure that I do that with love and respect.

There are no secular issues for me.  Everything I do must be centered on my journey with Christ.  Social media is no different.

Wishing you joy in the journey,

Aramis Thorn

Mat 13:52 So Jesus said to them, "That is why every writer who has become a disciple of Christ’s rule of the universe is like a home owner. He liberally hands out new and old things from his great treasure store."

27 September 2013

81 – The Third Inning

81 – The Third Inning
By Aramis Thorn
Here is the third installment of the short story as promised, Enjoy


Warm Up

Jack was on deck when Brewer grounded out to third.  He notices while swinging the bat that his catching hand is a bit tender.  He will work through the third and then ice it while waiting for the top of the fourth.  For now he rushes to put on his catcher’s gear.  He has always felt that this was the least understood part of the game.  If the catcher is on deck he has to go in and dress to take the field. 
Joe waits for Morris as if the day were as long as the whole summer.  It is September and the slightest chill has caressed the moist evening air.  The shadows are long earlier and a haze hangs above the blossoming stadium lights. 
Crackerjack trots to his place and the battery fires off a quick eight tosses.  Nothing fancy or forced is wasted here.  To Jack’s delight the kid gets the purpose of the eight and uses them well. 
Pitch 19
Wholesome Mathews may be the only person on the field more southern than Garner Patch.  As the stout second baseman makes his way to home plate Garner cleans it as if to welcome him. 
“Evening Mr. Patch,” offers the second baseman from Yazoo City, Mississippi. 
“Evening Wholesome,” replies the umpire.
“Evening Jack,” says Wholesome.
“Evening Wholesome, are you ready,” asks Jack?
The batter sets up in the box and Jack signals to Joe.  Mathews is a wise hitter with a good eye for the strike zone.  Jack calls for the curve moving outside to in.  He calls for a fast one.  Joe obliges.
The pitch flows from hand to air with ease.  It rolls off the fingers and begins to spin a tale of deceit.  It flies along a path that promises it is a harmless outside fast ball, a little high, and not worth chasing.  Wholesome rests on his heels.  As if knowing that the batter has believed the lie the ball catches up to its own physics and arcs down and across the plate.
“Steeerike  one Wholesome,” calls Patch
Jack tosses the ball back to Joe.  92 mph blinks the red watcher of pitches.
 Pitch 20
Jack wonders if the same pitch will work again on Mathews.  He chooses instead the more noble deception.  He signals for changeup and outside.  Joe understands Jack’s intent and sets up exactly as he did on the last pitch.  Jack sets up at center plate knowing he will have to move outside quickly.  Wholesome looks back at Jack’s position.  He nods and grunts.  He raises his shoulders.
Joe winds and deals.  A casual observer could not see the difference between this delivery and the last.  Wholesome is not casual.  He reads fastball outside but does not trust it to break in. He reaches.  He reaches too early.
The ball stays wide but is moving more slowly than it looks.  The sound is swoosh slap.  The next sound is what matters.
“Steeerike  two Wholesome,” barks Patch.
“That man is a deceiver Jack,” observes Wholesome.
“He is even fooling me friend,” answers the catcher. 

Pitch 21
Wholesome Mathews shakes his head in shame.  He chased a pitch.  He chased a rube.  He made a rookie mistake.  Angry at his own failure he pounds the plate and takes his stance.  Jack signals for a curve to finish him; the same pitch as the first.  Joe shakes it off.  Jack wants to insist but the kid needs the confidence.  He signals breaking ball, down.  Joe nods.
The batter knows enough to think twice when a pitcher shakes off a sign.  He calls time and steps out of the box.  Anything that breaks a pitcher’s rhythm works to his benefit.  He walks over to the on deck circle and grabs a towel pretending to dry the bat handle.  Wholesome makes his way slowly back to the box.
“Let’s go Wholesome,” calls Garner Patch, “I have to fly to Chicago after this game.  I hate having to hurry at airports.”
“Apologies Patch,” returns the batter.  He sets and watches.
Jack signals again: Same pitch as the first one in the same place.  Joe nods, stretches, and pitches.  The ball flies directly toward the center of the plate and the strike zone.  It breaks at about the same instant that Wholesome pulls the trigger.  Swoosh then slap.  
“Steeerike Three, you’re out Wholesome,” offers Garner Patch.
“Evening Wholesome,” offers Jack.
As the ball goes round the horn Jack smiles at the pitch clock.  The pitch clock offers only numbers: 99 mph.
Pitch 22
 The lanky shortstop, Jackson Daniels is still in the league because of his arm not his bat.  His timing went bad just two seasons ago.  He went from batting second to batting eighth.  He is faster on the field that most people and can throw a runner out at first base from behind third.  Crackerjack Morris knows better than to discount him.  He does see the value of trying to rattle him right from the start.  Jack signals fastball, inside corner, low heat.
Joe grins, winds, and fires.
Daniels leans back slightly thinking ball.
“Steeerike one,” calls Garner Patch.
Jack winces painfully as he tosses back the ball and reads the clock: 101 mph.
Pitch 23
Jack does not want to give the batter time to recover or think.  He signals fastball, same place, and medium speed.  Joe grins again.  He winds again.  He delivers.
Daniels swings too late.  Slap then swoosh are the sounds.
“Steeerike two, batter,” barks the umpire.
The red clock reads 103 mph and Jack’s hand hurts.  This time the pain takes measurably longer to fade.
 Pitch 24
 Clearly agitated but trying to focus Daniels sets in the box.  Jack knows he has him.  Jack calls for fastball, outside, and full heat.  Joe grins as if the entire world were just offered him.  He stretches and fires.
Daniels is sure the ball is too far outside but does not want to be called on strikes.   His timing is his doom.  He swings even later this time.
“Steeerike three, you’re out,” calls Patch.
“Ouch,” says Jack.
The pitch clock reads 105 mph.  Joe Zander has just tied the record for the fastest recorded pitch in baseball.  It is not the last time tonight Jack will think about baseball records.  The knowledgeable in the crowd know they have just seen something special.  All he is thinking of right now is an ice bucket for his hand.
 Pitch 25
 Andy Vine from Vinings, Georgia feels at home in the cool southern evening.  So far the game is even in the run column and at the end of things that is all that matters.  The seasoned pitcher faces off against his younger counterpart.  Andy, better than anyone, will be able to report to his team the nuances of Joe Zander. 
Jack is aware of this danger and decides to play it safe.  He calls for the inside curve.  Every good curve ball pitcher knows this pitch.  It is hard to hit and it asks the batter politely to move back from the plate.
Joe pitches and the ball sails straight toward the plate.  At the right moment it tails in toward the batter but catches the corner of the plate.  Andy thinks it is a ball.  Garner Patch thinks differently.
“Steeerike one,” assures Patch.
Jack’s hand stings from the 89 mph pitch. 
 Pitch 26
Jack winces as he tosses back the ball.  His glove hand is throbbing ever so slightly.  He crouches down and signals the second pitch to Andy.  He calls for the changeup.  He both knows that Andy will expect heat and that his hand may not handle it.  Joe nods, winds, and deals.
Andy Vine has used this same pitch to deceive many batters.  One might think his resultant early swing justice.
“Steeerike two,” calls Patch.
78 mph. reads the clock.
 Pitch 27
Jack can tell that the throb in his hand matches his pulse.  His mitt feels tighter.  He will get some help with his gear so he can ice his hand.  He calls for the changeup again.  His hand can take it and Andy will expect heat.  Jack signals, Joe fires, and Andy goes down swinging.
“Steeerike three, you’re out” calls the umpire.
The stands come alive with unusually loud cheers.  It will be a few minutes before Jack catches on to what has them going.  He is so focused on the kid and his hand that for a moment his head is not truly in the game.

Jack hustles back to the dugout and asks the batboy for help with his gear.  He tosses his mitt on the bench and plunges his hand in the icy water kept there for pitchers.  He knows that Joe does not need it but thanks to Joe he does.  The cold quells the throbbing.  The manager, Wayne Jones reminds Jack that he is up to bat.
Crackerjack pulls his hand from the bucket and dries it on a towel.  As he pulls on his leather batting glove he notices that the bottom quarters of his palm are red and slightly swollen.  He ignores it and grabs his favorite bat.  He figures it is time to help his own cause.  He strides to the plate and squares off.  The third base coach gives him the sign to swing away.
Andy Vine’s first pitch is outside and high for a ball.  The second is low but over the plate.  Jack takes a tentative swing at it sending it looping to right field.  The opposite field hit surprises the right fielder who has to chase it to the dark corner by the foul pole. 
By the time the ball is thrown in to the second baseman Jack is standing at second with an easy double.  Time is called and Jack makes his way back toward first base.  As he passes his batting helmet to the first base coach he notices that a fan has honored a decades old tradition.  Hanging on the railing behind home plate are squares of paper with large black “K”s on them.  Each has Joe’s number, 81on it in the corner. 
Still standing between first and second Jack counts the squares of paper not once but three times.  He is sure there are nine.  The distant voice of the first base umpire reminds him to return to second base.  He does but he has to count the K’s one more time on his way.  “Nine strikeouts in three innings,” ponders Jack Morris.  No one has touched the ball.  The record in a game for consecutive strike outs is ten.  No one in baseball has ever thrown two consecutive immaculate innings.  Joe has thrown three.

The veteran catcher forces his thoughts back to the current moments of the game.  Jack is stranded at second and does not score.  Joe walks and then Parson Hamilton strikes out.  JJ Clover hits into a four, six, three double play.  While he trots back to put on his gear Jack can only think about strike outs.  The rest of the truth is slow to interrupt the catcher’s thinking on this matter but it will come.

Social Media – Parents and Adult Children

Greetings Dear Reader,

One of the great things about social media is keeping up the children.  One of the terrible things about social media is keeping up with the children.  Yes both are true.  Whether we wish it or not your personality, values, and habits show through in your media posts.

It is my responsibility to honor that my children let me in by not embarrassing or judging them.  I am bound by my faith to treat them with the same respect publicly that I would give to others.  If I am concerned about something they post I should have a private and loving conversation with them.

I see parents publicly defame, insult, and condemn their children.  This is wrong in any venue and I think more so in social media.  If I judge or ridicule my children they are free to block me from access.  I must remember that being able to see into their online lives is a privilege and not a right.

I think that this speaks to the larger responsibility that I have to treat them as I would treat anyone else.  I must love them as Christ loves them.  I must not judge them or condemn them.   What I must do is see the things that bring them joy and share what I can.

Like anyone else in the world I am required to love them for who they are; even more because I helped sculpt that person.  I must not indulge my worries or demand that they reflect my values and opinions.  I must air in public what should be private.  I must honor Christ but being good to them in front of their friends.

Wishing you joy in the journey,

Aramis Thorn

Mat 13:52 So Jesus said to them, "That is why every writer who has become a disciple of Christ’s rule of the universe is like a home owner. He liberally hands out new and old things from his great treasure store."

26 September 2013

Social Media – Reconnecting

Greetings Dear Reader,

I know that it has taken me a bit to get to the positive aspects of social media.  I have been anxious to talk about this part of it.  Through the use of social media re-connections to long lost friends has been possible.  Family events when family has been far away have been sharable.  Much of what I would miss is available right at my desk. 

The benefits of these venues have enriched my life in excellent ways.  I still find friends that were relegated to the past with little hope of recovering them.  I am able to plan a gathering with very little fuss on the invitation side.  Even friends I do not get to see often are able to share their interests, life events, and needs no matter where they are.

What I must assure is that this readily available information does not make me callous or complacent.  I am still accountable for what I know and what I am given.  I must assure that I do not allow the constant social news feed to keep me from seeing the needs of those doing the posting.  I must not get sucked in to things that are none of my concern.  I must use all that I take in as fodder for my prayer and care of others.

I am thankful for this modern venue.  I am better off for it.  I will continue to use it to keep up with those I love.  I will also assure that I do not use it to hurt of disrespect anyone.  For those of you who know me and have lost track; I am right here waiting to hear from you.  The call, after all is to community.

Wishing you joy in the journey,

Aramis Thorn

Mat 13:52 So Jesus said to them, "That is why every writer who has become a disciple of Christ’s rule of the universe is like a home owner. He liberally hands out new and old things from his great treasure store."

25 September 2013

Second Thoughts - An Unexpected Parting

Greetings Dear Reader,

Sometimes I will end the day with thoughts that are important to get out.  Usually I just write them and put them in my journal folder.  I have chosen that on occasion I will share them with you Dear Reader.

I love my dentist.  I realize that may just convince some of you that your feelings that I am mad are quite accurate.  If you knew my dentist you would understand why I love him.  I grew up with an almost pathological fear of dentists.  An angry dental student threatened me when I was very young and the fear is anchored in my mind.

When I first moved to the town in which I currently live I had no insurance and a bad tooth infection.  My dentist agreed to help me and set an appointment to do so.  The first person who worked with me that day was his hygienist, Jenifer.  That was fourteen years and many cleanings ago.

In her kind and reassuring way Jenifer has helped transform me from needing drugs and gas to get into the chair to someone who looks forward to the cleaning and the work she so lovingly does.  Today was my last visit with Jenifer.  She is accepting a new challenge in life that promises to be enriching for her. 

It is what she leaves behind that I value.  She has enriched my life.  She has given me courage and better health.  She has help validate both my fears and the need to move beyond them.  Jenifer has made me a better man in some ways.  I know that I will miss her on my visits but I also know she will be benefitting others and have more time for her family.

The other dividend is that I know that she will avert the fears of others as she did mine.  She will see to it that each person she helps feels valued and cared for.  Jenifer I will miss you but I am happy for you and your new adventure.

Even in this parting I see the beauty and grace this is following Christ.  The change is bittersweet but necessary.  The day ends the same as it began, with me on a journey.  I walk with people for a space and have the opportunity to see the beauty and grace created in each of them.  That is what makes the journey tolerable until I get home.

Wishing you joy in the journey,

Aramis Thorn

Mat 13:52 So Jesus said to them, "That is why every writer who has become a disciple of Christ’s rule of the universe is like a home owner. He liberally hands out new and old things from his great treasure store."

Social Media – Real Life Interactions

Greetings Dear Reader,

I have been in a room with seven adults where none of us were talking to each other and all of us were using some form of social media.  It turned out that three of them were having a deep discussion using their laptops.  They were talking but not talking even though they were in the same room.

Please notice I did say “us” there.  I have been guilty of shutting out others in favor of using my laptop.  I make no apologies for this when I am writing but when I am in an environment with friends or family it is inexcusable.  I have to be careful not to let my virtual interactions take the place of my real life ones.

The people I am with deserve my best when I am there.  I cannot give this if I am focused on my Face Book page or in a virtual world instead of with them.  I am not saying there is no place for this but I think in general we put out attention to the virtual over the real too often.

Another place I notice this is at the movie theatre.  My Sons are excellent at providing interesting conversation pre-show.  Yet when I look around I will see dozens of small screens lit up whilst people fail to interact with those around them.

If I am to follow Christ well I must be very aware of this part of my use of social media.  I must assure that I am giving my very best to those around me when I am with them.  I must be aware of the conversations and the interactions.  After all social media is a problem if it makes you antisocial.

Wishing you joy in the journey,

Aramis Thorn

Mat 13:52 So Jesus said to them, "That is why every writer who has become a disciple of Christ’s rule of the universe is like a home owner. He liberally hands out new and old things from his great treasure store."

24 September 2013

Social Media – Religion

Greetings Dear Reader,

Since this is an area on which I have much to say it is noteworthy that I rarely get involved in discussion on the matter in social media.  I post my blog and write my books.  I have opinions on almost everything when it comes to this issue.  I read, I study, and I think.  I pray and I try to follow.

What I do not do is get into arguments about God and faith.  What I refuse to do is publicly insult or ridicule others.  It seems that so many of those who demand tolerance of things do not have any for my faith. 
I so often see things from people who are my friends that are insulting and unkind concerning my faith.  They are not directed at me.  They are, however, directed at the God I love and endeavor to serve. 

So much of what others say about religion on social media is either a rant or an angry attack.  This is useless.  There is nothing to be gained by anyone in spewing hatred or unkindness.  I refuse to engage in this and find that even though I have become used to it from others they have no concept of the impact it has on those who have faith.

I want to be clear that I see both those of my faith and those outside of it as guilty of this.  I am ashamed when those who follow Christ demean those who do not in any way.  I am to speak the truth in love.  I am not to insult or downgrade anyone.  I am to speak of my hope with humility.

I wonder if Christ followers would be perceived differently if they would stay out of the arguments and insults.  I wonder if they would gain more respect if their words were kind and loving.

Wishing you joy in the journey,

Aramis Thorn

Mat 13:52 So Jesus said to them, "That is why every writer who has become a disciple of Christ’s rule of the universe is like a home owner. He liberally hands out new and old things from his great treasure store."

23 September 2013

Social Media – Boundaries

Greetings Dear Reader,

In any use of social media we must be more aware of proper social boundaries.  It is too easy to simply put things out there without considering how that something impacts others.  I have two friends who recently chose to remake their Face Book pages.  One invited me to be a part of her new page the other did not. 

Since I do not share a close friendship with the latter individual I chose to respect the boundary she has set. If he needs my assistance he knows how to contact me.  I also have a friend who “likes” everything I do without thinking that this is an intrusion.  She links me to pages on political views and social issues without knowing my position on those things.  She comments on my doings without considering if it is appropriate to do so.

Because I care for this individual I let it pass but it is a good example of how I must be aware of how I interact with others on social media.  I must assure that my comments respect the boundaries of others.  I must not only be kind and loving but I must not venture into areas that are not my concern.

I must respect the social circles of others.  If I am concerned for someone I should ask them privately.  If I dislike something and it is proper for me to comment I should assure that I do so in private as well.  There are things I may disagree with if someone has put out an issue for debate but I must assure that my comments are on the issue and reflect the love and character of Christ.

It seems that social media shrinks healthy boundaries.  It requires more vigilance on my part to assure that I show love and respect to everyone.  There is no lease within this medium for me to intrude or be unkind.  Social media like any other endeavor requires that I think and act as a Christ follower above all else.

Wishing you joy in the journey,

Aramis Thorn

Mat 13:52 So Jesus said to them, "That is why every writer who has become a disciple of Christ’s rule of the universe is like a home owner. He liberally hands out new and old things from his great treasure store."

22 September 2013

Social Media – Politics

Greetings Dear Reader,

I value greatly that mediums exist for the free exchange of ideas regarding things like politics.  I also have come to see that most political interaction is social media is mean spirited and lacks true information.

It is so easy to snipe at others.  It is empty and causes division where there should be work toward unity.  Putting the facts out there is good and productive.  Putting good information where others can see it is vital. Using a public forum to malign and character assassinate is wrong.

When we employ only pejorative comments we do not aid in honest thoughtful decisions regarding political issues.  Instead we raise the tension between others and create conflict.  As a Christ follower I am to promote peace and unity.  This is not possible if I am engaged in insults over issues. 

I must assure that any political interaction I have is based on my obligation to work for the good of everyone.  There is no political party that does this well.  I cannot align with anything that does not work toward peace and unity.  I also must not compromise my faith in order be politically correct. 

The use of social media in the political arena has value.  I must assure that any involvement of mine is centered on my obligations to Christ and his commands.  Anything else is a failure on my part to follow.

Wishing you joy in the journey,

Aramis Thorn

Mat 13:52 So Jesus said to them, "That is why every writer who has become a disciple of Christ’s rule of the universe is like a home owner. He liberally hands out new and old things from his great treasure store."

21 September 2013

Social Media – Gossip and Slander

Greetings Dear Reader,

Yesterday my friend Glenn mentioned in his comment that so many things that others post are gossip.  In addition to venting anger I often see people share information about others that is personal and should not be aired publicly. 

I have seen posts that reveal information about others intended to embarrass or harm them.  People sometimes report on the activities of their exes in mocking or derisive tones.  It is simply too easy to be unkind to others in this way through social media.

Often too people indulge in negative comments about people they do not know.  People in the news, celebrities, and athletes are subject to the opinions and judgment of others.  Do we really consider that we have no right to malign those we do not know?  We are not free to say whatever we wish about others. 

As a Christ follower I am bound by his words to be kind to others.  I am to show love and compassion.  I am not to judge others.  My opinion, disappointment, or anger at the actions of those I do not know must be fodder for my prayers and not my public opinions.

When I participate in the interplay of negative speculation about others I wrong them whether they ever know it or not.  When I say things about others that are unkind I am wrong, full stop.  It is both too easy to snipe at others and so very wrong of me to do so.

Wishing you joy in the journey,

Aramis Thorn

Mat 13:52 So Jesus said to them, "That is why every writer who has become a disciple of Christ’s rule of the universe is like a home owner. He liberally hands out new and old things from his great treasure store."

20 September 2013

81 – The Second Inning

81 – The Second Inning
By Aramis Thorn
Here is the second installment of the short story as promised, Enjoy


Warm Up

Jack walks the short walk to the plate.  He ponders how many times he has walked this walk from dugout to plate.  Quick crude math says that he has made the trip to the catcher’s position over twenty five thousand times in a twenty year career.  He can see that Aaron Sparks, the powerful Center Fielder is met by the bat boy who takes his glove and hands him his bat.  Aaron picks up the heavy warm up bat as well and begins to swing hard and true with both bats.  Zander indicates that he is ready to toss his eight. 
Morris lets the pitcher choose his pitches.  He wants to get into the kids head and see how the young pitcher ponders the long game.  To his credit Joe Zander tosses eight medium speed strikes.  He does what a pitcher should do with those eight tosses; he gets back his range.

Pitch 10

Garner Patch cleans the plate and signals Aaron Sparks to the batter’s box.  Sparks enters the left one.  He can be equally effective in both.  Jack knows Joe can control his curve.  Jack signals curve, inside, and low.  Sparks swings and misses as the ball tails down and under the bat.  Jack does not even need to move his glove to catch it.
“Steeerike  one,” barks Patch.
The red clock glares 92 mph.

Pitch 11

Sparks looks back at the catcher.  “Your kid can throw a speedy curve.  Can he toss the heat to someone who can hit it?”

Jack knows that this is part of the required dance between batter and catcher.  For over a century this duet has played out in major league stadiums and sand lots all over the country.  The two try to bait each other, out brag each other, and create the right tension for an advantage over each other.  This dance is vital to the romance that is baseball.

Crackerjack grins under his catcher’s mask, “He can throw the heat to anyone if he is in the mood.  The problem is that he does not want you to hit it so he is very picky about it.”
The catcher signals slider.  He knows the kids’ speed will make it look like a fastball and the slight movement will fool Sparks.

Zander nods, winds, and delivers.

Jack ponders his still sore left hand.

Aaron Sparks pulls the trigger on a power swing.  The sounds are very close; swoosh slap.

“Steeerike two,” quips Patch.

The red lights wink as if taunting catcher and batter.  97 mph.  Jack feels it in the heel of his hand.  He is still smiling but he is also wincing just a little.

Pitch 12

Sparks looks back at Jack to continue the dance as the catcher tosses the ball back to the mound.  “I thought the slider was supposed to be slower than the fastball.  Maybe that was just bad heat.”

Jack smiles up at the savvy cleanup hitter.  “Maybe your knowledge of pitching is better than you think.”
Morris signals fastball, away, and full heat.  The catchers hand reminds him that this is going to hurt.  Zander nods and deals.

Sparks chases the ball a full third of a second late.  Jack catches the ball right in the sweet spot of the glove.  Very grateful for this his smile is dual purpose when hears the call.

“Steeerike  three batter.  You’re out,” barks Garner Patch.

Sparks makes his way back to the dugout shaking his head.

Each infielder smiles as the ball travels around the horn.

The red clock seems to be smiling too:  103 mph.

Pitch 13

There is both respect and rivalry between opposing catchers.  Willy Span today’s opposing catcher has been in the majors just three years shy of Jack.  The two have shared four All Star hotel rooms. They know and respect each other. 

“Your boy is doing OK so far,” observes Willy.

“So far,” offers Jack, “but the game is young and so is he.”

Both men smile.  Jack knows that the game is young and he knows how quickly things can change no matter what inning it is.  In baseball there is no such thing as an insurmountable lead.  He decides to start out slow after the last heat.  Jack signals changeup.

Zander barely nods.  Jack can tell he wants to throw heat and heat only.  Once again the aging catcher ponders the conflict that is created when talent collides with youth.  Still the kid is listening even if he is thinking differently.

Joe stretches, cocks, and fires.  To Jack’s eye the release is in exactly the same place as the fastball that finished Sparks.  The pitch looks fast.  Even Jack considers that the kid threw heat instead.  The ball is headed right down Main Street.

Swoosh and then a heartbeat and then slap.  Jack is sorry he doubted his young protégé.  Willy is sorry he swung so soon.

“Steeerike one,” calls Patch.

The red clock winks out its report: 71 mph.
Pitch 14

Jack tosses the ball back to Joe.  “That one even fooled me Willy.”

Willy shakes his head, “I could say it did not fool me but there exists a preponderance of glaring evidence to the contrary.”

Morris chuckles at his friend’s honesty and signals curve, slow, and outside. 

Zander stretches and deals.  The ball leaves his hand as if it is a replay of the previous pitch.  There is not time to see that Joe releases off of the middle finger instead of the index finger.  Span is too busy judging speed.  He will not swing late again.  Were one to overlay the two images one would see that his bat crosses exactly the plane where the ball passed the plate on the previous pitch.

Had there been a second changeup it would have been launched into the stands in center field.  Instead a photo of this swing would reveal that the ball passes under the bat by a full inch and a half.  The ball lied to 
Span from the moment it left Zander’s grip. 

“Steeerike two, batter,” calls Garner Patch.

The clock does not change: 71 mph.

Pitch 15

Jack Morris respects this batter.  At the moment, however, all he wants is another out.  Two pitches at the same speed means that a good hitter like Span has the timing down.  Slow again would be dangerous.  The wise catcher signals curve, inside, and quick. 

Joe gets it and nods.  They both have seen the fast curve work for them.  The opposition has not seen enough of them to know what will happen.  Joe winds and releases.

Crackerjack watches his friend step back in the box to take the obviously inside pitch.  Span has assumed inside fastball.  The ball obeys the physics of deception and sails left to right across the plate.  Span realizes his error just before the resounding slap of the ball against Jack’s well-worn leather.

“Steeerike three, you’re out,” calls Patch

“You got me good Jack. I’ll pay you back in an inning or two,” says Span.

“We’ll see,” replies Jack.

The clock says the curve ball passed at 94 mph.

Pitch 16

Bob Cranes, the left fielder is an ass.  He rarely gets along with his own team.  He has been in the majors for six years and each year has been fined for poor conduct, bad behavior, and starting fights.  He has been ejected from seventeen regular season games and two post season outings.  He stomps into the batter’s box and directs his attention to the young pitcher.

“OK grunt, I seen what you done to my team mates.  You won’t be getting nothing by me.”  He pounds the plate with his bat and sets his stance.

Jack ponders that in this player is the sum of all that is wrong with education and culture in America.  He also ponders Cranes’ use of the double negative.  “You won’t be getting nothing by me” means that Joe will be getting something by him.  Heat first may be a good idea.  He signals one and full.  He sets up for the pain.

Zander grins, winds, and deals.

Cranes swings so late that there was time for another pitch.

Garner Patch, ever impartial signals his approval the only way an umpire can.  
“Steeerike one, batter,” calls Patch.

It takes another full second for the burning pain to erupt in Jack’s hand.  Morris thinks that the pitch clock winks at him as it registers the pitch: 104 mph.

Pitch 17

Cranes swears under his breath.  It is a catcher’s job to get inside the head of the batter.  Jack ponders that there is ample room in Bob Cranes’ as he goads him.  “You were right that was not ‘nothing’ that went by you.  That was pure southern heat.  Should I slow the kid down and give you a better chance?”
Cranes swears and spits.  He steps back into the box.  “Sure send the heat again.  I’ll crush it and your grunt pitcher in one swing.”

Crackerjack knows the batter has danced right into his arms.  He signals the heat and outside.  Joe grins and delivers.  The batters attitude hinders his judgment.  Cranes had decided to swing before the pitch was thrown.  He chases the outside pitch and misses by a full inch and by half a second.

“Steeerike two,” calls Patch.

The red lights record 103 mph.

Pitch 18

“What’s wrong catch?  Is your boy afraid to put it over the plate,” asks Cranes?

“I see no fear in the boy.  I do see that he got more ‘nothing’ by you” responds Jack.   “You like heat and easy targets is what I’m hearing from you.  How about a peach so you don’t walk back to the dugout feeling like you were treated unfairly.”

Bob Cranes just swears at Jack and squares his stance.  Garner Patch warns Cranes about his language.  Jack signals changeup and inside.  He likes the idea of Bob being called out after backing away.  The result is better than he could wish for in his deepest fantasies.

Zander cocks and fires.  The release of the changeup is exactly in place where the last two fastballs were.  

Jack sees that it is on target to crease the inside of the plate just below Cranes’ letters.  From Cranes’ perspective that ball is headed straight at him.
The batter backs and sits thinking he is ducking a brush back.  The ball flies true and Cranes is on the ground before it reaches Jack’s mitt. 

“Steeerike three, batter.  You’re out,” yells Garner Patch.

Cranes is on his feet as fast as he went down.  He steps into Patch’s masked face and begins his useless rant.  “Strike? That ball almost took my head off.  That little newbie tried to bean me.”
Jack steps back to watch the umpire deal with Crane.  He leaves on his mask in case someone should spot the grin on his face.

Garner Patch is a veteran umpire and a Baptist.  He detests swearing and will launch any player who makes it personal.  He considers himself an expert on human nature.  He always becomes the quiet gentleman when players get hot with him.  “You sir are free to question the call and appeal to first base.  Other than that you may wish to move along before I end the day for you early.”

Cranes is about to escalate things when Willy Span rescues him.  Span trots over to his team mate and hands him a glove.  “We need your bat later when the kid is tired.  I’ll talk to the ump while these bums try to get a hit.” 

Cranes swears again but under his breath. He takes the glove.  Jack removes his mask and smiles at Span.  The two understand each other and for now that is enough.  They both know that this was the first rumble of a storm that will blow later in the day. 

If the bottom of the first was boring then the bottom of the second is boring.  McCracken, Jones, and Brewer all get wood on the ball but each of them hits into easy grounders resulting in outs.  Andy Vine, the opposing pitcher is keeping the ball down.  It is zero to zero at the end of two.

Social Media – Angry Posts

Greetings Dear Reader,

I want to first say that I understand the need to release our anger and frustrations.  It is necessary to good health to not internalize too much.   That, however, is not justification for me to vent my visceral feelings publicly to all my friends.

So often I see people vent anger in hopes of getting virtual support.  Whilst the need for that support is understandable it becomes self-serving when done publicly.  I have given in to this from time to time and realize that it does not help me deal with the issue.

Any time I vent my anger instead of seeking to deal with it appropriately I am doing wrong.  It does not matter if I do it vaguely on a Face Book post.  It is not OK for me to malign someone publicly even if I do not say who it is.  Indulging my anger over dealing with the situation in love and grace is always wrong.

So much of what we do on social media it out there forever.  I recently came across a comment I had made two years ago.  I was ashamed of what I had said in a moment of anger and how horrid it sounded removed from the incident.  I do not want to do that ever again.

It is easy to post what you feel.  For me it is better to post what is good.  In dealing with my anger I should do it peacefully and privately. 

Wishing you joy in the journey,

Aramis Thorn

Mat 13:52 So Jesus said to them, "That is why every writer who has become a disciple of Christ’s rule of the universe is like a home owner. He liberally hands out new and old things from his great treasure store."

19 September 2013

Social Media – First Thoughts

Greetings Dear Reader,

Since I work diligently not to be hypocritical this will not be a rant against social media.  Over half of you that read my blog use it to do so.  That said, what are my responsibilities concerning this twenty-first century device?

I use Facebook and Twitter.  My alter ego and I both have Facebook pages and only I have a Twitter page.  I am sure I do not use either as effectively as I should to market my work.  Then again, I am sure I do not think about marketing enough.

So what are a Christ follower’s responsibilities as regards social media?  What am I supposed to do to assure that I am evidencing my love for God and my neighbor when use social media.  What are my obligations to the thousands of snippets of communication that come my way each day?

As with anything I must put my following first in every interaction.  I must put my obligation to love and demonstration of my faith into every interaction.  My oldest Son, Maxim has made some keen observations concerning the freedom that exist in the relative anonymity of the internet.  It gives one lease to be less kind and more judgmental.  I must assure that all of my words reflect who I am supposed to be in Christ.

So I must ponder for a bit what is appropriate for me in the use of the amazing and alarming tool.  I would really value your thoughts on this as I examine the advantages and dangers of social media for one who truly yearns to reflect Christ in what he does.

Wishing you joy in the journey,

Aramis Thorn
Mat 13:52 So Jesus said to them, "That is why every writer who has become a disciple of Christ’s rule of the universe is like a home owner. He liberally hands out new and old things from his great treasure store."

18 September 2013

Those Beyond My Horizon – Missing Students

Greetings Dear Reader,

As each new quarter begins I ponder those who have passed through my classrooms.  There are always those students who grasp your heart but for one reason or another do not complete the process.

Students drop out sometimes.  They give up on the dream that brought to my program and move on to other things.  These students haunt me.  I wonder how their lives are unfolding.  I wonder if I could have done more for them. 

I know for sure that there are lives I get to change.  I also know I see the things that dissatisfy my struggling students claw at them.  It amazes me how friends and family will oppose people trying to make better lives for themselves and their families.  Workplaces will not be flexible in scheduling.  How can one not be supportive of someone trying to gain education toward a career?

Even as I write this the faces of men and women who had a vision of what they could become dance through my mind.  I want everyone to have a better life.  If my program is not what is right for them I am alright with that.  If, however, it is the path to a rich and more rewarding life I want each one to succeed.

In light of this I must be vigilant as to the needs of those I teach.  I must always see them in light of the trust and time they invest with me.  I must care for them and be wise.  I must do all that I can to reflect Christ to them so that they can find hope.  Even if I never get to directly speak words of life into their souls I must use love and kindness to till the soil so that someone can.

Wishing you joy in the journey,

Aramis Thorn

Mat 13:52 So Jesus said to them, "That is why every writer who has become a disciple of Christ’s rule of the universe is like a home owner. He liberally hands out new and old things from his great treasure store."

17 September 2013

A New Horizon for Others

Greetings Dear Reader,

I taught the first class of a new quarter last night.  It was both joyous and exhausting.  Thirty people took the first step toward a better career and a better future.  There were ups and downs to the evening as I set a tone and began to lay out my expectations for the next eleven weeks.

Every individual has his or her own story and aspirations.  These new students are venturing into one of three technology fields and I have the responsibility of helping them lay the foundations for that venture.  I have a deeper responsibility.  I have thirty more souls in my care. 

No matter where they come from I have a responsibility to reflect Christ to them to the best that I can.  I know that the first thing I must do is communicate to each of them that I care about who they are and who they wish to become.  I must see them as individuals and be sensitive to individual needs, fears, and character.  I must love them as Christ loves them to the depth of my capacity to do so.

I must be constantly aware that God has brought these souls into my circle for a specific reason and never fail to be aware that this is my most important role in their lives.  I no longer teach in an environment where Christ has center stage in every classroom.  I miss that greatly.  This means that he must be seen in my love and care for my students.  He must be obvious influence in my good treatment of others. 

Every one of these new souls matters to me.  I will do all that I can to assure their academic success and hopefully for some they will also gain a new insight into the world that matters.

Wishing you joy in the journey,

Aramis Thorn

Mat 13:52 So Jesus said to them, "That is why every writer who has become a disciple of Christ’s rule of the universe is like a home owner. He liberally hands out new and old things from his great treasure store."

16 September 2013

Guardians of Forever

Greetings Dear Reader,

If I were forced to choose my favorite episode of the original Star Trek series it would be episode #25, “The City on the Edge of Forever.”  It originally aired on April 6, 1967.  I was seven.  It enthralled me at a very young age with the idea of someone standing guardian over time and history.  I would not learn about the sovereignty of God for another ten years.

As I have been pondering my journey to and with Christ I have often been drawn back to thoughts I have long held about this episode of my favorite TV show.  I have always wanted to travel the stars and see what is “out there.”  I have longed to be the captain of a star ship.  I want there to be other planets inhabited by amazing life forms. 

I realize that this is not something that will become a reality for me but it is also a dream I will never release. In some ways I get to be more of an influence than my childhood hero.  Every time I do what is right in following Christ or influence someone else to see Christ for who he is I get to impact eternity.

I do not claim to have a clear understanding of what comes next.  I know it is better than I can imagine and I know that Christ is at the center of it.  I also know it is eternal.  All that I do here figures into it in some way.  I think that if I knew it all I could not process it.  I do know this, that in a small way my part in the story makes me a guardian of forever.  

When I act in faith I am influencing eternity.  When I act outside of faith I am doing the same.  Every choice echoes throughout the cosmos to show that even in my insignificance I make an eternal difference.

Wishing you joy in the journey,

Aramis Thorn

Mat 13:52 So Jesus said to them, "That is why every writer who has become a disciple of Christ’s rule of the universe is like a home owner. He liberally hands out new and old things from his great treasure store."

15 September 2013

On Sin – Closing Thoughts

Greetings Dear Reader,

There is not much left to say here.  If we say we do not sin we are lying.  Our sin impacts others.  Even when I hide what I do wrong it changes me and hurts those I love. 

So what do I do?  I follow Christ.  I put my faith in his payment for my sin.  I do my best to do things that are right.  I love.  I do not judge.  I show grace and kindness to others.  That is how I assure the best chance of my fallen nature being weak and my good nature being strong.

I do not need to point out another’s sin and rail against a group because what they do is wrong in my mind.  I do need to love them and be an example of who Christ wishes us to be as his followers.  The easiest way to stand against the darkness is to become a light.

Wishing you joy in the journey,

Aramis Thorn

Mat 13:52 So Jesus said to them, "That is why every writer who has become a disciple of Christ’s rule of the universe is like a home owner. He liberally hands out new and old things from his great treasure store."

14 September 2013

On Sin – Depth of Sin

Greetings Dear Reader,

I love to bake bread.  The process, the rising, and the smell are joyous advents to the taste of fresh warm break with butter and honey.  I am also always amazed by the science of bread.  It only takes a small amount of yeast to create the beauty that is a fully risen loaf of bread.

The yeast feasts on the sugars in the dough and creates gases that increase the volume of loaf.  The permeation of the yeast integrates the effect throughout the bread.  This is a very pleasant permeation.  Sin, however, is not.

We do not realize the depth of our sin.  We do not really comprehend that we are so very far from God in terms of our sin.  It is the prime thing that creates our separation from him.  Failure to see its depth causes us to become complacent concerning our need of redemption.

I must realize every day just how far I have to go in the redemption process.  I do not address this to judge or measure others.  I have too much to attend to on my own account to be concerned about the sin of others.  This is a lifelong process.

Wishing you joy in the journey,

Aramis Thorn

Mat 13:52 So Jesus said to them, "That is why every writer who has become a disciple of Christ’s rule of the universe is like a home owner. He liberally hands out new and old things from his great treasure store."

13 September 2013

81 – Warming Up and First Inning

81 – Warming Up and First Inning
By Aramis Thorn
Here is the first installment of the short story as promised, Enjoy

Warming Up

The kid, number 81 had done well in the bullpen.  He had thrown soft easy stuff just to get his arm warm and loose. It was time to head out to the field.  Crackerjack tucked the dangling leather lace on his catcher’s mitt into the worn loop above it.  He had been doing this since his first season in peewee league when he had only a third hand catcher’s mitt.  Jack knows that he needs a new catcher’s mitt.  This one is beaten and battered.  The padding has worn thin.  He was unwilling to part with one that had seen him through the last two seasons.  Gone were the days when Rawlings, Wilson, and Spalding sent new ones to him at spring training.  Gone were the endorsements of his youth.  Jack “Crackerjack” Morris had begun to live up to his nickname.  He still liked to hear kids call it from the outfield stands as he made his way to from the bullpen to the bench. 

In his rookie year he had earned the name because his mother had sent him a case of Crackerjack to give to the children during his first professional game.  The tradition had lasted for twelve years.  At about the same time as the fans lost interest in the snack giveaway the Crackerjack people lost interest in Morris, and the loud crack in his knees had begun.  Many doctors and trainers had concluded that the cause was inconclusive.  There was no pain or limitation of movement bur there was much rumination and speculation over the odd loud sound. The sound and the nickname endured.

These days Jack always secreted a couple of balls away from the pitching bucket and threw them to kids in 
the outfield stands.  He knew that he was playing in the September of his career.  He wanted to give away baseballs to every kid who knew his name.  He still caught well and had a cannon shot to second base.  He could calm a pitcher who was rattled before the umpire got impatient and made some wise crack about finishing the game before breakfast.

He had not been tagged to start a game since before the all-star break.  Long gone were also the years where he had been a sure thing on the all-star card.  Those were the days of high summer in his career.  He had spent six consecutive summers as the starting catcher in the National League.  He had enjoyed two more as the second choice and another three as the guy nobody wished to leave out of the all-star balloting.
He had eleven carefully preserved all-star jerseys in his storage room at home.  They were not treasured for their value. Jack did not even know that the second one was worth thousands of dollars to collectors.  His wife, Nancy would learn that when she held an estate sale just a couple of years hence.  Jack loved baseball and each of those jerseys reminded him that for a season the fans loved him.

Tonight, however, his mission was clear.  He had been started to keep a rookie pitcher calm and productive.  This was to be Joe Zander’s first start as a major league pitcher.  Joe was brought up from Durham to fill out the card for the final week of the season.  It looked like the team could clinch their first division pennant in six years.  The fans were happy.  The calls were going their way.  Even Jack had hit solidly his last two pinch hits.  A double and a game winning single.
This game held that rare and untested quality so loved by those who love baseball.  A brand new rookie was going to face real batters in the show.  Word was that that kid had a screaming two seam and four seam fast ball, a demure slider, and a shameless inside curve.  Jack had also heard that Joe seemed aloof when it came to the big show.  Pete Timmons, the usual starting catcher had worked with the kid since he came up from Durham last week.  The younger catcher observed that Joe showed the same emotion over pitching as he did eating or riding on the bus.  He was mostly unflappable.  It was Jack’s job to see there were no flaps for the next nine innings.

Jack settles in behind the plate after passing the kid at the mound.  His only words as he passes are simple, “You’re already warm.  Just toss the eight and make the last one some heat.  Get used to the noise and the clamor.”  The two had reviewed signals and strategy in the bull pen.
It was Jack’s ritual to muss the back inside corners of the batter’s boxes before he took the final eight.  He knew that doing this was a part of the batting ritual of many players.  He did to tamper with their routine.  He would muss the corners, take the eight, move over to the sidelines for the National Anthem, and then take his place at the plate.  He hunkered down and gave the signal for the slider.  The ball came in hot and on ta
rget.  It looked like it would not break until it did.  Pitching is beautiful in that you make the ball lie about what it is doing.  This ball lied all the way to the glove.
Crackerjack just happened to glance at the speed clock in center field.  It registered 96 mph.  From behind him Jack heard the unmistakable sound of Garner Patch.  Garner was the most deep fried, cat headed, grits in his mouth southern umpire the league had ever seen.  He also had the most predictable strike zone in baseball.  Garner’s thick voice echoed Jack’s thoughts, “Your new boy is likely to throw it all away before the chickens wake up.”

Jack turns to the giant man in black.  “If he does I am likely to end up back in Durham with him.”
Garner nodded. “It would be a shame to see that.  You’re one of the only catchers I like.”
Jack turned back around and signaled for a curve.  He set up as if catching a right handed batter and barely had time to react as the ball looked outside and then shot in and across the plate.  So he had a screwball in his pack as well. 

Quietly Garner quipped, “That was a Steeerike son, but I did not think a ball could move that fast and move sideways.”

Jack looked at the speed clock on purpose this time.  92 mph.  The big red letters explained the movement and the surprise. The next five pitches were equally fast and accurate.  As planned he signaled 1 for the fastball on the eighth pitch.  The time from pitcher’s hand to catcher’s mitt was almost irrelevant. The red clock in center field told the tale.  102 mph.

Jack Morris worried all through the anthem.  He sang from his heart as he always did.  He did not hear the cheers at the end.  The chant of the crowd was lost as he focused on how to keep this kid from ruining his big break by burning up in the first two innings.

First Inning

Pitch 01

“Play ball,” bellows Garner Patch.  Jack can feel spittle hit the back of his neck.
Frank “Stretch” Franklin steps into the batter’s box.  He has the biggest Steeerike zone in the major leagues.  That makes it necessary for him to be an aggressive hitter.  This makes him an often time success.  He holds the record for the most lead off hits in baseball.  Jack nods to Zander and signals the curve.  The right handed first baseman sees the ball release and relaxes to take the pitch.  The ball obeys the pressure of physics caused by air, velocity, and seams.  It sails sideways dissecting the plate in a prefect deceptive arc.

“Steeerike One!” calls Patch applying more spittle to Jack’s neck.

“What was that?’ quips Stretch.

“A curve ball,” Rejoins Jack.

Pitch 02

Jack catches the pitch clock as he lobs the ball back to Joe.  90 mph.  Maybe the kid does not have a low speed pitch.  To Jack this  means that Joe will soon be a one or two inning closer if he stays in the majors at all. Jack signals the curve again, but to the outside.  Joe nods his understanding.  The catcher sets up for the outside pitch

Stretch sees the release again and gives his tell.  He thinks a fastball is headed straight down the pipe.  His back foot moves to the back of the box.  Tension flows through his body and courses toward his shoulders.  The veteran player pulls the trigger and swings.  The ball obeys the laws of the universe and sails sideways and downward moving right to left.  Stretch swings a full quarter second before the curve ball hits Jack’s mitt.

“Steeerike Two!” yells Patch.  Both batter and catcher remain silent.  Only Jack is smiling. 

Pitch 03

The red LEDs in the outfield read 91 mph.  Consistent on both sides of the plate is good.  Jack knows what Joe wants.  He wants to finish him with the heat.  The veteran catcher ponders a moment before he throws back the ball.  Should they wait a batter or two? 
Jack settles on his haunches and signals a changeup.  Joe nods.
“Time for the heat,” observes Stretch.
Jack grunts and sets up for the pitch.  Joe winds up and delivers.  Stretch completes his swing a full half second before the ball reaches the plate.
“Steeerike three.  You’re out batter,” spits the umpire.
Jack simply smiles as he tosses the ball to third base sending it on its traditional journey “around the horn.”  He reads the speed clock.  78 mph is a perfect changeup.  One batter down and Joe Zander looks as if he has just ordered pizza and a Coke.  He takes the toss from first base with barely a look in that direction.  Zander smiles back at Jack briefly and then watches Paul Simmons approach the batter’s box.

Pitch 04

Paul Simmons is a great right fielder and consistent hitter.  He crowds the plate and also has trouble with the curve.  Jack ponders the Clint Eastwood movie for a moment then signals curve to the mound.  He wants to start Simmons inside and back him off from the plate.

Zander winds up and delivers.  Simmons is sure the pitch is outside.  Then too late he realizes the ball is moving toward the plate.  It is said that only umpires and catchers see the millimeters that separate the distance between ball and bat on a swing and miss.  Crackerjack sees the light between white leather and tan wood and knows the ball will land safely in his well-worn catcher’s mitt. 

“Steeerike one,” barks Patch.

Simmons merely grunts. “I’ll get the next one.”

Jack smiles. The red lights mutely report 90 mph.

Pitch 05

Jack smiles again and signals for the same pitch.  Simmons is back from the plate this time just as is intended.  Jack gives the secondary signal that means to put something on it.  Joe nods and allows the barest trace of a smile to race across his countenance.  Joe winds, pauses, and delivers.
Again the ball lies and lies.  It promises to go wide.  It swears it is a fastball outside the strike zone.  It tells Simmons to wait for the next pitch.  Simmons believes the lie and waits as the ball curves inward and dives into the strike zone.
“Steeerike two,” Yells Patch.  He mumbles, “That one almost fooled me.”
Simmons wants to argue the call but knows the ball crossed the plate.  He just does not understand how the first baseman threw it without being seen.
Patch notices the pitch clock.  “I have never seen a 96 mph curve ball.  I think I just saw a miracle.”  Jack squats and nods.  He knows it is time for the heat. He knows it is not time for all of it. 

Pitch 06

Returning the ball to Joe, Morris nods slightly.  Batter and catcher adjust their positions around the plate.  He notices that Simmons has crowded the plate again.  Crackerjack Morris holds a holy belief.  It is this:  in a team’s home stadium that plate belongs to two people; the pitcher and the catcher.  Batters are just visiting and should be more polite.  Jack signals number one; the fastball.  He signals for inside and for the low end of the speed. 

Simmons tenses.  Zander deals.  Jack notices that the kid is grinning as he releases.  The ball traverses the distance between pitcher and catcher in just under half a second.  Simmons thinks the ball will hit him. He scoots back dramatically hoping the umpire will call it a ball. 

“Steeerike three; you’re out,” calls the umpire.  Garner Patch uses his grand out call gesture.  He hates when batters try to bait him.

Ever the arrogant arguer Simmons questions the call.  Garner warns him that he does not want to start things this early.  Simmons retreats to the dugout mumbling in disgust.  Jack is both pleased and worried. As Jack fires the ball to Stan Jones at third he sees that the kid’s slow fastball reads at 100 mph.  The kid also has a tell.  He grins when he throws the heat.

Pitch 07

Victor Allen Houseman makes his way to the plate.  He is a power hitter.  Over the years Jack has seen Vick crush dozens of baseballs from world class pitching.  He loves the fastball.  Vick is also a player with character.  He is a gentleman and good sport.  At the moment, however, he is the enemy.
Jack wants to work Vick fast.  He knows how a cagy hitter can work out a pitcher.  Jack signals changeup.  Joe nods and produces another 108 stitch lie.  The changeup looks just like the release of the last pitch.  It demurely whispers fastball.  Vick believes fastball.  Vick swings and misses far too early. 
The sound a batter wants is swoosh and crack.  That is the sound of a hit.  Catchers like the sound of swoosh and slap or slap and swoosh.  Those are the beautiful sounds of a swing and a miss.  They are always followed by the same sound…
“Steeerike one.”

Pitch 08

Jack tosses the ball back quickly, settles, and signals.  He calls for another changeup but outside.  Joe moves through the pitch as if he is an instant replay.  So does Vick; swoosh, slap.

“Steeerike two.”

Pitch 09

Twenty years have taught Jack many things. There are excellent ways to discourage the other team.  The demoralization of striking out the first three leadoff batters is one of them.  He decides it is time to show everyone what the day will look like.  The kid is doing fine.  Jack signals for a one.  He also closes his fist calling for the full heat.

Joe grins broadly.  The grin informs Jack that Joe has waited his whole life for this moment.  Jack sees the tell again and worries.  A veteran catcher knows what a veteran hitter can do to a fastball.  He is also touched by the hubris of youth.  Zander winds and fires.  This pitch will be spoken of for the next news cycle.  It will always be seen as the beginning of things.  The sound is slap then after what seems like a full minute swoosh.

“Steeerike three.  Batter you’re out,” quips Patch.
It takes Jack a moment to recover.  He has never felt such a painful fastball.  As Joe moves toward the team dugout Jack reads the pitch clock.  The pain in his hand becomes a badge of honor as her reads the numbers a second time: 104 mph.  The standing record is 105.  Something else occurs to him.  Joe has just thrown an immaculate inning.  Only forty nine others exist in baseball history.  Jack refuses to count any chickens lest he end up with egg on his face.

The bottom of the first is almost uneventful.  Parson Hamilton, an accomplished leadoff hitter hits a squib right to first base.  JJ Clover walks but is left stranded when Ricky Boggs pops out to left and Griffon Kent grounds out to second.