Mulligan had dreamt of this moment since he was a little boy throwing a beat-up baseball at a circle drawn on the fence in his back yard.
Two outs, bases loaded, bottom of the ninth inning in game seven of the world series, and up by a run. The count was full. And the batter, Hernandez, was the star of his team. With two outs, runners would be going, and any hit would most likely give the game and series to Hernandez’ team. Any out would give the series to Mulligan’s.
Hernandez stood in the batter's box, moving his bat in small circles behind his head, partly from nervous energy and partly to distract the pitcher. He had grown up hitting rocks with a stick, with visions of this moment only a distant fantasy.
Hernandez stepped back out of the batter's box, looked up at the sky and gave thanks to God who had brought him to this moment. He asked for strength in his struggle, and stepped back into the batter's box.
The catcher, who loved to talk, said, "God's on our side this time", but Hernandez ignored him and focused on the pitcher.
On the mound, Mulligan stepped back off the rubber, crossed himself with a small motion and asked God to help him pitch true and strong. His faith had sustained him through years of struggle and two surgeries, and brought him to this point. And now he was about to throw the most important pitch of his life.
Mulligan looked at his catcher and nodded at the sign, which he had expected. He wound up and pushed forward with his legs, spinning the ball off his fingers at his release point and sending it toward Hernandez, waiting at the plate.
As the ball spun toward the plate, Mulligan thought about God watching the game with no doubt that he was supporting his team. God had a plan for him, and this pitch would reveal the glory and the wisdom of His plan.
At the plate, Hernandez tightened his grip as he picked up the spin of the ball. God had brought him to this moment, and His magnificence would be celebrated in the glorious victory that Hernandez felt in his bat.
Mulligan watched the ball spin toward the plate and thought of all the things that had to fall into place for him to be here throwing this pitch – making his high school and college teams, struggling through the minors, two injuries that threatened to end his career, and the normal closer giving up two runs and loading the bases. He was convinced it was part of God's plan and a reward for Mulligan's commitment and dedication to He who gave him the ability and strength to succeed.
Hernandez picked up the spin of the ball coming off Mulligan's hand and thought about how his life had prepared him to be here. How God had taken him out of the slums of Cuba and given him the talent to attract the interest of American scouts and allowed him to live in a free country where he could afford everything he wanted. He knew being here was part of God’s plan and he was determined to honor Him with a hit.
God wants me to win this game, thinks Mulligan, as Hernandez starts his swing, knowing his pitch is about to drop so fast Hernandez won’t have a chance. Grace be to God.
God wants me to win this game, thinks Hernandez, preparing to swing down at the pitch that he knows will be dropping as it gets to the plate. Gracias sea a Dios.
"So, who do you like?" asks Peter, as he watches the ball heading to the plate.
"I don't play favorites," God said, as Hernandez made contact with the ball. "I like to be surprised."