The turf of man’s endeavors forms the diamond of his dreams,
where fate will melt his mettle, and will push him to extremes.
And nowhere in the universe are hope and fear compressed
so tightly as they are within a growing teenage chest.
There was no joy in Mudville on that balmy August day,
their favorite junior baseball team was ill-prepared to play.
The shortstop had the measles, and the captain’s bus was late.
The mighty “Mudville Nine,” it seemed could only muster eight.
But “River Rats” from Scranton journeyed ‘cross the county line,
they’d worked all year in preparation just to face the Nine.
Their coach replied with graciousness so vast it touched the stars,
and with a saccharine grin, he said “We’ll give you one of ours.”
And turning to his team, he said “Well, men, who will it be?”
The Rats just laughed, and to a man they all replied “Casey!”
Well, Casey was the youngest, and he stood a head below
the next boy on the roster, ’cause he had a ways to grow.
His shirt read double zeros, and his jersey didn’t fit,
and when poor Casey tried to run, he waddled just a bit.
There are no tears in baseball, if you use the perfect scheme,
but Casey learned that day that you can lose the game of “Team.”
The Mudville coach stuck out his hand and welcomed him aboard,
with only eight more players, Casey wouldn’t be ignored.
The ump yelled “Let’s play ball!”, and they sent Casey to the plate,
he shrank beneath the expectations of the watching eight.
His three attempts to swat the ball were feeble at their best
the Rats roared hard with laughter; Casey slunk back off to rest.
There’s no coddling in baseball, failure’s swallowed hard and hot,
and in the Mudville dugout Casey sought a lonely spot.
But no, his Mudville teammates would not let the poor boy be,
and while the game progressed, they took him back behind a tree.
They showed him how to swing the bat, and coached him on his stance.
They showed him that a Mudville man leaves nothing just to chance.
The game ground on, and in the ninth, the score stood one to two.
With one out left, old Mudville’d better score, or else they’re through.
The crowd groaned when they realized the wantonness of fate,
for Casey, lousy Casey was advancing to the plate!
If truth were left unvarnished, well, old Casey’s bat just slipped,
and when the ball snuck low inside, the pitch was lightly tipped,
and razored down the third base line, while Scranton groaned and cursed,
and while the catcher argued, Casey waddled onto first.
But lo, some bright divinity wore Mudville’s name that day,
for at that instant Captain showed up all prepared to play!
And not a soul in heav’n or earth would long reserve a doubt
the coach was well within his rights to swap young Casey out.
In spite of all his shortfalls, Casey’s baseball sense was true,
and no one needed tell him what it was he had do.
The crowd gave their approval as poor Casey headed in,
a lifetime of derision was embodied by the din.
But coach just glared at Casey and he gave his head a wag,
and yelled so all could hear him: “Son, you get back on that bag!”
Coach grabbed the captain’s shoulder and he squeezed it to the bone,
he handed him the bat and whispered “Drive that beggar home!”
A manhood wakes inside a boy when coach shows faith in him,
and sets the team upon his shoulders, even if they’re slim.
But fate had one more curve to throw, which filled the fans with fear,
the captain hit a frozen rope, which flew by Casey’s ear!
The Mudville fans were all but certain of a quick demise,
but diesel pistons wakened inside little Casey’s thighs,
and long before the captain’s drive had even touched the ground,
Casey’d pushed off second, and was rocketing around.
The fielder had a shotgun and he aimed it at the plate,
and all could see that Casey would be half a heartbeat late.
But coach’s show of confidence had lengthened Casey’s stride,
he had the goal in sight, and he was not to be denied.
The ump yelled “Safe!”, but Casey kept on running, his true end
was celebrating in the dugout with his Mudville friends.
As years flew by like falcons; Casey’s homeruns fell like hail.
The balls that Casey crushed would fill the bleachers to the rail.
And through his share of failures, stayed a winner through and through,
and to his brothers on the bench he always did stay true.
Though history remembers him a giant, it would seem,
the game he always tried to win was just the game of “Team.”
© Kenneth Henry, 2015