One late summer afternoon, the Tortoise and the Hare were playing baseball against each other in the first game of a weekend tournament. The bleachers were filled with family and friends and the weather was perfect for baseball. The Hare was a standout 13 year old pitcher and overall All-Star caliber player for the Rhode Island Sounders, a dominant travel baseball team that consistently won tournaments around RI and New England. The Tortoise was also a 13 year old player, who loved the game of baseball, had just hit a growth spurt, and was mainly a late inning replacement player for the Ocean State Hurricanes, an up and coming local travel baseball team just 1 year in existence. The Hurricanes had faced the Sounders 4 times in 2019 in tournament play and were 0-4 against them, mostly lopsided losses.
By the middle of the 4th inning of the game, the Hare had amassed 9 strikeouts out of a potential 11 batters. Most batters were struck out on 3 pitches. The Hare could really fire the baseball in with high velocity and incredible accuracy. The Hurricanes had no hits and no runs to this point in the game. Meanwhile, The Sounders had scored almost at will against the lesser talented Hurricanes each inning and the score in the 4th inning was a resounding 15-0. With the score being so lopsided, the Hurricanes began substituting in replacement players for their starters. The Hare, who was well known in Rhode Island for his incredible baseball talent, stared down the next batter coming to the plate, the Tortoise. The Hare began to mock the Tortoise from the mound, shouting “You will never hit my fastball.” The Tortoise, strutted up to the batter’s box, anxiety building, nervousness and self doubt creeping in. His third base coach, sensing the Tortoise was not in a good state of mind, called an important time out and motioned the Tortoise to come visit him on the third base line.
The Hare, sensing he won a point for intimidation, began to mock the Tortoise even further, and get his infielders involved in the mocking as well. “Strike this Tortoise out dude. This guy won’t even foul off one pitch,” chanted the infielders pumping up the Hare. “I know, watch this Tortoise look so slow against my fast pitches.”
Meanwhile, along the third base line, the Tortoise stood with his head down as he approached his coach. “Listen to me Tortoise,” said the coach “you will never get a better opportunity to boost your confidence than this moment. I don’t care if you strikeout or get a hit. Just do your best, remember your training, and meet the ball. A foul ball is a start, it means you are starting to time the pitch. Start with contact, any contact and let’s work from there. Deal?” With that the Tortoise stood up straight, grabbed his bat and marched to home plate. The taunts continued from the mound, from second base, and around the infield. The Tortoise made his way over to the left handed batter’s box and raised his bat, signalling that he was ready to hit. The Hare shouted to home plate “Done crying Tortoise? Good, let’s see if you can hit this.”
The first pitch buzzed through the air like a missile, right passed the Tortoise and into the catcher’s glove. “Strike,” yelled the home plate umpire much to the amusement of the Hare. “You can’t even move your bat, you are so slow Tortoise,” yelled the Hare as he caught the baseball in his glove from his catcher. The Tortoise looked down at his third base coach, who was yelling and clapping and cheering him on. Suddenly, everything got really quiet for the Tortoise and he asked for time from the umpire. The noise from the opposing team, the advice from this coach, the chatter in his head began to slowly disappear and fizzle away to mere silence. The Tortoise nodded to the umpire, stepped back in the batter’s box, took a deep breath, then nodded to the Hare, who returned with a smirk. The Hare went into his windup, grinning from ear to ear, fired an identical pitch to the plate. The Tortoise swung level and fouled the baseball off straight back into the back stop. A surge of energy shot through the Tortoise like a lightning bolt. At that moment, the Tortoise peered over at the bleachers at his mother who was now standing and screaming her head off.
The next pitch, the Hare’s face turned from smirk to anger. The Tortoise had fouled a pitch off of him, an unforeseeable act that made his infielders stop taunting. ‘How can this be?’ thought the Hare, ‘the Tortoise is no match for me. He’s making me look bad in front of everyone.’ The Hare vowed to strikeout the Tortoise with all of his talent, all of his rage, all of his might and prove his worth. The Tortoise, brimming with the confidence of a giant, got back into the batter’s box and proceeded to foul off pitch after pitch. 7, 8, 9 pitches in a row. The same pitch, the same location, the same velocity. The Hare was so talented at throwing strikes. The Tortoise was just not quite talented enough to hit the ball fair. By the 12th pitch, everyone in the Hurricanes dugout was on the top step, their parents were screaming and jumping up and down in the Hurricanes’ section of the bleachers, even kids playing basketball in a nearby court stopped and ran over to the baseball field. The Sounders Head Coach called a timeout and a ran out to the mound. The catcher met the coach at the mound to talk to the Hare. The Tortoise stood confidently just outside the batter’s box, ready to hit, in a zone that you only dream about as a baseball player.
“Throw this Tortoise something off speed. Get the out. You are in control of what happens next, not that Tortoise. Do you hear me?” yelled the Sounders coach. “I can strike out this Tortoise, Coach. Let me do it my way,” snapped back the Hare. “I’ll throw the ball so fast it he won’t even know what to do.” The Coach reiterated his thoughts, “he has you timed now. Its just a matter of time before he hits it out of the park. Do you want that on your profile heading into high school? The worst player on the worst team in our league took you deep?” The Hare thought about it and answered “I got this, trust me Coach.” The Coach left with this, “You have one more pitch, if you do it your way, you will own it.” And with that the Coach jogged off the field and into the dugout. The Hare stood on the mound, regained his smirk, stared right into the Tortoise’s eyes and mouthed “See if you can catch up to this.” And with that the Hare unloaded the fastest pitch he had ever thrown towards home plate.
What the Hare didn’t notice was the Tortoise took one small step back when he returned to the batter’s box. During the time when the Sounders Coach, The Hare, and the catcher were meeting at the mound, the Tortoise realized that if he had an extra few inches, that maybe that might result in him hitting the ball fair. The Hare didn’t notice and the Tortoise took full advantage. As the ball cut through the air with a HISSSSSSS, the Tortoise, newly aligned in the batter’s box, swung level and met the ball squarely in front of the plate. The crack of the baseball hitting the Tortoise’s bat stunned the crowd, it stunned the Tortoise, it stunned the Hare, it stunned the infielders. The baseball traveled fair, in the air, over the infield, chasing the centerfielder back 10 running steps. The centerfielder extended his glove high in the air and snagged the baseball, launched by the Tortoise, just a few feet from the outfield fence. In the scorebook, the out was recorded F8, denoting a catch by the centerfielder. But it was the loudest and most incredible out the Hurricanes had recorded all season long. The Hurricanes players ran out to greet the Tortoise and congratulate him as if he had hit a grand slam. The game was itself was over, 15 run rule was in effect, and the Sounders had won.
As is customary at the end of a baseball game, the Sounders and Hurricanes lined up to shake hands. The Hare, still brimming with all the confidence in the world, bounced through the line with his usual swagger and cockiness. The Tortoise, who had returned to the dugout to take off his helmet and put his bat away, was the last in line for the Hurricanes team. As the Hare met the Tortoise to shake hands, the Hare stopped bouncing and stood over the Tortoise attempting to intimidate him even further. “Tortoise, you didn’t prove anything to me. I am better than you today, I will be better than you tomorrow and next season and the season after that.” The Tortoise, straightening up as best as he could, replied “I may not be as good as you are now. But, with training and practice and the support of my teammates and coaches, I will get there sooner than you think.” The Hare, taken aback by the comments just laughed. “Let’s see who makes the Freshman team next year,” shot the Tortoise right back at the Hare’s laughter. “You make the Freshman team over me? That’s a laugh. I don’t even have to workout this off season and I can make the team,” snorted the Hare. “Then its a race to see who will make the team,” to which the Tortoise extended his hand to extend the challenge to the Hare. “It’s on!!!!” shouted the Hare and the two players shook hands feverishly, then returned to head back to their team dugouts.
The story continues as the Hare and the Tortoise begin their off season heading into their Freshman year of High School. This Rhode Island Baseball Experience story is based on the popular children’s Aesop fable “The Hare and the Tortoise,” which is one of the most important stories to tell children of all talents and abilities. The moral “the race is not always won by the swift.”