He rose from his bed and crouched quietly in the moonlight, so as not to awaken the others. He had no need to look at the numbers in his notebook. It was only mid-June, but already they had begun to burn in his brain, a kind of fever. He was coming at the mighty ox, coming astonishingly hard until the past few days, when he cleared the wall just once in five games. But McGwire, my god, was still in front of him by 10.
He whispered it again: I need three tonight. It was too late to pull it back; he had dared to utter it a few hours earlier. A few of them had laughed. "You're dreaming, Sammy," they had said.
He one-handed an invisible bat, remembering all the rituals. He blessed himself. He smacked his left forearm. Refuse the low-and-away breaking ball, he told himself. Throw both your bat and your front foot at the ball. He was sick tonight, sniffling and hacking with the flu, but never before had his concentration seemed so sharp. He wrapped both hands around the stick and sliced the air with it, then stepped to the plate.
He watched the first pitch go by, a half foot Outside. Good, he thought. Tonight I have patience. He uncoiled on the next pitch, and, aiieee, how keenly he felt the jolt, how clearly he saw the ball rise into the night, how sharply he heard the crowd roar. He took the sideways hop-step, then circled the bases, kissed his fingers and tapped his chest.
When the pounding of his heart slowed, he sagged back onto his bed, curled up and tried again to do the hardest thing. To sleep amid the murderers and rapists inside the prison at San Pedro de Macorís.
"HEY, SAMMY SOSA!"
Héctor Peguero sniffled and looked up from his herbal tea the next morning. What else would the other prisoners call the man who referred to Sammy as I and mimicked him at the plate so passionately, so often? "You hit three last night, Sammy!"
What? He looked at the man: Could this information be trusted? Here came Morillo—a lieutenant at the military prison, an old friend who was now one of Héctor's jailers—grinning in his camouflage uniform. "Did you hear?" he cried. "Your son hit three last night!"
Héctor's eyes popped. It had worked, he had connected—he had crossed the walls and seas and miles between him and the boy he had taught to play baseball; he had delivered Sammy three! He jumped from his chair, wrapped Morillo in a hug and cried, "My child! My pupil! My child!"