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He last 45 minutes of Texas twilight have arrived. The day has been gray anyway, cool, and now the colors begin to fade even further as the unseen sun dips toward the trees at the edge of the pasture. The birds know that night is coming. Hear them squawk? The horses have to be fed. They stand in a group, five of them, behind a brown three-board fence. Waiting. A car passes on the road in the distance. Another. Men coming home from work. Women bringing their children from late practices and meetings at the high school.
"Curveball," Nolan Ryan says.
He stands in the middle of the pasture. This is farmland. The horses have galloped across it and tractors and trucks have been driven across it, and the grass is all knobby and clumpy, certainly unmowed, and yet.... He is at the base of a little grass-covered mound. Mound? His neighbor Harry Spilman, chewing a touch of tobacco, is crouched behind a patch of white that shows through the grass. A patch of white? Nolan tucks his left leg into his chest and accelerates off his right leg and throws the baseball. Harry does not have to move his mitt.
"Good one," Harry says.
There is a rusted chain-link fence, 12 feet high, a few feet behind Harry. Fence? There is the 12-foot-high fence and the patch of white in front of Harry and the mound in back of Nolan and...yes, sure. The mind and the eye simultaneously bring out the recessed image of a diamond, as if they were solving a puzzle in the Sunday comics. "I built it for my son when he was in Little League," Nolan says. "Little Leaguers never have a place to practice. I built it and they used it for a couple of years. Then I let it all go back. Watch where you walk." He fingers the baseball in his hand.
"Straight," he says.
Nolan's three dogs are fanned out in what could be loosely called an outfield alignment. That is Buster in left and Suzy in center and fat old Bea in right. The fourth dog, tied in the back of the pickup in the driveway, the dog that is barking, is Harry's dog Sarge. Sarge simply can't control himself. Let him loose and he becomes too excited. He chases the ball wherever it goes. He tries to grab it straight out of Nolan's or Harry's hand. Sarge has had a million second chances. Had one just today. Can't control himself. Back in the truck.
"There was something on that pitch," Harry says a second after the ball arrives. "It was traveling."
The first time Nolan was in this field, let's see, he was with the Girl Scouts. Camping with the Girl Scouts. His mother, Martha, was a troop leader, and she wasn't going to let her youngest child, seven years old, stay home while she was taking those girls for a night of outdoor adventure at Mr. Evans's ranch. This was back in 1954, when the bayou over there wasn't straight, before the widening was done and the lake was formed at the other end and the tract development came. Let's see. There were more trees then. The road out there wasn't even a road. There was another road. Yes. Another road. Smaller. A back road. A further-back road.
"Changeup," Nolan says.