[SIGNIFICANT PLOT SPOILERS AHEAD! Here is a Cubs video to cushion the blow.]
Dougal stomped pissily around the back of the mound, flipping the rosin bag with the backs of his fingers. Henry squeezed into a batting helmet and slowly made his way toward home plate. He dipped one foot inside the batter's box, as if testing the temperature of a pool.
"Let's go, son," growled the umpire. "Season can't last forever."
Henry stepped into the box, tapped the Harpooner on his chest three times. He felt less muscle than he'd grown to expect beneath the starchy fabric. Dougal peered in, agreed to a sign. The Amherst crowd started a chant. The first pitch, an absolutely filthy slider, darted by for a strike.
Henry knew that he was toast. Dougal could throw that filthy pitch twice more, and he wouldn't come close to hitting it. It was a pro-quality slider, had broken a foot or more while moving outlandishly fast. The timing required to hit a pitch like that was a matter not just of skill but of constant practice. A day off made it tough; a month off made it impossible...
He decided in advance to swing at the second pitch, if only to give Dougal something to think about. Dougal wiped the sweat from his forehead, checked Izzy at first. The pitch was another slider, identical to the first. Henry swung and missed. Two strikes.
Still, he must have done something to catch Dougal's eye, because Dougal shook off one sign, and then another, and then beckoned for the catcher, who called time and jogged out to confer. The Amherst fans were going crazy. Dougal lifted his glove to his face and spoke through the latticed weave of the webbing, to keep Henry from reading his lips ... The catcher figured Henry was an easy mark -- wanted to finish him off right away, with another slider down the pipe. The catcher was probably right. But Dougal saw something else in Henry, smelled a whiff of danger (We are brothers, Dougal, brothers) , and felt a need to set him up for the kill -- to show the fastball high and tight, before finishing with the slider low and away. It was flattering, in a way, that a pitcher like Dougal would go to such trouble to strike him out. And it was foolish, in a way, for Dougal to be so crafty, to insist on the pride of his craft, to try to orchestrate things, instead of simply letting Henry beat himself.
Henry set up farther from home plate than usual, to encourage Dougal to throw his high tight fastball a little tighter than he otherwise might...