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Articles by Mike Trice

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The twelve-year-old boy steps to the plate in the bottom of the last inning, his team down two runs.

His first-base coach calls time and motions the batter aside.

"This is the kind of game your mother would have liked," he tells the boy. The coach, Stan Allcorn, should know. He is also the little leaguer's pastor, and he buried his mother months earlier when she lost a long battle with cancer.

Not missing the import of the minute, the boy responds, Don't you think she's watching?"

The man and boy, Brian Smith, slap hands and the player stands a little straighter as he walks back to the plate. He swings hard at the first pitch and then the second. Nothing but air.

The team from DeRidder, La., holds its collective breath. A teammate stands on base hoping the next pitch does not signal the end of their mid-summer dream.

The batter steps back from the plate, and looks down the first-base line. His pastor/coach shouts an e...