Devin Fox gobbles up the sizzling groundball with unmerciful ease and whips the throw to first for the out.
The senior shortstop is as polished as porcelain on the diamond. When hes not cleaning up grounders at short, hes sitting down batters from the mound.
In the stands, his dad Ray cheers him on.
But theres someone missing. Mom is missing from the bleachers.
For this game, as Devin and his Montezuma-Cortez High School teammates battle on the baseball field, Diane Fox is home recovering, battling cancer. Chemotherapy has left her drained and ill. Shes just a week removed from breast reconstructive surgery.
Diane wants to be in the stands leading the cheers instead of recovering in bed. Shes made it to a few games, but its tormenting when she cant make it.
Including Devin ripping a walk-off two-run single to propel the Panthers to an 8-7 victory.
I missed that game, Diane says, her voice dripping with disappointment.
Its been a rough year for the Fox family.
The final year of high school should be the best for a youngster. And even with all thats happened, Devin enthusiastically says its been a great senior year.
I wouldnt change a thing. My senior year has been great. My life changed a lot but its made me a stronger person.
Devin grew up a lot this year. He had no choice.
His mom almost died. Thirty-five days in the hospital, months of recovery time, chemotherapy, surgery after surgery, Diane Fox soldiered on.
And so did Devin. No whining, just grow up fast. Fastball fast; faster than most high school seniors.
Diane is proud of her son.
This has probably been the toughest on Devin, Diane says. He has been the best teenager to raise.
Diane knows its been a difficult eight months for Devin and shes sad thats she missed part of his senior year.
Back on Feb. 16 during the basketball teams senior night, mother and son enjoyed a special moment. After nearly six months of torment and worry, it was a very special night.
As Diane joined him on the floor at halftime, Devin smiles and hands his mom a single red rose and they hug.
That was a pretty cool moment in my life, Devin says.
A cool moment in a senior year filled with anxiety, independence and growing pains.
Devin loves talking baseball, the future and family.
Christmas was amazing, he says. The family was back together. Brothers, Kade and Derek came to Cortez with their families. Dad Ray was running the household and Mom was back, still weak and recovering, but an amazing Christmas. A family Christmas.
Mom and Devin are a lot alike, they both say of one another. They both love the word amazing too.
After such a traumatic eight months, its the most appropriate word.
With Diane in the Durango hospital and Ray with her, Devin had to take care of himself for a large part of the fall season.
It was hard because she wasnt here and I couldnt go see her a lot, Devin says. I just tried to keep everything separate. Concentrate on my schoolwork and getting things done.
He needed to take care of himself because he knew Mom didnt need to worry about him.
I had to be more independent. I just had to roll with the punches through all this
Cooking, cleaning, being responsible he rolled with every punch. It was time for Devin Fox to grow up and be a man.
Now 18, his voice and words reflect his maturity.
He says there have been some difficult times emotionally during his moms illness, but he refuses to let them show.
I dont want my emotions to effect others, he says honestly.
Sometimes growing up is about not being selfish.
After coming home, Diane says, Devin didnt make it easier on her all the time.
Devin definitely kept me humble. I dont want this to sound mean, but there would be times when hed say get your own water, she says with a chuckle.
Yeah, I did that, Devin confesses, without a chuckle. When she started feeling better, I wanted her to do her own thing. The little stuff, like getting her own water.
Devin knew that recovery would be faster if his mom got up and around more.
As his mom was bedridden, fighting for her life in the hospital, nurses and doctors swarmed around her. Helpful, caring and professional, Devin noticed. He was impressed.
Like so many teenagers, the senior year is about the moment. Having fun, being with your buddies and just being the big man on campus.
But its also about preparing to open the door to the real world. Devin was unsure of what path he would choose.
Along with so much else in his life, Moms illness forced him to grow up, and it also opened his eyes to what he wants after high school.
I would love to become a nurse or maybe go into pediatrics, he says. Before this whole thing happened, I had no idea what I wanted to do. Then I saw the care my mom was receiving and how well they treated her. I just thought this would be a really cool career.
Devin hopes to take his diamond talents to the college level, so hes still looking for a school with both baseball and a nursing program.
Devin, hes looking forward to what will be another one of those cool moments in his life. And this might be the coolest.
Devin is already anticipating another extra special yes, amazing moment.
She will be at my graduation and she will be handing me my diploma, Devin says about Mom.
He cant wait. He remembers his older brothers graduations, and a proud, smiling mother waiting to hand them their diplomas.
Thats going to be pretty special, Devin says.
Special, cool, amazing
Not a bad senior year after all.
Reach Dale Shrull at firstname.lastname@example.org