The window is closing.

That's the window of opportuntity.Or has the window already closed?

Certainly, Larry H. Miller Toyota pitching legend Peter Meredith hopes it hasn't.

Eighteen years. That's how many years Meredith has had to gain that elusive ISC ring. Or championship.

The 6-foot-4, 232-pound, 38-year-old Meredith ownes a grundle of ISC World Tournament pitching marks, including the most victories, with 52, and no-hitters, with seven. He has also registered 1,203 career victories.

Maybe his best opportunity has come and gone with the 1995 ISC World Tournament, when Toronto's Darren Zack and Meredith hooked up in a classic for the championship in Sioux City, IA.

Zack's Gators carted off the rings.

Eighteen years.

A teenager blows out 18 candles. Life unfurls. Anything is possible.

A man huffs into his 18th ISC World Tournament, which starts Friday in Kimberly, Wis., and the player is nearly finished. A career winds down.

So many questions for Meredith, and the weight upon him. You could sense that for him last year in Victoria, B.C. Meredith, suffering from back spasms, heard the crowd booing him, and yelling, "you're finished! You're over-the-hill!"

That's when Meredith convinced himself, "I can't finish my career this way."

And he isn't.

No, Meredith has to much pride to end it on such a sour note. Yet there is a melancholy to Meredith in 1998, to a fiercely proud warrior coming to terms with his own slow decline.

No great athlete in any sport - at least one who has played a full career and dared the calendar - has figured out how too avoid what has begun to shadow Meredith.

He has reached that stage at which his own longevity turns, fraction by fraction, from an admirable plus to a thing he is asked to comment upon, perhaps to justify. The asset of his own long experience takes on a touch of gray.

"I feel as strong as I have the last few years," said Meredith.

It is remarkable how Meredith, in so many ways, continues to be the only Miller Toyota player who matters, the one compelling saga, even as so much swirls and froths around him.

Still, even if Meredith never captures that elusive ring, his career and its longevity has made up a legend.

"Pete is one of the best ever," pointed out ISC historian Art Cashion. "Very few can be as dominate as he has been for so many years. I placed him among the top three pitchers of all time, which includes LeRoy Zimmerman, and Ty Stofflet.

"When you're talking about those three, you're talking excellence. Meredith is definitely past his prime, when he would just dominate hitters. I haven't seen him pitch in awhile. I'm sure he can still bring it in the low 90s.

"But I'm willing to bet that he has become a better location pitcher," added Cashion. "When he first started in 1980, he would overpower hitters. Blow it right past them. And in those days, he was a bit wild. That led to his intimindation. Hitters were bailing on him."

Meredith has rebounded from his dismal 1997 ISC World Tournament. He has responded with a 25-5 record, with a 1.97 ERA. And he is hoping to bring that success to the table for the 1998 ISC.

He wants to leave a message.