Before I’m slated to pinch hit, gray old Skipper nods for me to sit next to him while he flashes bewildering signals to his coaches.
“Now I know you’re a college guy, but I want to ask a simple question. How deeply do you know Tozzi?”
“Mostly from TV. Future Hall of Famer. I’m afraid to approach him.”
He turns a whiskery face so open it almost seems to be flat.
“We don’t want you if you’re afraid, first! Second, Brother’s Keeper!
What I believe. What makes a team. Okay, a hypothetical. We’re checking into the Sheraton, bags all over the lobby. He falls over a few. Vodka. Bleeding. Just you there with him. Do you say, ‘Listen! Got a date. Hey over there at the desk! Come over here and help! I can’t stay.’” He whips into a frenzy of signals.
His mocking my voice hurts. Evidently I’m a hothouse flower.
“I wouldn’t do that in a thousand years!” I inform this gray dervish.
He stops his hands to grunt approval.
I finally get to bat after Skip’s lesson in fellowship or whatever, and soon the umpire is calling strikes on any pitch that doesn’t sail into the seats behind us. I’m used to the wild firethrowers in the minor leagues, but Suds Dooley, old magician, tosses me slow junk.
I vow to swing at anything I can reach, and manage to knock one off the very end of the bat, stinging my hands ferociously. The ball lands on the bag at first base and shoots off right. I leg it out, a hit!
“That’s some cue shot, Rookie,” sneers the first baseman, returning with the ball. “You’re vibrating all over, even down to your pecker!”
Tub, my coach there snaps, “We can do without the cheesy sarcasm.
Hand the ball over for his trophy case: A hit in his debut!”
“Does that make him a debutante?”
“Ignore him.” Tub massages my shoulders. “They were hiring the handicapped when he staggered in.”
Thinking it’s my turn to throw an insult, but no use, I’m too nervous.
Coach whispers, “Stay close to the base. You’re no threat to anybody.”
He adds, “Categorical imperative. What you do from here on forms a universal moral matrix for everyone!”
“You’re on your own.” That usually meant to steal second if I see
a good chance. And catch holy hell if I fail. “And I don’t give situational logic,” Tub hisses. “that old to get to Y you must do X bullshit.”
“That’s nice, Coach Tub. I can see the way.”
Mugger was up to bat. Coach couldn’t have spoken to him this
intellectual way. You know how vulgar people will prescribe how to cure a really high-strung woman? “She needs a week in the woods with a Polack with a seven word vocabulary.” He’s the Polack.
I know him as a string of grunts playing video games. Well he speaks with his bat, ripping one past me and the snotty first baseman.
I run like hell, with Slice, the third base coach, windmilling for me to come there, pointing down for me to slide, which I do, mostly on my ass. Bumping. “Not pretty,” I apologize.
He shrugs in his bony, razor-like way. “No matter, just a deficiency in a learned pattern. Essence precedes existence. You are man first and
then ballplayer. Certainly not process like your slide. Even if you had accomplished it with some art. Still just a process.”
I’m getting up to here with thought, and need some baseball info
“But you’ll have to tell me when you think a fly ball is deep enough for me to tag up and try to score!” I plead.
The other team is putting in another pitcher, a fat boy seesawing through the center field gate.
“You don’t listen, Rookie! Rely on your instincts as a creative agent
If you’re authentic, you’ll stay up here in the show.”
“But Skip stresses teamwork! Brother’s Keeper!”
“Not necessarily mutually exclusive. But, you’ve also touched upon higher echelon differences we shouldn’t get into. All the coaches argue philosophy and it can get heated!
“A dynamic tension keeps us in first place. As does a mix of players
and coaches . Neanderthal Mugger drooling over there at first base,”
he points a long finger, ”contrasted to bullpen catcher who’s liberation theory theologian. Actually finds small churches to preach in when we’re on the road.
“But not for long. People attend church for reassurance, to be told they put in a good week and another’s coming. Not that the institution itself, in consonance with Business, holds the people down. That’s Marx, no?
“At any rate, he jabbers to the pitchers he’s warming up and they’re all practically Communists by now!”
I wander two steps towards home plate when when our shortstop, probably a Zoroastrian raw vegetable mystic of the breakaway Saturn- Worshiping Sect, rockets a line drive to the third baseman, who steps on the bag to double me off and then pipes “Daydreaming lacks the solidity of real vision!” He continues scolding my back as I trot to our bench.
“But many know no other way.”
So, not just our team full of it.
My head about exploding, I try to snatch my glove and run out to the field, but Skipper lifts me for defensive purposes, substituting Hector, wily child protected by bizarre dialectical Spanish the Puerto Rican batting coach can’t fathom. From some Caribbean mountainous interior.
Untouched by academics, he’s always laughing.
– Frank Ford