So I have a ten page paper to write, which is why I'm posting this at 12.08 AM instead of 12.08 PM, even though that's still likely the time I'll wake up.
(c) Rebecca Glass, All International copyright laws apply
The Season, Part Seven
#57 Eduardo Gomez, relief pitcher, fourth year
On the flight back to Hope City, Eduardo Gomez’s thoughts are a mess. The winter has deserted him, but he is not ready for spring. It’s not been a good winter, that’s for sure.
It started early on, in November. His father succumbed to a tumor in his spine, even after Eduardo had spent everything necessary to get him the best care in Hope City, and then the best care in New York. Eduardo had paid for his entire family—father, mother, two older brothers, a younger brother and a younger sister—to make the trip from Panama to Hope City, so they could all stay together for his father’s last few days. None of them, however, outside of Eduardo spoke any English, which made the move much harder than it should have been, and gave Eduardo the uncomfortable duty of translating everything that the doctors said,
…There is nothing more we can do…
….No hay nada que los medicos pueden hacer…
…Your father will die, a month or two at most…
…Papa sera morir, no mas que un o dos meses…
His mother had taken her grief out at him, and not at the doctor, because the words were coming from his mouth. She had even said Se va! Nunca deseo verti! Go! I never want to see you!
To her credit, she came to her senses the next day, but Eduardo had to spend that night in a hotel room, and the only one with a room free two nights before Thanksgiving was a little too much like a brothel for comfort.
December wasn’t much better. Eduardo’s mother had never been able to work much, the result of a broken leg as a child that never fully healed, so it wasn’t long before Eduardo was asked for a little help, here and there. Around Christmas, a little help here and there turned into full on support, paying everything from the weekly groceries to his brother Felipe and sister Andrea returning home to visit their favorite aunt. It’s not so much that Eduardo minds helping his family out, but none of them, not even his older brothers, make an effort to help themselves.
January wasn’t too bad, but Monty’s story broke at the end of February, and that, more than anything, hurt. It wasn’t just that Monty wanted to start. Everyone wants to start, except maybe Cory Daniels. It was that he had said he was stuck in the bullpen, like it was a punishment. Even when asked by the TV reporters after the article appeared, Monty had said the same thing, in the same tone as one might talk about if he was left on the bench. It didn’t end there, either. His mother got wind of it, and then she started asking him what he was doing in the bullpen. No puedes hacer nada! You can’t do anything!
Now, on the flight back, Eduardo is not ready for spring. He’d like just another week, at least, to relax and not have to think about anything…but he’s dreaming. He looks like someone with too many troubles; he’s only twenty-seven and he looks nearly forty. His dark eyes sink back into his face, and his posture is one someone might expect of a man that’s just spent the past twenty years in the Himalayas.
He’s sitting next to Cory Daniels, who is fast asleep. He doesn’t blame him, it’s late and the lights in the cabin are kept low. He envies Cory, and the peace that Cory seems to have. He doesn’t know much about Cory’s personal life because Cory doesn’t talk about it, but when Monty’s article came out, Cory took it as a personal affront not just on him, but on the entire bullpen.
It was nice to have someone there, saying that he was just fine in the bullpen, how relief pitchers had no room for error while starters could have some, how relief pitchers had to make perfect pitches every single time. Eduardo had told Cory how grateful he was for it, and Cory responded simply by saying, “you’re the one that made me realize it.” Cory and Eduardo are not best friends, but if Eduardo could pick any person on the team that he’d be willing to die for, Cory would be it.
As the plane touches down, Eduardo can see snow still lining the runway. It seems odd that they will soon be playing baseball where the weather is still perfect for hockey, but it is the same every year. The snow is deceptive, keeps the fans from the Stadium until the first nice week in April, when everyone wakes up and begins to realize that spring is, in fact, here. It creeps into the schedule as well—it’s been five years since the last time the Spartans opened at home and this year is no different.
Eduardo isn’t ready for spring, and the snow does nothing to help him, but he still has to face it. The season is here; the season is now.
He gets off the plane and walks into the cold and unforgiving night; what the future holds, he’ll find out soon enough.
SPRING TRAINING STANDINGS
Hope City Spartans 12-4
New England Tribe 10-6
New York Knights 9-7
Minnesota Berserkers 9-7
Cleveland Rivermen 8-8
Detroit Moose 8-8
Florida ‘Canes 6-10
Washington Sox 4-12
Seattle ‘Nauts 14-2
St. Louis Gold 12-4
California Diablos 12-4
Chicago Lakemen 9-7
Texas Stampede 9-7
Denver Mustang 8-8
Memphis Jazz 5-11
Kansas City ‘Nadoes 3-13
#16 Adrian Martinez, third base, fifth year
The morning dawns so cold that no one, least of all Adrian Martinez, can quite believe that it’s Opening Day. The sky is not a healthy blue, but a pale grey and it smells, even still, like late autumn, when the leaves litter the ground. It’s the type of weather that comes right before the snow, and Adrian has been in Hope City long enough to recognize it—even if he’s a few hundred miles away in Washington.
The weather forecasts said that today will be one of the coldest April days in recent memory; it probably will not get any warmer than forty-five degrees. The weather is more suited for the opening days of hockey and basketball; that Adrian will shortly be at Kennedy Stadium, playing third base in front of 45,000 people seems the most abstract of all concepts.
Still, when Adrian wakes in the morning, he finds himself shuffling through his suitcase for a shirt and khakis—no jeans allowed in the clubhouse. His roommate, Leo Castiglione is still sleeping; it’s not likely he’ll wake any earlier than five minutes before the team bus leaves for Kennedy Stadium. Adrian, however, needs the early morning on a game day. He needs to be fully awake when he enters the clubhouse, and not thinking of how much he’d rather still be in a warm bed.
Adrian is, he believes, the best-looking, best-dressed of all the Spartans, so when he shuffles through his suitcase, he makes sure he picks an outfit in which he will not mind being photographed. He’s got small but vibrant green eyes, a medium complexion and a large, expressive mouth. He’s on the cover of the Spartans’ Media Guide this year, and he earns most of his keep not from his playing contract, but from the endorsement deals he has with three different athletic clothing companies. It’s not a bad life.
Leo still sleeping, Adrian makes his way out of the hotel room and down towards the breakfast buffet. Most on the team will be choosing room service, for the privacy, or eat after the game, but for some odd reason the waffles that Adrian loves aren’t on the room service menu. He could take the phone on the nightstand, call the front desk and ask specifically—Leo’s done it before, with dinner—but part of Adrian feels that on Opening Day, he might as well make the trip. There will be time for room service later.
The buffet room is spacious; though there are many present, it doesn’t feel crowded. Adrian makes his way straight to the buffet itself, grabs a plate, contemplates cutting the line, and at the last moment decides against it. There’s a kid in the line, probably no more than seven or eight, and Adrian won’t cut the kid. He’s at the waffle tin soon enough, but to his dismay, it’s empty.
Adrian eyes one of the waiters, a young woman who looks like she hasn’t slept in about a month. The woman walks over, looks at Adrian, and then at the tin.
“They’re coming out of the kitchen,” the woman says, making no effort at being polite. There’s a fairly large stain on her white, button-down uniform shirt and Adrian gets the impression that this woman simply does not care. He nods his head, but the woman keeps staring at him.
“I’m just waiting for the waffles.”
“You’re holding up the line.”
“You said they were coming out?” It’s a question, though it doesn’t sound like one.
“They are. You’re still holding up the line.” Adrian takes this as a cue that the woman doesn’t really know if the waffles are, in fact, coming out of the kitchen.
Frustrated, but not wanting to make a scene, Adrian walks away from the line, and instead takes his empty plate to a table where the buffet is in his direct line of sight. A waiter in a much more cheerful disposition comes by and asks Adrian if he cares for coffee, to which Adrian replies that yes, coffee would be nice. He’s not really a coffee person, but it’s better than just sitting and staring at an empty plate.
Adrian looks around the room for anyone familiar; he eyes a few reporters he doesn’t know very well, and some young Sox players who look much to anxious for an Opening Day game. There are a few people looking at him, but not too many. It’s early yet, and as most of the business people in the room haven’t had their coffee yet, they would have a hard time recognizing him out of uniform. He’s in the clear; no one seems the least bit interested in him.
Adrian’s sipping the last of his coffee, still waiting for the waffles, when there’s a scream from the far corner of the room.
He stands up to get a better view, and sees a dark-haired man looking wan and terrified, standing next to a very pregnant woman who has slumped over in her chair. It’s a scary sight; everyone else in the room is also staring at that table.
Adrian doesn’t think; he moves. He doesn’t know anything about pregnant women or childbirth, but he knows that people listen to him when he wants it, and that’s enough. He leapfrogs over his table and cuts a line straight to the table on the other side of the room, showing off speed more common in an outfielder than a third baseman. There are, of course, people looking at him now, but he’s thriving on the adrenaline that’s pumping through his veins.
“What is it?” Adrian looks at the man, speaking in a gruff and forceful manner that no doctor or nurse would ever use in reality.
“M-my wife!” The man seems incapable of uttering anything else, and can only manage to point. His wife starts to come to, but she looks dazed, and unaware of her surroundings.
“We should call an ambulance.”
“Are…are you sure?” It comes from the coffee waiter, looking unsure of doing anything that might remotely resemble creating a scene.
“She should see a doctor.”
“You’re not a doctor?” It’s the husband this time, looking bewildered.
“No, but if there’s any in this room, they’re not doing a very good job.” It’s supposed to make the husband feel better, but it doesn’t, so Adrian takes out his phone and dials 911. He stays with the husband while waiting, and directs the wait staff to bring the woman some water. Though there are probably others more qualified to be helping the woman, everyone has shied away from Adrian.
It’s not long before paramedics race into the room, and Adrian is glad to see them.
“My wife…she’s nine months, she passed out…”
“What happened?” The paramedic, a heavyset middle-aged man asks the question again to Adrian.
“There was a scream. I jumped up to see what was happening, and she was slumped over in the chair.”
“You’re not a doctor, what did you think you were doing, Martinez?” The paramedic looks at Adrian as though there is no fouler creature on earth. Either the paramedic is a Knights fan, or a Spartans fan who is still bitter about last year’s loss to Seattle.
“Is she going to be all right?”
“She’ll be fine,” the paramedic says without stealing a glance at his partner, who is busy taking the woman’s pulse. “You, on the other hand, should be at Kennedy Stadium. Lord hopes you haven’t forgotten how to use a bat.”
“I haven’t forgotten.”
“Then prove it,” the paramedic says, grabbing onto the woman’s gurney and pushing out of the room, down the hall and into the ambulance.
Still aware of everyone looking at him, Adrian spots a newly filled waffle tin, and thinks only about the taste of melted butter mixing with maple syrup.
#30 Dylan Offers, utility infielder, third year
It’s the National Anthem, more than anything else, that gives Dylan Offers chills. When the choir from Roosevelt Elementary School starts singing, the goose bumps form on Dylan’s bare arms.
It’s not from the cold. Dylan doesn’t care about the cold; he’s the only one on the team wearing short sleeves. It’s the music. It’s “and the rocket’s red glare, and the bombs bursting in air”, and the flyover that occurs just then. Of course, this is Washington, so the displays of patriotism are that much more intense, and if it’s supposed to make Dylan’s stomach drop, it does. Somehow Dylan manages to combine the idea of Opening Day with the thought of his older brother, Kyle who was killed the same day Dylan got his first big league hit. Kyle’s the one that got him into baseball in the first place, the one that taught him about playing on a team…
The thoughts are nearly too much, and Dylan has to come to his senses, or he’ll soon find himself in a ball on the frozen ground. Daniel knows about how the Anthem gets to Dylan, but he’s the only one, and right now Kent and Eliot are standing in between the two of them. Dylan tries stealing glances at Daniel, but Daniel’s eyes are elsewhere, and instead Dylan only gets odd looks from Eliot. He can break down long after the game, but not before, even if he will probably spend most of it in the dugout.
When the Anthem ends and Dylan returns to his spot in the dugout, he appreciates the moment. It’s not the modest crowd of a few thousand that came to the Florida games, but instead a crowd of fifty thousand, all wearing some combination of denim blue and navy. There was talk of replacing the field with blue turf, but the Washington fans made their voices heard loud and clear: the Sox were nearly always in last place, we don’t need any more reason for people to make fun of us.
Dylan is tempted to laugh at the Washington players; they all look freezing, but Dylan’s played in much colder weather in Hope City. There was still snow on the ground when Dylan got on the plane, but here the cherry blossoms are out in full force. As Washington’s pitcher, Trent Rove, blows on his hands about ten times before each warm up toss, Dylan is reminded of the first time Kent experienced the Hope City cold. Kent’s gotten used to it; Trent Rove looks as though he’s never even seen snow.
Dylan himself looks a bit like he’s seen too much snow. His complexion would be the picture next to the dictionary definition of pale, only his mousy hair keeps him from being nicknamed the albino by his teammates. Even his eyes are a pale, almost colorless blue, and the way he carries himself, one might just as easily think him invisible. Lord knows that in the past two years, that’s more or less how Pete and Dennis have seen him; only visible when in need of a pinch runner who can hit a single and play adequate defense.
“So I guess this one counts.” Dylan says it to Dan, and he has to repeat himself before he catches Dan’s attention.
“Yeah. Means we probably won’t see the light of day.”
“It’s Washington. They’ve got Rove pitching on opening day? I guarantee Kent or Eliot’s going to be in before the end.”
“Not us, though.”
“Well…you never know.”
“No, guess not.” Dan takes a bag of sunflower seeds out from behind him. “Guess I can open this now.”
“Let me have some of those,” Dylan says, only after Dan tosses the open bag towards him, seeds flying everywhere. “You know it’s Opening Day when the seeds come out.”
“You know it’s Opening Day when it’s cold enough to play hockey on the field.”
“In HC, maybe, but you’d think it’d be a bit warmer here…”
“Eh. I think Rove and Gonzalez, especially, are making it look like it’s about twenty degrees colder than it is….and where the hell was that pitch?”
“Somewhere not in the strike zone…” The pitch from Rove, to TJ with nobody on and one out, looked both high and outside. The umpire, Kelly Jordan, called it a strike, and even Pete is having a hard time hiding a scowl.
“You know it’s Opening Day when the umps start botching the calls.”
“Not even out of the first inning.”
“Not even out of the top of the first inning. Give me some more of those seeds.” Dan takes the bag back from Dylan, taking a fistful for himself, before Eliot reaches over and demands the back for himself and Kent. “You’d better pay for that.”
“How many times did you steal my seeds last year?” Eliot laughs; in truth neither of them pay for the seeds; one of the batboys does it.
“I didn’t steal. I borrowed them without telling you.”
“All right, well, I’m telling you I’m borrowing these…”
“Keep them, I don’t really want them back.” Dan laughs as Eliot makes a motion with his finger in his mouth, as if to retrieve the seeds he’s just swallowed. Dylan finds himself laughing too, and it feels good. It keeps him warm.
“You know it’s Opening Day when you’re on the bench talking about…HOLY MOTHER…” Dylan is thrown off course, as Adrian Martinez hits a moon shot with one on and two out.
The pitch is high and outside, exactly where Adrian likes it, and he crushes it, far over the left field bleachers and likely into the street. No one can quite believe it; even Adrian stands there for a minute, but a rather nasty look from the Washington catcher, Rob Craig, gets Adrian to start his trot.
“What the hell was that?” Dan asks, when Adrian returns to the dugout.
“A hit.” Adrian says it as though it is the most obvious thing in the world.
“If I could hit like that,” Dylan muses, “even just one pitch, I’d probably get off the bench before the eighth inning.” Adrian doesn’t respond to that, and even though Dylan knows that it’s more because Adrian doesn’t really know what to say to that than anything else, it still hurts.
So the game passes, the temperature never really getting much warmer. After Adrian’s home run, neither offense gets much going. It’s simply too cold to hit, too cold to exert energy on the basepath, too cold to do anything other than shiver and hope that the pitcher misses the strike zone on four consecutive pitches. Even the fans seem on edge; their team is only down by two but it is cold enough that two runs might as well seem like twenty.
Dylan can feel the wind against his pale complexion, trying to tell him that spring is truly a long way off, but he ignores it. Dan and Eliot are fighting over the sunflower seeds.
Sunday, November 25, 2007
So I have a ten page paper to write, which is why I'm posting this at 12.08 AM instead of 12.08 PM, even though that's still likely the time I'll wake up.