Friday, April 9, 2010

Chapter 39 The Dreamers

Chapter 39

The announcement was made prior to the game concerning the Monarch players who were cut. As each of the cut players came into the clubhouse they were called into the manager's office. They were told by the Monarch General Manager. The only player who took it badly was the first baseman, Biff Johnson.

"Who does George think he is," shouted Biff at the G.M.. "This is my career, my life. He can't do this. I'm going to the player's union and file a grievance!"

"On what grounds," snapped the GM? "You’re bating .220 with only seven homers and thirty-eight RBI's. You have left over thirty runners in scoring position this month alone. You should have been benched over a month ago. It was George who wanted you left in the lineup, not the Skip. Look how he got repaid, a trip back to double A. Maybe YOU should be the one he should thank for his wonderful career move? Stop your whining and get out. You earned very little of the million you've been paid. Don't make a scene out there and force me to call security."

Biff stood there for a moment and then stormed out of the office. He left quietly. He wasn't going to file any grievance. His only hope was to try and get picked up by some pennant contender who might need and occasional designated hitter and part-time first baseman. Biff still could play good defense.

We MADISON players were escorted over to our apartments and allowed an hour to settle in best we could. Our cars would be waiting for us in the parking garage below after the game.

We got back to the Stadium a little after noon. The club house manager showed us to our new lockers and gave us our uniforms. I didn't know how they did it, but the uniform fit like a glove. Jack, Jon, and I dressed and were somewhat in awe of where we were twenty-four hours ago and where we were now.

"Hey, Bill," said Jon from across the room. "Have you pinched yourself yet, to see if this is real?"

"It's real, all right," I answer. "It might be nice to stay for a while. I hear going back down is hard to take."

"That would be nice," chimed in Jack Meyers. "Wouldn't it be something if we had something to do with the Monarchs winning the A.L. East? That would be a trip, wouldn't it?"

"It might be something if you just didn't trip over your shoe laces," laughed Tavy. I laughed, too. We all had too much nervous energy to get rid of.

"That would be bad, wouldn't it," I said. "Walking out to the mound this afternoon and trip and fall flat on my face would be a great way to start my Major League career."

"Don't worry, Bill," said Tavy. "We have every confidence you'll at least make it to the mound in one piece. Just don't let them light you up in the first inning."

"I won't." I reply, "even if I have to walk everybody in the park, including the ball girl."

"Very funny," said Jack. "I hope you last longer than that since I’m supposed to relieve you in the sixth or seventh inning. Don't make me come pitch in the first inning today. They want one hundred pitches from you and about twenty from me. It would be the same 20+ pitches I would do from the side anyway. I’d rather get baptized tonight with you. They would like their closer, Hack Jackson, to finish the game in the ninth."

"Well, now that I know the plan I guess I know what I have to do," said Bill. I immediately ran down the hall and into the toilet area.

Jon and Jack ran done the hall and saw a two legs with cleats attached from underneath a stall. The sounds coming out of it were not good.

"Bill, you O.K.," shouted Jack.

"Ya, I'll be all right in a minute," I groaned.

"Here we thought you were the man with nerves of steel," said Jon.

"It's not my nerves I'm losing," I groaned, again. "I'll be out in a minute."

The left the bathroom area, mainly before they both got sick as well.

I regained my composure and made my way out to the Monarch bullpen in center-field. The game started at two-ten PM. it was about one-twenty PM and time for me to start getting loose.

I took off my NY windbreaker and threw it on the bench on the side. The bullpen catcher, Rick Rodriguez, flipped me a new ball he had been rubbing up. I stepped about fifteen feet in from of the mound and began soft-tossing with Rick. After about twenty throws I went to the top of the mound and toed the pitching rubber. I looked in and sent a ninety mile an hour plus fastball toward Rick.

"Good stuff, Billy," said Rick as he fired the ball back. "Keep it comin baby." It was now about one-forty PM.

I was warm by about one-fifty PM and feeling no ill effects of my previous bathroom experience I grabbed my jacket which I put only over my right arm and began walking through the outfield, toward the Yankee dugout.

"Good luck," shouted Rick. "Keep it down, baby, you'll be all right!"

I made my way into the dugout. The crowd behind the dugout began chanting "Bill-eee", Bill-eee". Players began patting me on the back wishing me well. The catcher, motioned me over and took out a spiral notebook and told me to have a seat.

"Don't worry about what to throw today," said Mike. "Just worry about location. Just watch where I set up and work into that zone. Stay out of the middle of the plate and you'll be O.K.," Mike added. "How do you feel? Did you get loose?"

"Ya, I said. "I feel good."

"You should," said Mike. "Rick called; they clocked some of your pitches at ninety-four, ninety-five and a couple at 98. If you stay there and pitch to'll be just fine."

Mike tapped me on the knee and walked down to the end of the bench and got a drink of Gatorade. He came back with a small glass for me, as well. Red had joined me on the bench.

"Feel all right, kid," asked Red?

"No problem, skip," I replied. "I'm ready to go."

"Then let's go," Red stated. "It's Showtime."

The rest of the Monarchs burst onto the field. I took off my jacket. I didn't even notice the bat boy was waiting to take it from me and hang it up.

"Thanks," I said.

"No problem," said the kid.

I climbed the steps and felt the soft grass hit the bottom of my cleats. The crown rose to their feet and began chanting again, "Bill-eee", "Bill-eee". I picked up the ball lying on the first base side of the mound and placed it firmly inside my A2000 glove’s pocket. I reached down and grabbed the rosin bag, squeezing it a couple of times and flipping it so it landed on the back of my right wrist to kill the slight amount of perspiration there. I dropped it to the ground behind the mound. I looked around the outfield at the white fa├žade. Man, this was too much.

Robert Merrill sang the National Anthem, as always. The announcer shouted, "Play Ball".

"Let's do it, Kid," shouted Mike from behind the plate. "You and me, baby."

I toed the rubber and sent his first big league warm-up pitch toward the plate, right down the middle. Mike shook his head in agreement and fired the ball back. I then walked back to the top of the mound and looked around the field at the players taking grounders from Tavy at first. This WAS it, I thought. I had finally made his dream come true. I thought of my parents, my grand parents, my sisters, Gus, Mary, and Gloria, and how I wished they could be here to see it. Maybe my parents were, I thought, from Heaven, perhaps.

Mike walked out in front of home plate and shouted, "Bill, you O.K.?"

I turned and smiled the biggest smile of my life.

"Ya, I'm O.K.," I replied. "Let's play some ball."

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