Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Felix Hernandez and the Bullpen of Secrets (part 2)

(A story of a young pitching wizard, by D. S. Rubin.)

Continued from Part 1.

Felix was sitting around in the Hogsmeade Rainiers dugout during batting practice a couple of days after the Drafting. Sure enough, first-year rookies weren't permitted to play on the big club, but Felix hadn't given up hope yet. Weasley Gonzalez, who had been optioned to the Hogsmeade team to work on his catching stance, had come by to hang out and go over their plan for the evening's game. They spent a while talking about the opposing batters, while their teammates ran around the field or took their swings in the cage.

It was a sunny but chilly afternoon, and most people were wearing warm jackets, including the mailroom boy Al, who ran by and dropped a rather large cardboard box in front of Felix's feet with a loud thud. Everyone looked over for a second, then went back to what they were doing.

"Huh, what's that?" asked Weasley.

Felix shrugged. "Got me," he replied.

"Oi, there's a letter on top," Weasley suggested.

Felix ripped open the letter first, which was lucky, because it said:

It contains a set of Royal Two Thousand Five baseballs, but I don't want everyone knowing you're working on throwing them or they'll all be asking for them. Moyer Wood will meet you tomorrow morning at Safeco Field at 10am for your first special training session.

Signed, General Manager McGonagall

Felix had difficulty hiding his glee as he handed the note to Weasley to read.

"A Royal Two Thousand Five?" Weasley moaned enviously. "I've never even touched one, let alone caught one."

Felix felt sort of bad for Weasley. "Why don't you come with me tomorrow for special training?" he offered. "I'm sure Wood will need someone to catch, won't he?"

Weasley hesitated. "You mean it?"

Felix nodded.

"Wicked," said Weasley as a huge grin spread over his face.

*    *    *

As ten o'clock drew nearer, Felix and Weasley made their way through the Safeco Field clubhouse to the field itself. Felix had never been inside the stadium before. It was huge. Thousands of seats were arranged around the infield in several tiers, all angled to watch the action at the plate. Bleachers adorned the upper parts of left field and center, and the bullpens were curiously situated by a food court. The morning sunlight fought its way through the clouds, whitewashing the centerfield scoreboard.

"Wow." Felix just stood in front of the dugout taking it all in.

"Yeah," agreed Weasley. "Why don't we get you warmed up while we wait for Moyer?"

They ran into the outfield and got out an ordinary baseball and tossed it back and forth for a while, getting into a comfortable rhythm, throwing the ball faster and faster.

"Hey, guys, come here!"

Moyer Wood had arrived. He was carrying the cardboard box under his arm. Weasley and Felix ran back to the dugout.

"Very nice," said Moyer, his eyes glinting. "You really are a natural. I'm just going to teach you about pitch selection today. We'll work on mechanics next time... I didn't realize you were going to bring a catcher. Well, anyway, let's open this thing."

Felix started opening the box. Weasley got out a pocket knife and helped him. Inside the cardboard box was a nicely carved wooden box, and inside that were three gleaming baseballs sitting on navy blue velvet.

"Right," said Moyer. "Now, being a major league pitcher mostly has to do with mastery of several different pitches. These here represent a deluxe set of three amazing pitches," he motioned to each ball as he named it. "The fastball, the curveball, and the slider."

"Three pitches," repeated Felix, as Moyer took the first one out of the box.

"This one's a Royal Fastball," he said. "You'll probably throw this one more than any other. You try to throw this one so damn fast the batter can't even see it until it's past them."

"Fastball," repeated Felix. "I can throw that one 98 miles per hour, is that good enough?"

Moyer paused for a minute, a look of envy on his face. "Yeah, I think that just might be good enough," he said in a deadpan, getting out the next ball. "Now this here's a slider--"

Weasley interjected. "Hey chief, I think you have two of them backwards."

"Oh, oh," agreed Moyer, switching them. "This here's the slider. I think you could master this one pretty quickly, but you shouldn't use it at first. It'll blow out your arm."

"Slider. Don't use," repeated Felix. "And what about that one?"

He was staring at the shiniest one of all. It seemed to beckon to him from within the box. He wanted to pick it up and throw it and make it dive around.

"This," said Moyer, "is the Royal Curveball, and it's the most important ball of the lot. It's very hard to catch because it's so fast and difficult to see," he said, winking at Weasley. "But that means it's also very hard to hit. It's going to take you all the way to the Hall of Fame, mark my words. I can't wait to see Derek Malfoy of the New York Slytherins swinging away at it."

"Fastball, slider, curveball," repeated Felix blankly.

"Yeah, you can use these pitches anywhere," said Moyer. "You can use them at the office, or on camping trips, or even at PTA meetings."

Weasley and Felix looked at each other quizzically. "Uh, what?"


(Continued in Part 3)

Author's notes: "Royal Curveball" was a phrase coined on USSM... and yes, Jamie Moyer's dialogue may seem somewhat familiar if you've seen the 2005 Mariners commercials. Heh heh.

No comments: