Friday, September 02, 2005

Felix Hernandez and the Bullpen of Secrets (part 3)

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

Continued from Part 2.

Another few days passed, and it was finally time for Felix to go back up to Safeco Field for another secret training session with Moyer Wood. He brought Weasley Gonzalez with him again, and they sat in the dugout devouring a healthy breakfast of Garlic Fries, Shishkaberries, Ichirolls, and Ivardogs. It was a nice feeling, sitting there on a beautiful morning, eating their way through a pile of junk food.

"What are those?" Felix asked Weasley, pointing to an unopened box sitting on the bench.

"Oh, this is the coolest Aquasox promotion ever. Chocolate Frogs."

"They aren't, uh, chocolate molds of Aquasox players, are they?" Felix knew that the other name for the Everett Aquasox players was the Frogs, and the idea was somewhat disturbing.

"No, they're just frogs made out of chocolate. But they each come with a random Aquasox player collectible card. Some are old, some are new. I've been trying to get one of Weasley Bloomquist's cards to use as blackmail someday."

Felix unwrapped his Chocolate Frog and picked up the card. It showed a young left-handed hitter holding his bat, with a ring dangling from a necklace. Along the bottom of the card was the name "Cedric Snelling".

"Oh, so this is Snelling!" said Felix.

"Don't tell me you haven't heard about him," said Weasley. "It's positively tragic. Never seen a sadder set of knees. Can you hand me a frog? I might get Bloomquist -- thanks --"

Felix turned the card over and read about Snelling for a bit. In the meantime, Moyer Wood showed up at and looked at the dugout mess in disgust.

"Oi, Weasley, I can't believe yer makin' the rookie eat crap like this," he grumbled.

Felix and Weasley scrambled to clean up all the food wrappers and stack up their baseball cards, as Moyer dragged a large red sack out onto the field. He dropped it by the pitcher's mound, and went back into the clubhouse, emerging a few moments later with a large poseable canvas dummy wearing a Slytherins jersey, which he stood in the dirt, positioning it by home plate.

"Well, don't just stand there, get ready to practice," he said. He narrowed his eyes. "Weasley, you've got something on your nose."

Weasley sheeplishly rubbed a smudge of chocolate off his nose as he and Felix walked up to the mound. The red sack was bulging in many places, but he could make out the writing on the side: Bertie Boggs Every Flavor Beanballs.

"You want to be careful with these," Moyer warned Felix. "When they say every flavor, they mean every flavor -- you know, you get all the ordinary ones like brushbacks and plunkings, but you're also going to get some nasty ones like kneeshots and wristbreakers. I even accidentally pulled out a nosebleeder once."

Moyer picked a ball out of the bag, looked at it carefully, and then threw it at the dummy standing on home plate. It hit the dummy's hat and knocked it off.

"Bleeeeargh -- see? Helmet-splitter. Dangerous."

After the initial shock, they had a good time trying out the Every Flavor Beanballs. Felix pelted the dummy in the leg, in the side, on the shoulder, the chest, and some other places in the body that he was not sure he would want to see a real human get hit. Even Weasley pulled out a few earwinders and gutbusters and threw them at the dummy, imagining it was a real-life Slytherin player.

"This is a really great stress reliever," gushed Felix, digging a nosebleeder out of the sack on purpose and hurling it full speed into the dummy's head. The impact was so hard that the head was knocked off the dummy and rolled across the plate, onto the grass.

Wood and Weasley just stood there for a minute, gaping open-mouthed at the decapitated dummy.

"What?" asked Felix. He wasn't sure he liked the way they were staring.

"That's, well, really powerful, Felix," said Moyer. "But you don't want to do that again, ever. It's a very very Dark Act to purposefully throw at a guy's head with all your speed."

Felix's grin turned to a frown.

"Yeah," said Weasley. "I mean, the point of the Every Flavor Beanballs is just to use them when you need to get control of the plate back. If this were a real person, they would have ducked most of your shots, but that last one, that was frightening."

"It could have killed someone," agreed Moyer.

Felix suddenly felt very angry. Why show him the beanballs if he wasn't even supposed to use them? It felt like such a waste of time. But he knew he would never be able to forgive himself if he seriously injured a player. And the Dark Arts were not a path he would go down to find his glory as a pitcher. "Forget it," he shouted. "I'll never throw at a player on purpose. Ever. I don't care if a manager tells me to. It's just not right." He stormed off the field, awash in his own thoughts.

Weasley and Moyer watched him walk off the field, amidst the pile of beanballs and stray stuffing.

"Well, I better clean this up, huh," muttered Moyer.

"Yeah, do you think you'll need a body bag for that dummy?" joked Weasley.

"Nah, I'll just put the head in the beanball bag and throw out the rest of the body," he replied absentmindedly. "Let Felix know that we should continue with his training next week. And while you're at it..."


"Bring a batting helmet next time. And an extra one for me, if you could."

(To be continued...)

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