Friday, August 12, 2005

Felix Hernandez and the Bullpen of Secrets (part 1)

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

Commissioner Dumbledore stepped forward holding a long list of names of the incoming rookies who were yet to be drafted. The Drafting Cap, having finished its poem, sat contentedly on the dugout bench, as the rookies shuffled nervously in their lines, awaiting their fate.

One by one, they walked into the dugout. The cap, which looked very old, so old you could not tell which team's insignia it held, was put onto each rookie's head as they walked in. Sometimes it would immediately scream "HUFFLEPUFF!" or whichever team, but sometimes it would take a while before it made up its mind.

Felix awaited his turn as calmly as he could, given the circumstances. Would it draft him to those despicable New York Slytherins? Or would it put him in the Boston Ravenclaws? Or perhaps the Oakland Hufflepuffs? He hoped to get into the Seattle Gryffindors; he wanted to be a pitcher, and their team could certainly use another one, that much was obvious. Plus his childhood hero, Freddy Garcia, had been a Gryffindor. The rookies thinned out their lines into teams, when at last --

"Hernandez, Felix!"

As Felix stepped forward, whispers suddenly broke out all around the rookies.

"Felix Hernandez? The Felix Hernandez? The 'King'?"

"Number one pitching prospect?"

"He looks so young, doesn't he?"

"Yeah, that kid'll get his ass kicked... better hope he ends up in Slytherin."

The last thing Felix saw before the cap dropped on his head was a bunch of people standing around the dugout trying to get a good look at him. Next second he was looking at the dark inside of a very old hat.

"Hmm," said a voice in his head which sounded suspiciously like Casey Stengel. "Now this is a tough one. I mean, the kid's got arms, and those arms, they can throw those curveballs, you know? And he's a smart one too, and he's got reflexes, and reflexes get you far when you're fielding. And you can never be too good a fielder when you're a pitcher, if you know what I mean. Good eyes too, he ought to be getting the ball to the places where he pitches it. Yeah. Lotsa talent here. This kid will go far, I tell you, but what team should he go far for? What do you think, son?"

Felix tilted his head to the side and thought, Not Slytherin, not Slytherin...

"Not Slytherin? You sure? You'll be great one day, and no team will pay you better or give you more rings than they will, no kidding there... no? Well, if you're sure -- better be GRYFFINDOR!"

Felix was relieved to have that ordeal over with, so much so that he didn't notice all the cheers from the other Gryffindor rookies and players. He stumbled out into the sun and walked to where the team was gathered. A tall gangly red-haired guy walked up to him.

"Hi, I'm Scott Weaslio," he said, "and these are some of the other guys on the major-league team. Here's our catcher, Weasley Gonzalez, and this is Richie Spinnet and Adrian Bell, they play the corners. That kid over there is Weasley Bloomquist, he's sort of our backup infielder but we've had him at second since we lost Bret Bones to a nasty Slumpalong, and this here's Yuniesky Johnson, he covers shortstop."

"Hi," he nodded at the teammates, who nodded back. "Who are the guys sitting back there?" he asked.

"Oh, um," started Weaslio, "They're the outfielders. Guy with no hair, that's Raul Longbottom. Great hitter, not so much on the fielding. Kid next to him, Jeremy Finch-Fletchley, he's our centerfielder. Was just a rookie last year, but you should see him run. And the other guy... uh, that's Ichiro. He's Japanese-born but that doesn't mean anything. Top guy on our team every year... knows more about hitting and fielding than all the managers and coaches combined."

"Uh, cool," he replied, for lack of anything better to say. "What position do you play?"

Weaslio turned as red as his hair. "I'm... I'm a benchwarmer," he said weakly.

"Oh," Felix said, trying to sound sympathetic. "The benches are cold?"

"Blimey, dude," said Weaslio, "You've never been to a major-league game before, have you?"

Felix shook his head no.

"Well, it's ok. You're gonna love it at the Safeco Field of Pitchcraft and Pisserdry. It'll be home to you soon enough, I hope."

"Why do they call it that?"

"Because it's a pitcher's park, and the Gryffindors have a habit of pissing away leads," explained Weaslio, as they heard footsteps from behind. General Manager McGonagall walked up with a burly veteran player.

The veteran player looked Felix over, seeming puzzled. "I'm Moyer Wood," he said, "and I'm the number one pitcher on our staff. But General Manager McGonagall tells me you've got a lot of talent, huh? I'm curious what you can do. Toss Weasley a ball or two, will you?"

Felix nodded silently, not entirely sure what to say. He'd just been Drafted, and here they were already trying to fit him into the rotation? He picked up a baseball, wound up, and fired it to the catcher Gonzalez.

Moyer's look turned from that of puzzlement to delight. "Yes -- he'll be great -- nice curveball there -- love the way it dives -- but you know we can't put first-year rookies on the major league roster, gotta give them time to develop in the minors, right?"

McGonagall nodded. "Well, I'll speak to manager Mike Hagrid and see what he thinks about us calling up this boy early. Heaven knows, we need a better team this year. Flattened in that last series by Slytherin, I couldn't look Severus Snapebrenner in the face for weeks..."

(Continued in Part 2)

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