|Prologue||Chapter 1||Chapter 2||Chapter 3|
|Chapter 4||Chapter 5||Chapter 6||Chapter 7|
|Chapter 8||Chapter 9||Chapter 10||Chapter 11|
|Chapter 12||Chapter 13||Chapter 14||Take me home!|
After our home stand it was time for my first road trip. We would play three games in Kingston, three more in a town in Pennsylvania, and four games in Hamilton; home of the Tabbies and Paul Morrison, he of the summer blue eyes.
To get to Kingston we travelled a highway called the Queen Elizabeth Way, affectionately known as the Q. E. Way. The bus driver wasn't affectionate and called it the screw-you-way. He later called the 401, known affectionately as the four-oh-one, the four-oh-migraine. We approached Toronto along the rim of Lake Ontario, and in the distance we could see the spire of the C.N. Tower and under it, the Skydome. The Skydome! The object of all our hopes dreams and desires: the home of the Blue Jays.
The Burlington Blue Birds was a farm team for the Jays. The farm teams taught people how to play baseball. As you got better you worked your way up through the different levels. Rookie League was the lowest, then came Single-A, Double-A and Triple-A. It was like school, only you could spend years at the same level. That was analogous to spending five years in grade four; yet many men did exactly that, spending years trying to get good enough to make it up to the major league level, or "The Show" as we in the game called it.
Our driver made a wrong turn at a detour and we ended up on the Gardiner Expressway by mistake. The Gardiner had no affectionate names. The bus driver had used so many four letter words that the air in the bus turned blue.
I looked down as we passed the Skydome. A limousine pulled up to the entrance and I wondered if it was a player coming for his morning work-out. I wondered if he had to spend time on buses. I wondered if he paid his dues on a team like this. I wondered if he looked up to the buses passing by and thought of his own days on buses, getting nine dollars a day for food while earning only fifteen hundred dollars a month, before deductions. I wondered if he knew about me, or even cared I existed.
Some took my presence as an omen of the beginning of the end of the game as they knew and loved. They argued that the last round of expansion diluted the talent pool to the point where the teams had to look to girls to fill the farm system. As far as I knew there was no rush by other teams to hire women. I was an anomaly, a bug-splat on the windshield of baseball.
The previous night I watched a ball game at Robbie's. The announcers argued that women were too fragile and delicate for the game and we didn't have what it takes to play against the men. They said just because I got a couple wins and saves in single A didn't mean I could play at the major league level. They continued until the commercials.
Larry sat beside me. "You look lonely."
"No. . .I was just thinking."
"What they said last night. They actually brought up that fight at Ziggy's! They said it proved I didn't belong. They said two men would have `duked it out' and that would have been that; but because I was a girl it turned into an assault charge and the end of a promising career."
Larry's eyes darkened. "It almost ended with a promising young pitcher's arm and career broken. And if two men were to ‘duke it out’ there would be two assault charges and two careers down the toilet."
Yeah, I thought sourly, the toilet with no door. "I don't know what I would have done without you guys helping me."
"Hey," cut in Robbie, "We're team-mates, right? We look out for each other."
"Right!" said Larry. "That's what being a team is all about. It's about being behind the pitcher to catch the grounders."
"Or standing by the centre fielder in case he looses it in the sun," added Chad.
"And hitting the cut-off man," cut in Kyle, who usually forgot the cut-off man existed.
"Or covering first," I put in.
"Yes," said Larry, "We're beside you and behind you. We never let a team-mate face everything alone. A pitcher can't win a game by himself."
"Herself," I corrected. Larry and the others laughed. "The same way the big slugger can't do it alone either, right Larry?"
"That's right," he looked serious. "It's a man thing."
We were quiet for a while. We were back on the proper road, and traffic flowed smoothly. Several guys were sleeping. George snored loudly, a paperback western lying in his lap.
"If I have to be a man to make it to the show then that's what I'm going to do." I stated to Larry.
"Come again?" He looked puzzled.
"I'm going to be more like a man."
He raised one eyebrow. "Don't take this thing too far."
"No," I said watching the traffic glide past, "If that's what it takes then that's what I'm going to do. You know, swear, spit, and fight. Mom spent all her time teaching me to be nice --Ms. Leveraged Buy-out herself. You can't be nice in baseball, not if you want to win."
Larry stared at me for a while. "There's a real fighter in you. A lot of men don't have that big a fighter in them."
I hugged my knees close to me. "That's good because making it to the show is going to be the biggest fight of my life. And I'm going to win."
Larry nodded and returned to his book. The bus made me drowsy. I didn't sleep well after the barroom episode. I had nightmares about Dirk the Jerk slashing me with the bottle. Bernie said they would disappear in time.
The bus stopped at the ballpark and we stumbled out into the warm May sunshine. The driver unlocked the luggage door. We grabbed our equipment bags and found the visitors club house. It was spacious; with a floor painted bright green, two walls painted pale orange, and the others sickly grey. There was no air conditioning and a damp, musty smell hung in the air. There were two enclosed showers and one toilet with a door. We changed and headed for the field to warm up. There was an hour before the game and we were stiff and groggy from the long bus ride.
We played under a spotless blue sky. I pitched the final three innings for the save. One of my pitches hit a batter in the leg. He glared at me as he limped to first base. He collapsed on the bag and moaned and groaned, which brought the manager and the trainer out to see what was wrong. They got him standing and he limped around. After much discussion, they decided not to amputate the leg, and he stayed at first. The next batter came up. The hit and run play was on and suddenly the clown on first had no trouble with his leg as he zipped around second and got to third, standing. Unfortunately for him, the umpire ruled that he didn't touch second, so I threw the ball back and he was ruled out. The manager came out to argue, but to no avail.
Garry complimented me on having the brains to realize the ball was still in play. I shrugged it off. Garry made sure we knew if we were doing well or if we were screwing up. If we screwed up badly the next day we would work on correcting the problem through field work and group discussions. We would talk about what we did wrong and what to do the next time so the screw-up wouldn't happen again.
The second day in Kingston was Saturday. We went to a Chinese restaurant and had the buffet. The motel provided our breakfast; the park catered our lunch, so we spent our entire daily allowance in one place. Money was very tight on the road. We only got nine dollars per day for food, doled out by Garry first thing every morning; and our pay was once a month on the first of the month. May was drawing to a close and so was my bank account. I wondered how some of the guys did it. Chad had a wife and two kids somewhere, and sent a lot of his money to them. So did Ty and a few others. Some of our South American players escaped extreme poverty when they joined the team. Marcos sent a lot of his money to Mexico, so his family could buy food. At the restaurant we talked about our lives outside of baseball.
Chad worked in a tire factory in the winter. He said he would feed sheets of rubber into a machine and day dream about summer, all winter. He said he pretended the crack of the cutters was the crack of the bat.
Pete said he played baseball in either Venezuela or Florida all winter. If he couldn't play he said he didn't know what he could do because baseball was the only skill he had.
Ty worked on his father in law's farm, and wanted to make it to the show so he could have the money to buy his own farm some day.
I told of my job in a sports store. I told that I was the assistant manager and that meant I could get whatever I wanted a discounted price. I had both cross-country and down-hill skis, and occasionally raced in cross-country events. "Last year I was ranked fifth in the country. I'll probably go back to the store in September, much to my Mother's relief. She's always disapproved of my interest in baseball. She thinks I should be more like her."
"So what does she do?" asked Robbie.
"She owns her own financial investment brokerage whatever the hell it is company. She also does contract work and consulting for other people. She manages mutual funds, also. I've never really paid attention to what she does. Her company has assets that would knock your stirrups off. She's so worried about appearances that she sees us kids as reflections of herself. She tries to control us the way she controls a mutual fund."
"Is she successful?" asked Pete who engaged in a battle with a crab claw that wouldn't open.
"I'm here aren't I? No. She wanted Jake to become a doctor and now he's a successful artist. She wanted Dave to become an engineer and now he fixes cars. She wanted me to get an MBA, not an ERA. My twin, Kenny, is still in university trying to figure out what to do with his life. As soon as we were old enough to know what we wanted, we broke out from under her control."
After dinner we went downstairs to the karaoke bar. Chad won first prize for his fractured version of "California Girls" and Pete won the booby prize for slaughtering "Bohemian Rhapsody". We had no money for a taxi, so we walked the ten blocks to the motel, singing the opera part over and over. We were all a little tipsy.
I unlocked my motel room door. A naked blond girl sat on the bed and the toilet flushed in the background.
"DEAN!" I shouted. "What the hell is going on here?"
Dean came out from the bathroom with a towel around his waist. The blond tried to cover up with the sheets, which were mostly on the floor. "OH! Hi Annie. You're early." He blushed when he looked at the clock which said 11:50. I pointed to the girl, who looked confused. "Oh. That's ummmm--ummm--" His face went blank.
"CINDY!" She snapped.
"Yeah. . .Cindy! We met at the ballpark. Cindy, this is Annie, my team-mate."
"Oh," she said knowingly. "Is she the dyke?"
Dean turned bright red. So did I. "Out you little tramp! Dean is my-- my--" an evil thought popped into my head. "He's my husband!" The colour drained from both Dean and the girl.
"ANNIE! ANNIE! I! I! YOU! YOU!" He looked as if he was about to burst a blood vessel.
"Okay, he's not my husband. That was for calling me a dyke. You better leave,blondie, we got a bed check in a few minutes and Garry isn't as understanding as I am." I left and marched over to Garry's room.
"Garry, is there a name for a male slut?" I asked when he opened the door.
He stroked his chin thoughtfully. "Dean?" he answered.
I laughed in spite of myself. "Could you mediate a solution to our dispute? This is the second time in two days I've walked in on him. And each time it's been a different girl."
"Dean needs more discipline," said Bernie, who sat at a small card table, shuffling a deck.
"Dean needs a good spankin’, he does." George interjected as he placed pegs in a cribbage board. "He's gonna end up with it rotting and falling off if he keeps doin’ it with all these girls of questionable character that hang around men's locker rooms. No offence ma'am."
"None taken and it would make my life easier if it did fall off." I sighed. "I want this stopped now, otherwise it will be a long summer."
We looked over to my room. As Cindy left Dean gave her a kiss on the forehead, much the same way my oldest brother kissed me.
Garry walked over, and pushed Dean into the room. After fifteen minutes Garry called me over. I sat on my bed, Dean sat on his, and Garry sat on a chair between us.
"When we assign rooms it means the rooms are shared. Dean: Annie shouldn't have to worry about walking in on a live porn show. Annie: Dean can screw with baboons if he wants. What we require is a way that each of you can have privacy, so that you know when the other is using the room for- for-"
"Baboons?" I cut in.
"Whatever." He grabbed a sock off the floor. "Now you see this tied to the doorknob it means Dean is using the room. When this. . ." He grabbed one of my pink socks, "Is on the door that means Annie is using the room. If either of you gets locked out for longer than an hour and a half come to me and I'll take care of it for you. Okay kiddies?" He looked at both of us. We nodded. "Good. Now off to bed, children. Dean you're starting tomorrow. Annie, you better not be hung over." He left us.
I went to the bathroom and changed into a night shirt, ignoring the used condom in the sink. I plopped down on my bed and set the alarm clock for seven-thirty.
"Seven-thirty?" Dean whined. "What is this? A school morning?"
"Nope. I go out every morning for a jog and some exercise. Want to join me?"
"Nah, I don't need to exercise, I'm a natural athlete. My high school coaches told me and so did my little league coaches. I won the MVP medal in my first year of Tee-Ball when I was five. I don't have to work at being good. I just naturally am the best."
I was too tired to argue. How can you argue with someone who is always right? "Are you mad at me?" I asked.
"No. She’s a bit of a bubble head. Besides, if you want to have guys it’s okay, the same way I can have more girls like Cindy. Garry got us co-ordinated." He curled up in his bed. "Garry sure is a cool dude for a guy who's forty five."
"Sure,” I turned out the light. "Good night."
The next afternoon Dean pitched three innings. He may have been a natural athlete but he was a terrible pitcher. When Garry pulled him out of the game he stared after Dean and shook his head.
I took over for Dean. George and I worked every day on finding the strike zone. That's the area over the plate between the batter's knees and the letters on his shirt. Shoot the ball through there and you have a strike. The problem is that it's also where the ball is easiest to hit, so you want to brush the edges of it. The lower edges give ground-outs; the upper edges give fly-outs. This is called putting the ball into play. The only problem is you have to trust your fielders. While most I would trust with my life, trusting them on a routine grounder was another story. I put the ball into play a lot that game, and got socked with my first loss. Next time I would nod my head to George and strike everybody out.
The games in Pennsylvania were uninspired. The first was rained out and we spent the day in the locker room watching mildew grow in the showers. That evening Dean entertained the girl from the ticket office, so I went to Robbie's room and joined in a penny-ante game of poker. I ended up twenty cents ahead, George finished ninety cents ahead and Garry got taken for a dollar eighty three.
"I guess my kids don't need to go to college,” he said as he emptied his wallet.
After the game I arranged to go for my morning jog with Robbie. We met outside the motel and headed out.
"How come Dean doesn't join us?"
I snorted. "Dean tells me he's a natural athlete and doesn't need to keep in shape."
"He's in for a rude awakening. You know Garry's been on the horn with P.D. a few times about Dean?"
"P.D.? What's that?" I had never heard the term before.
"Player development,” clarified Robbie. "They make sure we're doing our jobs, learning to play the game the way they want it played. I think Dean's gonna be cut. They got some hot-shot kid in Alberta they want to bring up. I think they're looking at all of us."
"How do you know this? Did you tap Garry's phone or hide a microphone in his office?"
He grinned. "Suzy, my wife, her brother plays in the same league, only for the Phillies' team in Montana. He's seen the kid and told her."
We jogged along a strip of fast food restaurants, small plazas, and doughnut shops. "So you have friends in the right places." I said when we stopped at a light.
"You ever hear of Chuck Sullivan?"
"You mean the hall-of-fame outfielder for the Pirates?"
"Suzy's his daughter." He looked proud.
"Really?" I was surprised.
"You bet! She knows more about baseball than I do. She's involved in the business end, too. If she could play she would. She was thrilled when I told her a woman was joining our team. She would really like to be your friend."
"Wow! That's so cool! I only met her once, you know. The night of the Jerk."
He looked serious. "How are you doing since that?"
"Fine." I stopped and showed him my bruise. The marks had faded to a dull yellow. "See, they're mostly gone." He looked them over. "I've had a few nightmares, but they're fading away, also. Has Suzy heard anything about the Jerk?"
"No, but I think Garry wants to talk to you about that. I saw a note on his calendar that said `A. Weston: D. Grant, Conference.'"
We slowed to a walk. The morning turned muggy and we had difficulty catching our breath in the heavy and stagnant air. The puddles dried and the clouds broke into haze. The fuzzy sun hung in the haze over the liquor store, shining weakly on all the Pennsylvanians as they filled the streets with traffic. We played two games in the oppressive heat of the day. I turned my attention back to Robbie. "What do you think Garry will say to me?"
"No idea, kid. I guess it could be about the Jerk getting suspended for life. I'm sure that's what will happen."
"Do you think it would have been different if I had been a guy?"
He stopped and held my shoulders. "Listen, Annie. Crazy is crazy. He would have gone nuts if a trained baboon struck him out or Roger Clemens for that matter. He would have attacked anybody." He let go of me and we started walking again.
"What would you have done in my predicament?"
We stopped at another red light. Heavy traffic rushed past. Girls in flowered dresses and men in linen suits passed us on the way to the places they worked. "I really don't know," he said after thinking a while. "I probably would have ended up bruised, also. I'm not a fighter." He shook his head. "I'll tell you something, Annie. His eyes scared me. They were deeply disturbed." He took a deep breath.
I looked at the ground. Little weeds poked up from the cracks in the sidewalk, pushing the concrete aside so they could grow and spread. Some things were like that. Some things couldn't be stopped, even by a ton of cement.
"So kid," he said while slugging my arm, “What did you think of Paul Morrison?"
"Cute, nice eyes! Nice buns, too. A real hunk." I slugged Robbie in return.
"Is that all you girls think about? There's more to us men than our bodies." He stuck his nose in the air and sniffed like my little sister did.
"Oh yeah?" I retorted. "Like what?" We both had a good laugh and walked back to the motel. We ate at the motel restaurant and after that five dollars stood between me and starvation. I figured that the only way my money would hold out until tomorrow would be if I had sunflower seeds and bubble gum for lunch. Payday wasn't until tomorrow. Garry never called me into his office. However, he spent most of the afternoon on the phone. As he sat on the bench he appeared distracted and preoccupied with something. We lost the series with Pennsylvania, but I didn’t care. All I could think about was our next series with the Hamilton Tabby Cats, home of Paul with the summer blue eyes. I could hardly wait.
|Prologue||Chapter 1||Chapter 2||chapter 3|
|chapter 4||chapter 5||Chapter 6||Chapter 7|
|Chapter 8||Chapter 9||Chapter 10||Chapter 11|
|Chapter 12||Chapter 13||Chapter 14||Take me home!|