Continuing the excerpt idea, this takes place chronologically right after Excerpt #2 where Holt meets the scout Jay Olensky again, as well as the Owner of the Portland Roses Steven Kevec and the General Manager Sharon Tate. Yeah, Sharon Tate probably needs a name change and Portland doesn’t have a baseball team, but those little elements make it a bit more sci-fi-ish right?
* (Page 24)
Jay Olensky smiled, arms across his chest, as he looked at Holt standing on the pitching mound at Spike Field, home of the Portland Roses. Even in a long-sleeved shirt and jeans, Jay thought, Holt looks at home there. Holt flexed his two fingers over the baseball, wrist tucked behind his lower back.
“That is where you’re meant to be, Mr. Holt.”
Holt flexed his back leg on the pitching rubber, testing it. “Maybe, sir. The draft’s not for another three days and Seattle still has the first pick.”
“Look, Nolan, I can’t speak much about that. There are rules with the draft. So, instead I’ll ask if you want to be a Portland Rose.”
“Sir, it would be nice… Portland has been great to me and Mr. Redman says your franchise has been very proactive in pursuing me. The subtrain ride here, for example… I had never tasted real carrots before.” Holt looked down at the dirt, thinking. “Dirt-Form 3.0. Not many parks have this.”
Olensky nodded, “Memory dirt. The nanotechnology, when treated with radio waves, will imprint the coordinates of each particle of dirt after you sculpt the mound to your liking. Before you take the mound, we hit it with another dose of radio waves and the mound will adjust itself. That data also gets sent to the other major league parks. It’ll return to that shape each time you step on the pitching rubber, even if a baseball kicks off it. Stays dry too, even if it rains.”
“Rain doesn’t bother me, sir.”
“Yes, I know that. But it’s a nice feature to have. Every little bit helps, right?”
“Yes, that’s true.” Holt turned on the mound, looking around Spike Field. Robotic ushers breezed up and down the aisles of the 200,000 capacity stadium. Besides the soft splashing as the ushers washed the seats, the arena was quiet. The holographic scoreboards were turned off, there were no mobile comps darting over the field, and the weather dome insulated sound from the surrounding downtownplex. Holt looked towards the outfield, where red and pink roses draped down in finely divided lanes from the bleachers to the warning track.
Jay stared off to the outfield. “Yes, the roses. Bioengineered to stay in bloom from Opening Day to the end of the World Series. Reinforced stems and petals so that they provide outfielders going to the wall with a cushion, but don’t break off on impact. They also help the field remain carbon neutral by recycling gases given off by the concession grills. The roses are also irrigated by water recycled from everything, the washing of the bleachers, the stadium’s bathrooms, the clubhouse showers. The roses smell quite nice too. One of Steven Kevec’s ideas when he bought the team.”
“Yes, the man who owns Spike.”
Jay nodded, “That, and other things. Besides a businessman, Steven Kevec is one of the world’s biggest philanthropists. When Mr. Kevec bought the team, one of the first things he did was lower ticket prices to $100 for anyone affiliated with education, the police, or senior citizens. He has built three arboretums in the Cascade Mountains. Their seeds will be used to help replant the woodlands. He sends free shipments of Spike to underprivileged families not only in Portland, but to other states such as Seattle and Beijing as goodwill gestures. He has sponsored radiation therapy centers throughout Portland. He has made it his goal that every person in Portland has a comp and that a tenth of Dead Oregon becomes habitable by the end of the year. He’s already halfway to achieving both of those goals.” Jay stepped onto the cusp of the mound, “And he has taken a personal interest in you. He’s become a fan of yours, so to speak.”
“I’ll do my best, sir. If he is able to draft me.”
“I have yet to see Mr. Kevec decide to pursue something and not get it. He’s not the type that just jumps in. He does his homework, so to speak.”
Holt looked up into the stands, surveying the empty rows of open-air luxury boxes. “I’m honored he took the time sir.” He turned to look at Jay, “It sounds like he would be too busy.”
“Life is worth being busy about.” Holt spun around on the rubber. Steven Kevec stood just a foot behind the mound, the dark hairs of his browned arms crossed beneath the third button of his burgundy shirt. A padded black bag was slung over his right shoulder. Just to the right of Kevec stood Sharon Tate, clad in a severe jet executive dress. Jay stepped off the dirt mound.
Holt mumbled, rubbing his thumb over his forehead, “I’m sorry sir… miss. I didn’t know you… you both were there.”
“Steven has a way of getting around.” Tate frowned, her lips touched-up red.
“You must forgive me for startling you, Mr. Holt.” Kevec dipped his head slightly. “Our affairs for the day were over so I thought I would facemeet you.”
“No problem at all, Mr. Kevec.” Holt bowed his head to Tate, “Miss Tate. It’s a pleasure.”
Sharon nodded in return, “Likewise.” Jay nodded to Kevec and then to Tate, the four people arranged in a loose square with Jay’s corner on the pitching rubber.
“So, Mr. Holt, how do you like it here?”
“I have been to games in Chicago before, sir. But being on the field is, well…” Holt took a step off of the rubber. “It’s been my dream to be on a major league field, but it’s still a bit overwhelming, sir.”
“Understandable. But that’s what makes the dream worth working for. Just as I dreamed up and then worked to build this field.”
“And you weren’t worried, sir?”
“Worried might not be the right word,” Kevec flicked his glance over to Tate, “But I was concerned.” Kevec focused back on Holt. “Some people think I shouldn’t spend so many resources on a game.”
“Jay told me you were one of the world’s biggest philanthropists.”
“The world always wants more, though.”
“So that got you… concerned, sir?”
Tate interjected, “Concerned might not be the right word either, right Steven?”
Kevec looked dourly at Tate. “Sharon, please.” He hitched the bag on his shoulder and looked back to Holt. “Yes, there were concerns and not all of them involved the public. Building a dome itself is a major undertaking. Still, I do think about what people think.”
“If I may ask, sir, what did you do about the public?”
“I tried not to listen to the ones who don’t like baseball.”
“So you just ignore them?”
“Mr. Holt, I know you love baseball. I know that you know its history. But, you’re also young. I don’t think you really appreciate what baseball means today and how important that you are to it.” Steven Kevec turned on the mound, pointing past the third-base, a few rows up in the stands. “My dad and I used to sit, about there, in a stadium east of the Rocky Mountains. Coors Field, to be exact. City of Denver, State of Colorado. It was one of the newer stadiums. It held 52,000 people. Open-air. You could see the trains outside the stadium from the concourse.” Kevec shook his head slightly, “That was in the state of Colorado, if you are familiar with it. Dad had season tickets for Major League Baseball at that stadium. He picked those seats so that we could see the game without being blinded by the setting sun. We could see Matt Holliday jog out to left field, see him wave to the crowd as they chanted “M-V-P”. We’d see a rocket shot ball hit just to the right of Troy Tulowitzki, see him dive, almost straight at us and we’d cheer as he gunned the ball back across the diamond for an out. We’d see Todd Helton stand in the batter’s box, see him squint at the pitcher, see him grimace as he pulled a ball into the right field corner. We saw him scream and pump his fists back in October of 2007 when the Colorado Rockies went to the World Series for the first time.” Kevec’s put his hands in his pockets. “And, when Papelbon threw his last pitch of 2007 and tossed his glove in the air, we knew it was the last pitch when that mitt came back to earth and there were no more Rockies stepping up to the plate that year. But, we knew there was always next year.”
Holt saw Olensky’s smile start to fade. Tate clasped her hands behind her back and looked at the grass as Kevec continued, “There were a few ‘next years’ for the Rockies but nothing quite like that one October. Then, there was The Split. Denver was one of the worst hit. In those days, in what was Colorado, they had a United States, er, Federal command center in a mountain, a training academy for Federal Air Force recruits, and nearer to Denver, a Federal Air Force base with classified spy technology oh so innocuously hidden in large structures that looked like golf balls…I mean… weather domes.” The confusion left Holt’s face, his expression downcast. Kevec looked into Holt’s eyes. “Before The Split, a celebrity dancing half-naked made more news than a few hundred people dying in an earthquake. People would spend weeks mourning celebrities who died of drug overdoses, rewriting their histories into legends that were more flimsy than the vids that they acted in. Then, no lesson learned, those same people would go out and party until they too died. After The Split, there was no more Coors Field, no more Denver, and so relatively few people left in general that things like death might’ve finally become important. When mainstream vidfeeds were restored, well, there was no Federal government telling people not to watch what were considered the more violent sports… I don’t even know if they really were that violent. But, all the same, what few people that were left stopped watching them. Indoor sports also lost their appeal. My cousin said the rafters reminded him too much of the gutted cities. Maybe after The Split, people were tired of being reminded they were indoors. Who knows? When I was young, people watched the biggest games of the year for the alcohol ads. Maybe The Split started because people were dying of boredom and needed something to kill time.” Steven Kevec placed his hand tentatively on Nolan Anthony Holt’s shoulder. “But, there it is Nolan. People do want a something, or a someone to look forward to. They want, no, they need to remind themselves that things do change, that there is soil beneath the ash they’ve spent all week shoveling. They all want something different, whether it’s baseball or an arboretum or an alcoholic binge, they want a break from the normal. Today, the normal is for people to stay inside and comp each other or to put on their suits, pull down their visors and get Reconstructing. Yet, they can’t do that every minute, every day, so they seek an escape, a future, a dream worth working for. Those that are baseball fans, they catch a bus or a subtrain to a baseball game. Why? Well, maybe for the older ones, they want to remember what it was like to be in an open-air stadium. For the younger ones, maybe it’s more of a fantasy, kind of like a trip to Disneyunderland except nothing in a baseball stadium is mythical. Everyone knows it is possible, it just takes work. And so, they work.”
Kevec unslung the bag from over his shoulder and zipped it open.
“So, Mr. Holt, you love baseball and you are good at baseball, so that will be your work. You throw that baseball, you hit that baseball, and you catch that baseball. I will be here, watching you and remembering the times when a blinding sun was a mere annoyance.”
Kevec reached into the bag and pulled out a forest green bottle of Spike and extended it to Holt. He looked down at the beverage, then up at Kevec and nodded politely as he took the bottle and pulled the straw out of the top. Holt took a sip, felt the cool liquid rush down his throat, the scent of trees wafted back up through his sinuses. He felt his cheeks warm, as if he was outside in the sun and that very sun had finally remembered how to kiss the planet tenderly. Holt smiled, he sat down on the mound, he stretched in the dirt and looked up into the clouds. Kevec, and then Olensky, and then Tate, they joined him on the mound, with Spike in their hands and they drank quietly.
I decided to post this in (dis)honor to Serena Williams recent tirade. In the novel, this chronologically takes place just a few weeks after the first except. Basically it’s my homage to the novel Starship Troppers by Robert A. Heinlein. This also touches a bit on my views of violence, honor and respect.
For context, all you really need to know is that the scene takes place in one of Holt’s classrooms and he just had a poor pitching performance where his high school lost game one of the Interstate World Series, going just one third of an inning with six walks and a hit batter who was sent to the hospital.
Oh and comps are basically iPhones with holographic projection and voice recognition capabilities, which sounded a lot cooler when I wrote the first draft of this chapter before the original iPhone came out…
The link to the first chapter of Golden Arm is here: http://wp.me/p1NXKl-q
* (Page 19)
“The lecture is over. Time for topical discussion for those who wish to stay. The recording will be mass delivered afterwards, as always.”
Two of the pregnant women stood up to excuse themselves, leaving the room. Teacher Sloan grinned, the dark goatee framed his smile. He pressed a button. Every comp in the room, including the one on Teacher Sloan’s podium, went black. He then put a small black box on top of the podium. Its red light was on.
“Mr. Holt. What are honorifics?”
Holt released the baseball from his hand and stood up from his seat. “Honorifics are formal terms of speech such as ‘sir’, ‘miss’, and ‘teacher’ used to show respect from one person or party to another. Honorifics also include conventions like using the party’s last name or middle name to establish a higher level of formality and a more refined acknowledgment of personal identity.”
“Mr. Holt, what is the history of honorifics?”
“In the past they have been used to pay homage to heads of state and religious leaders. They are also used in introductions for when the names of parties are unknown. It establishes a level of communication above informality that allows conversation to take place without the use of potentially confusing, misleading or inflammatory terms.”
“Why do you use honorifics, Mr. Holt?”
“Because respect, especially towards parents, superiors, friends or strangers, is important to a peaceful society, sir.”
“Please define respect, Mr. Holt.”
“The virtue that indicates one person finds value in the stature and viewpoint of another person, sir.”
“Please define what a parents is, Mr. Holt.”
“A parent is a person who either has their own progeny or adopted the progeny of another party.”
“Please define what a superior is, Mr. Holt.”
“A superior is an important person with that importance determined qualitatively from cultural norms. Cultural norms can include, but are not limited to age, financial status, political status, occupation, and educational status.”
“Then, please define what a stranger is, Mr. Holt.”
“A stranger is a person that has not yet been engaged in continuing formal or informal communications to establish familiarity.”
“Very good answers, Mr. Holt. All of them are quoted verbatim from the comptext.”
“So, Mr. Holt, can you think without using your comptext?”
“It is turned off, sir.”
“Yes it is, but Mr. Holt, if your comp stayed off, would you ever learn anything?”
“Well, of course sir. It’s just a tool.”
“Would you do as well in this class without it, Mr. Holt?”
“Maybe not, sir.”
“Maybe if you had your comp against Arlington, you would’ve pitched better.”
“Your loss contributed to our school losing the Interstate World Series grant. Perhaps your notes on how to handle pressure were stored on your comp.”
“No sir. I have no notes like that.”
“Maybe it could have helped you fix your mechanics, Mr. Holt. Maybe it could have reminded you how to throw the ball towards the plate without sending a kid to the hospital”
“Sir, I don’t know.”
“Mr. Scott Please stand up.”
“Yes sir.” Scott rose from his seat, but kept his eyes on his desk.
“Mr. Scott Do you think Mr. Holt throws the fastest pitch in our high school?”
“Mr. Scott Do you think that is dangerous?”
“Well, sir, no.”
“Please come up to the podium, Mr. Scott.”
Scott walked to the front of the class until he stood next to Professor Sloan.
“Mr. Scott, please show the class your left hand.”
Scott stared at Teacher Sloan.
“Mr. Scott, show your hand.”
Scott closed his eyes and raised his left hand to the class. It was pockmarked with purple welts ringed with reddish bruises.
“Mr. Holt. Every time you throw a pitch that your friend catches, it hurts him. I imagine he shows you, his friend, respect by keeping quiet about it. He allows you to…”
“Sir, I…” Holt stammered.
“Do not interrupt me, Mr. Holt. It is disrespectful.” Teacher Sloan scowled, his eyes squinting at Holt. “Mr. Scott, thank you. You may return to your desk.” Scott shuffled away from the podium and down the aisle to his seat.
Teacher Sloan leaned forward on his podium. “It is my opinion, Mr. Holt, that you are a dangerous person in a frivolous endeavor. Our state has too few resources to waste on a mere game when there are hundreds of thousands of people sick from radiation and pollution. I think that you should stick with physics and focus your aim on helping the world instead of hurting your fellow man.”
Holt slouched, his hands rested flat on the sides of his desk. The baseball on top of it rattled.
“You are gifted academically, Mr. Holt. I think your talents are wasted in baseball. I think, Mr. Holt, that our precious children are safer with less dangerous people playing this game. Baseball does have some redeeming features such as developing camaraderie and respect. For fans of the game, it assists in teaching mathematics, physics and probability. However, Mr. Holt, you already know those topics quite well. Thus, I think the game should be restricted to those in the youngest and younger classes as strictly a teaching tool. Perhaps some of the older and oldest classes can play as well if they are having problems with their arithmetic. They could learn a lot by learning how to count up to four balls and three strikes.”
Holt looked at the baseball. He looked up at Teacher Sloan. His thumb brushed over the stitches.
“What do you think, Mr. Holt?”
“Sir, you are wrong.”
“Unequivocally, Mr. Holt?”
“Yes, sir, unequivocally.” Holt’s fingers curled around the baseball, drawing it into his palm.
“And what proof do you have that is so strong, Mr. Holt?”
“Sir, may I make a demonstration.”
“No, Mr. Holt, and you may place that baseball in your pack immediately.”
“But I was just going to…”
“Now, please, Mr. Holt.” Teacher Sloan growled sternly from the podium.
Holt’s hand spasmed about the ball. He clenched it, gripped it, then dropped his arm, limply releasing it into his backpack.
Teacher Sloan smiled, “Very good, Mr. Holt.” He stepped away from the podium.
Holt sat, looking at his pack, the baseball nestled inside the shadows. “Sir, I…”
“Mr. Holt, do you learn anything from my class?”
“I try, sir.”
“Do you like me, Mr. Holt?”
“Sir?” Holt looked up into Teacher Sloan’s eyes.
“Do you enjoy that I facilitate this class, Mr. Holt?”
“It’s hard, sir.”
“And, Mr. Holt, do you respect me?”
“Well…” Holt looked back down into his pack. “Usually, sir.”
“But you disagree with what I say. Is that showing respect?”
“Well, I… I guess not sir.”
Teacher Sloan placed a hand on Holt’s shoulder. “No apologies are necessary, Mr. Holt.” Holt shivered beneath the touch. Teacher Sloan withdrew his hand and raised his gaze to the silent class.
“Ladies and gentlemen. Respect and agreement are two separate concepts. One can have respect without having agreement, and conversely, agreement without respect. The difference is, it is much easier to disagree and to maintain respect, than to disrespect and maintain an agreement.”
Teacher Sloan took a step backwards, looking at Holt. “I had just disagreed with Mr. Holt. That does happen. However, I also disrespected Mr. Holt. He has been culturally conditioned, as have you all, to recognize me as a superior. I have a respected position in society, I am older than him, I have raised children, I am more educated, and for now at least, I make more money. All of those traits, though, give me no moral justification to disrespect him. Yet I did, and when his personal feelings overcame his cultural conditioning, he grabbed a baseball.”
Holt gasped, “Sir, I…”
“Patience, please, Mr. Holt.” Holt quieted down as Sloan continued. “I have known Mr. Holt, as I have known each of you in this class over the last year. Though I doubt many of you would consider me a friend, I do value each of your contributions to class. That being said, I do not think Mr. Holt is the type of person to throw a baseball at me to harm me intentionally. He might have shown off his baseball talents by bouncing the ball off the ceiling in such a way so that it would come to rest gently on my podium. Maybe not? As his friend Scott demonstrated, even some things between friends remain unknown despite their familiarity.”
Teacher Sloan paused, his eyes roaming over the class.
“In turn, ladies and gentlemen, I do hurt all of you. I give you homework assignments that take time away from your families and your other pursuits. You experience fear and confusion as you attempt to complete my tasks, perhaps even headaches and in more extreme cases nausea. You feel stress and anxiety as you await my evaluation of your assignments. Yes, these tasks to bring you pain, and I do acknowledge that I cause that. For that, I apologize.”
Teacher Sloan strode up to the podium and turned to face the room.
“Pain is distinctly separate from respect. It is when pain, or any other action is combined with disrespect that problems occur. Pain, such as Scott accepts as he catches a pitch from Mr. Holt, is something he accepts because he respects Mr. Holt’s abilities, he respects Mr. Holt’s friendship and he respects his own desire to play baseball to the best of his ability. Perhaps on occasion, he disagrees on whether Mr. Holt should throw a fastball or a curveball, but he does respect Mr. Holt’s choice. Pain without respect is violence. Disagreement without respect is destruction. Destruction of prior respect, destruction of prior agreements, destruction of the potential for respect to be achieved. Without respect, humans become more unknown than strangers. They become dehumanized, and after a time, they are dead. It is that ability to give respect, to find value even if a person disagrees or hurts you, that can give a person pause before committing violence. Sometimes, ladies and gentleman, people ignore the pause and reach for their guns. Then, they return from war with faces blackened from soot and smiling mindlessly, not sure why they should be glad they just defended a patch of forest until it burned to the ground. Yet, as shown so aptly just now by Mr. Holt, sometimes the pause is just enough to stop him from committing violence, or for me to stop disrespecting him and reevaluate whether I am effectively communicating my disagreement appropriately. Of course, while pausing to reflect about the other party, we also pause to reflect on ourselves and whether we are justified in our actions. Thus, cultivate that respect in yourself, and it will aid you in respecting others.”
“In summation, ladies and gentlemen, honorifics have been used throughout history to show respect. Violence, from minor crimes, to violent wars up to and including The Split, have also occurred throughout history. Honorifics, just like other mechanisms, are more emphasized recently by culture in an attempt to create that pause, that chance that relations won’t deteriorate into violence. We just have too many weapons and too few people to go through that again. I, for one, don’t want to die, and I trust, neither do any of you. As a final addendum, I do respect the game of baseball and know that even if I was still an active player, Mr. Holt’s talents are far superior to mine. I also apologize for suggesting a lapse in Mr. Holt’s character or abilities by implying that hitting the Arlington batter was violent. Even though I dramatized the incident and my argument in an attempt to teach this class, I knew throughout my little diatribe that Mr. Holt had an accident, nothing more. In addition, I apologize to Mr. Holt, to Scott and to the entire class for causing you stress and pain in the last year. I can merely hope that through your struggles, you all learn enough so that you do not repeat my generation’s mistakes.”
Teacher Sloan tapped the button, allowing the comps to turn back on.
“Your assignment for tomorrow is a discourse on how to deal with superiors who you think are not respecting you. Class dismissed.”
Those of you who know me know that I have talked about a science fiction baseball novel that I was writing. It’s an odd kind of genre actually and there hasn’t been a whole lot of work put into it. I’ve written about 50,000 words and as this is a baseball themed blog that’s already seen some opinion articles, some analysis and a wee bit of comedy, I thought I would give you a taste by posting the first chapter of my work. Feel free to send me feedback and let me know what you think. You can also subscribe to get future updates to this story and to other posts in the BergstromBlogs network.
Nolan Anthony Holt stood on the mound, his right cheek distended from a wad of stored bubble gum. Twenty-eight point nine degrees and sunny with no breeze and a few puffy white clouds for effect. The scoreboard read Wheaton: 2, Aurora: 0, framed by the weather dome’s projection of a perfect blue sky. The crowd hollered encouragement: to him, or to the batter, and all for the hope of their chosen team extending their regular season into the playoffs. Many people had their right arm raised in front of them, a salute of light blue lights, recording the moment with their comps for posterity. Holt stared in to his catcher, Scott, and nodded. The pristine white “W” displayed on LED on the front of his cap shimmered from the reflection of the stadium’s lights. Wisps of blond hair flailed out beneath the black baseball cap as Holt rocked back into his windup and pivoted his ankle. His right arm loaded with tension, and then released as he strode towards home. The batter’s swing was two seconds too late. Holt threw his glove up into the air and hollered. By the time the glove hit the ground, he had been mobbed by his teammates. Travis Scott led the charge, tossing aside his catcher’s mitt as he raced to the mound. Scott hollered as he hoisted Holt onto his shoulders. He kept one arm wrapped around Holt’s leg, the other Coach MacKlain beamed at Holt, then embraced him as the celebration progressed off the field.
Scott slapped Holt on the back as the procession neared the dugout, “You windmilled them Nolan! Swing and miss all night long!”
Ogden Redman applauded at the entrance to the dugout, dressed in a slick pair of slacks, purple business shirt and a black tie. The agent extended his hand to Holt as he entered the dugout. Holt slipped out from the arm Coach MacKlain had draped over his shoulders and shook Redman’s hand..
“Very nice job, Nolan.”, Redman pumped his arm gently as he shook Holt’s hand.
“Thank you, sir.”
Redman grinned, “I’m only eight years older than you, Mr. Holt. You’re the one on top of the world, right now. The best ever, even before The Split. It should be me calling you ‘sir’.”
“I know, sir. But I’m not in the majors yet, and still, you have helped me a lot.”, Holt beamed, flashing immaculate teeth.
Redman shook his head, “Nah, anyone who plays like you would get attention even without an agent. I just make sure they behave.”
“Ok, ok. I get the idea.”
“Nolan’s a splitter for that kind of stuff” Scott beamed, standing just behind Holt.
“I’ve gathered that, Mr. Scott.” Redman looked down at Scott, “Can you please excuse us, Mr. Scott? Mr. Holt and I have some business to discuss.”
“Yes, sir.” Scott piped, then walked down to the far end of the dugout to strip off his gear.
Redman turned towards Holt, “Anyway, Nolan, the scouts are here to facemeet you. Craig Dunbar is leading the cadre from Seattle, Jay Olensky and his people from the Portland Roses, Thomas DeHaven and the rest from Chicago… Pretty much every team placed a representative here, but those are the ones who matter most to you.”
“Every team, sir? Even though I’ve only comped with a few?” Holt looked upwards, over the dugout, to see the fifty or so grown men looking at him eagerly. Many of them held up their comps, the blue lights unblinkingly recording him. “I don’t get it.”
Redman spoke, “Holt, just because they can’t draft you doesn’t mean they aren’t baseball fans.”
Holt stepped down into the dugout and put his right arm through the sleeve of his jacket, then grabbed a barbell. His right hand dipped into the jacket pocket, extracting a baseball. He sat down on the bench and started doing curls with his left arm. The fingers of his right hand spiraled the ball in his palm as he changed between pitching grips. Holt’s eyes closed slightly as he worked.
“Mr. Redman, I wish Chicago had a shot. Closer to mom and dad, and all.”
Coach MacKlain sat down next to Holt and unzipped his jacket. Redman tucked his hands into his front pockets and looked at Holt. “They won the World Series last year, so they pick last. There’s no way you last that long in this year’s draft and I don’t think the other teams will trade their picks to Chicago out of spite. Seattle has first dibs anyway and they want you.”
“So, Seattle or college or both.”
“Well, you can take your classes online during the season and move to the campus during the offseason. Your stock is so high that there’s no reason to play college ball to increase your visibility. You already have that. You also risk injury playing for free if you play for a college. Of course, playing professional baseball is different than college ball. There’s a lot more traveling and that can interfere with your classes. Also, if you decide on college, you can pick a local one so that you remain close to home.”
Holt froze his grip on the baseball. “Coach?”
MacKlain stirred on the bench, “Heck, I’d love it if you stayed. Besides your talent, you have a good head on your shoulders. You could teach these kids a thing or two about hard work. But, you can’t make the majors staying home.”
Holt placed the barbell softly on the bench and set his jaw. “You’re right, Coach.”
MacKlain rose from the bench and looked over Holt, “I’ll see you on the bus.”
MacKlain pulled his outdoor suit off a peg and walked over to the scanner near the dugout exit. After MacKlain he kicked off his cleats and stepped into the suit, he looked over his shoulder to see Holt standing in front of the dugout, smiling at the eager, cheering scouts.
“Blacknosers”, MacKlain mumbled to himself. Yet, he still smiled as Holt waved his right arm at the crowd. Then, the chatter cut off as MacKlain sealed the visor of his suit shut.