Hero or goat, The Closer holds fans’ hearts in his hand.
Just in time for the close of the Major League Baseball Season. In this excerpt from The Mighty Roman Baseball Blast, Alfredo Disculpe—Spanish for “Excuse me!”—goes mano a mano with the opposition’s best hitter in an indy league matchup …
Bottom Of The Ninth, the game on the line. Our closer, the Dominican giant Alfredo Disculpe—the one over–nineteen player we are allowed under league rules, a man who has devolved from Double A prospect in the Dodgers organization to high A suspect for the Mariners to low A project for the Devil Rays to untamed reject in the Mexican League before landing finally at the sedimentary bottom of the food chain with us;—Alfredo Disculpe, who, because of his professional pedigree, rarely lowers the Times crossword or his English vocabulary–builder to talk to us because he has, broadly speaking, been with the Dodgers, Mariners, Devil Rays, Toreadors; Alfredo walks two batters right off. But that is no reason to panic! For this is his wont: “I need the pressure, hombres, to bring the high heat,” he has oft deigned to tell us. Fredo has pressure now, for here comes Rick Tanner, a tall, lean righty whom the Ranchers’ fans have dubbed “The Ranger” for his cowboy build and drooping mustache as black as boot polish, possessor of a wicked–fast bat which has launched six home runs in just sixteen games already. They’ve got nicknames, we’ve got nicknames—and El León, as Roman calls Disculpe to feed his voracious leonine pride, lifts one heavy leg, reaches his elephantine trunk of an arm back and fires a fastball—which Tanner sends screaming on a rising line down the left–field line to scatter smooching teens and rattle metal bleacher seats ten rows deep—but five feet foul.
El León flashes a gunfighter sneer: this is what he wants, this is what he needs. Roman, chain–chewing Tootsie Rolls and streaming brown fluid onto the dugout floor in disgust, whistles at Manny and mimes “curve!” with a sharp snap of the wrist. Manny puts down two fingers, indicates “low” with his mitt, and prayerfully mutters “Bajo, jefe, bajo!” But our león is no mujer! He shakes his head no as a sporting smile parts his lips, and Big Rick Tanner stares at him with sniper eyes and massages the strike zone with the back–and–forth stroke of his whip–thin bat. El León glows with inner light as his eyes burn with visions of last minute glory. He fills his chest with good country air, lifts his heavy leg, reaches back his gargantuan arm and whistles a screamer—which Tanner repels on a great soaring arc towards left–center field, up, up, and away, high over the fence, deep out into the parking lot, bounding into the water–trap surrounding the windmill of the hastily thrown–up six–hole miniature golf course just behind the lot. The Ranchers have won, but Alfredo Disculpe has not been defeated: he still possesses his leonine pride, and he smiles at Big Rick sailing around the bases as if to say, “You got me this time, hombre, but someday we shall meet again.”
Roman stares at his loser in shock and dismay.
Excerpt from The Mighty Roman Baseball Blast used by permission from the author.
Top Photo: Paul L Dineen/Flickr
Altered by JJ Vincent
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