This excerpt from The Mighty Roman Baseball Blastshows what homers are all about.
In this excerpt adapted from the novel The Mighty Roman Baseball Blast, Roman Meister, a gargantuan former minor-league home run champ and manager of the indy league San Carlos Coyotes, takes bat in hand to put on a show for his eighteen-year-old charges …
Roman was from a military family, and he ran practices with military precision: every last drill was timed to the minute, and nobody ever stood stood around idle. Our coach, Pat, the perfect second in command with his insurance company office manager’s skill set, herded players from drill to drill in response to commands that the gargantuan Roman conveyed with a curt nod or a flick of the wrist. Roman would take the high ground atop the dugout or up in the stands to observe our drills, venturing down onto the field mainly for those drills that required his bat: a huge, rutted wooden club weighing thirty-five ounces. The bat dated back to his minor league days and was engraved with the thick burned–in block letters: “THOR”. Despite THOR’s great heft, Roman handled the bat with the ease of Paul Bunyan wielding his axe, deftly slamming worm–burning grounders and sizzling liners taunting inches beyond the reach of sweating Coyotes. And THOR was a jealous thunder god: for on the third day of practice, when Pat raised his little bat to knock grounders to the infielders—the first time he had presumed to discharge this task—Roman raised his huge hand to stop the usurper, rebuked him with a faint stab at humor, then took up THOR and slammed a round of scorching grounders which in many cases found our fielders’ chests and shins.
Near the end of the fourth day of practice, as a cooling breeze fanned our faces, Pat threw BP to a slender, left–handed fellow who manipulated his bat with a rapier touch to loft soft line drives into center and left with such stunning regularity that a grin of appreciation spread across his very own face. Roman was there, too, leaning against the cage and squinting sourly at the loose–wristed batsman. I stood two feet from the man and noticed a white jagged line which looked like the imprinted seam of a baseball carved into his cheek amidst a cluster of red starbursts of broken capillaries. The batter rapped a neat two–hopper up the middle; Roman grunted with disdain, stepped out in front of the plate, and raised his hand to stop Pat from throwing.
“That’s enough excitement for one day, bub.” The guy twisted his face in anguish, but Roman brushed past him into the cage. After glancing about to be sure that all eyes were on him, he stepped into the left–handed batter’s box, rapped THOR on the outside corner of the plate, spread his feet and kicked into the dirt to create a rock–solid foundation for the massive granite sculpture that he was. Balanced now and owning the moment, he pointed the bat’s thick barrel at Pat. One finger: fastball. A hand held palm down over the plate: bring it in at the belt. None of us spoke as this semaphore was performed, and I thought of Babe Ruth, but cast the thought aside quickly since all the accounts I had ever read had portrayed The Babe as a joyous albeit oversized imp, while Roman looked as deadly serious as a sniper.
Pat, who was neither large nor deadly, stepped forward in the mincing fashion of the batting practice pitcher and tossed a pearl on a line towards the sweet, soft, gooey center of the plate. Roman whomped it; and the ball had left the limits of the infield on a glorious rising arc before the whoosh of his swing had even faded. We watched one and all the whiteness of the ball against the blue sky as it soared to its apex beyond the right field fence and descended into the farthest reaches of the dirt parking lot.
“Good air,” said Roman coyly as we gaped with admiration. “Ball carries well on days like this.” We buzzed with appreciation for Roman’s feat, and our spry second baseman celebrated the blast with a perfect series of bounding, springing forward flips that caught everyone’s attention. And when we looked back, Roman was gone. So we gathered the balls, collected the bases, dragged the infield, covered the mound, and performed the rest of our housekeeping chores with hearts lifted high by our manager’s might. We were still chattering about Roman’s blow as we lugged the gear towards the clubhouse, searching for the words to capture its grandeur.
“Light tower power,” Pat interjected, nailing it all the way down to the stud.
Jon Sindell is the author of the flash–fiction collection The Roadkill Collection(Big Table Publishing, 2014), the story collection Family Happiness (coming in 2015), and over seventy published short stories. Jon is a fulltime personal humanities tutor and a writing coach for business professionals. He lives in San Francisco with his wife and near fledglings, curates the San Francisco reading series Rolling Writers, and ends his bios with a thud.