Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Story Twenty Eight: By the Numbers

Today is the last day of November... wow, that was fast. Today's story is another piece of something larger. I believe that baseball is one of those things that has something for everyone, it's just a matter of finding that something.


If there was one thing that Shannon Connor didn’t understand, it was baseball. She was a nerdy kid who preferred to be curled up in a corner with a book than playing or watching sports. Her brother, Sean, was the sports kid. Their dad wasn’t normally the type of guy to insist she come to a game, so when he did, she knew better than to whine or argue. It was his way of “bonding” with his kids, taking them to at least one game a year.

As they sat in the corner behind third base, she didn’t say much. Her father bought her a program and spent the beginning of the game explaining how the scoring system worked and then left her to amuse herself recording plays while he discussed the intricacies of the game with Sean.

Looking up across the park, she saw a series of numbers tacked up on the wall.

“Dad, what are those there for?”

“Those are retired numbers. They were numbers worn by great players on the team and no on else will wear that number again out of respect for the men that retired.

“Why is that one blue?”

“The blue number is Dodger blue in honor of Jackie Robinson, the player that broke the color barrier in baseball when he stepped on the field in 1947 with the Dodgers. Branch Rickey, the team’s owner, spent years preparing Robinson and members of the team and staff for that day.”

“But if he was a Dodger, why is his number retired at Fenway?”

“Because his number was retired by all of Major League Baseball. So no team uses the number 42.”

“With the exception of Mariano Rivera of the Yankees,” Sean piped up. “Figures a freakin’ Yankee would wear that number.”
Shannon asked her dad, “Why are the numbers retired?”

“Well,” he said, “if a player was with the Sox for at least 10 years and was elected to the Hall of Fame, then the team may decide to retire a number.”

“Who wore the other numbers, other than Jackie Robinson, Dad?” Shannon asked.

“Let’s see number one is Bobby Doerr. He played from 1937 through 1951 except for a couple of years he took off for the war. Number four is Joe Cronin who played for the Sox. He was a league president and a manager after he retired. Number six is Johnny Pesky. Do I need to tell you about him?

”He’s the old guy, right?”

“He is, but he’s more than that. He’s the heart and soul of the team. He’s the institutional memory and has been part of the team since 1940 when he was initially signed.”

She nodded at that one.

“Numbers eight and nine are Yaz and Ted Williams.”

“Yaz is the guy you have a photo of at home from the 60’s and Ted Williams was the last one to hit over 400.”

“Right. But remember, Yaz was the last guy to win the triple crown in baseball, hit 400 home runs and 3,000 hits. He won 7 gold gloves and had amazing fielding accomplishments as well.”

“I know 14 is Jim Rice, the guy who’s on TV before the games.”

“He was an amazing player. I used to love coming to games with my dad to watch his swing when I was a kid. Do you know number 27?”

She shrugged.

“Carlton ‘Pudge’ Fisk.”

“The guy who danced down the line waving at the baseball.”

“Oh it was more than that. That was the end of one of the best World Series games ever. It is an iconic moment in baseball history.”

“While this stuff is cool, why are you telling me this?”

“Because your brother loves the game. You love history. If you learn the history of the team, then you’ll understand why this team is so important to this community and to so many people the world over. It’s not just the baseball piece, it’s much, much more than that. I just gave you a bunch of facts but they don’t begin to cover what those things mean.”

“Why should I care?”

“Why should you care about the Battle of Bunker’s Hill? Why should you care about the attack on Pearl Harbor? Why should you care about Gettysburg?”

“Because they’re a part of the formation of this country and the moral directions this country took.”

“The Red Sox are a great unifier in Boston. You guys look at those numbers up there and they sort of mean something. To me, I look up there and I see memories. I remember a lot of the excitement and hope I felt when I was your age.”
Shannon shrugged.

“Hey Doofus,” Sean said poking his sister, “there’s actually stuff you could study instead of watch. That should make you happy.”

Glaring at her brother, she turned her attention back to the program and the notes she was scribbling on the center pages. Her father looked too and then reached over to take it from her.

“Let me take a look here…. So what does this mean?” he asked as certain things caught his attention.

“That was where this guy struck out and the catcher threw that guy out as part of the same action. This is where that guy slide into the second baseman so he couldn’t throw out the guy at first. That also happened here,” she indicated an earlier inning, “and over here,” she said turning the page showing the Red Sox stats she was keeping.”

“This is amazing,” her father said. “This is much more than I taught you.”

“Well it’s more than what you told me. It’s clear that, while the scoreboard called this a sacrifice,” she indicated a frame, “it really wasn’t. It was scored that way because he flew out and he scored but the intention wasn’t to sacrifice himself for the run. He wanted to either hit it into the bull pen or deep enough for a double.”

“How did you know he wasn’t going for the sac?” Sean asked. “It’s not like you really understand the game.”

She watched the field a bit more.

“See, right there!” She pointed at the field. “The guy at the plate right now. Look at how he just shifted where he’s looking. He’s going to try and get a single to move the guy on second over to third. Now that’s intending to sacrifice yourself for the runner.”

Sure enough, the crack of the bat and drive up the first base side was a clean, clear hit that moved the runner along as a close play at first left the player safe on base by a step.

“How did you see that?” Sean was dumbfounded by his sister.

Shannon shrugged.

“I just read the field.”

“People study this stuff their whole lives and you figure it out the day dad teaches you to keep score?”

“It’s the way I see stuff. You see things like dad talking about the beauty of Jim Rice’s swing. I see things this way.”

“So,” their dad asked, “if you saw vintage footage of Jim Rice, you’d be able to see what?”

“I don’t know. I will say this, I would want to think about why no one has been able to hit over 400 since Ted Williams did. I’d study changes to the game. Is it the design of parks now versus then? Perhaps they’ve changed the ball or the bat. Maybe it’s more to do with how people are taught to hit. It’s worth analyzing.”

“But you don’t like baseball,” Sean stammered.

“But I like analyzing things. I like looking at how things work. I like the history of things. Dad gave me a two minute tour of the retired numbers. I think I’d like to know more about Jackie Robinson because I suspect he changed this country more than people realize. We learn about Dr. King in school, but his stuff happened after that. So I would ask the question, where people more open to the civil rights movement because they were now used to seeing black players on their ball fields? Were they more sympathetic to the frustrations of segregation if their favorite ball players couldn’t eat or stay in certain places?”
Their father just looked at her in amazement.

“I don’t get it,” he finally said. “I know your mom and I don’t think that way so why do you?”

She shrugged.

“I just do. But I wouldn’t say you don’t think that way. It’s like when there’s something wrong with the car, the first thing you do is listen then you figure it out from there. When mom is cooking things, she tastes things and adjusts from there. Isn’t it the same thing? Aren’t you guys analyzing things, noting what is or isn’t there and then running through possible solutions? I do the same thing but I like doing it with history and stuff.”

“So,” Sean said, “you’re saying dad and I look at the beauty of the game and you look at the nuts and bolts of it.”

“I guess so.”


“Interesting,” her father said as he looked at her. She turned her attention back to the field and began to record what she saw on the paper with numbers, squiggles and notes. “I think we should go over to the bookstore in Kenmore Square before we go home.”

“Why? Can’t we go to the souvenir store instead?” Sean whined.

“I think your sister needs a good book on the history of the Red Sox.”

“That could be interesting,” she acknowledged. “Not as interesting as how the colonists managed to continually assemble, break down and move and reassemble a printing press so they could print handbills without being caught during the Revolutionary War, but it could be a pretty cool piece of information about the history.”

Her dad smiled. He had never fully understood his daughter before, but now that he was seeing how her mind worked, maybe he could find a way to connect with her.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Story Twenty Seven: Fenway South

Sox fans tend to refer to Camden Yards in Baltimore as Fenway South. You can get a cheap flight or bus ticket to Baltimore and great seat at Camden for about the same price as a good seat in Fenway. Is it any wonder that, with some frequent flyer miles or hotel reward points, you can have a great weekend trip to see your team and maybe hop the MARC into DC for some sight seeing? We've done it and we're not alone. In fact, it was kind of strange to be at the player's gate in Baltimore and run into someone I knew from home. They were visiting relatives for the Easter holiday over school vacation week. We were in DC visiting family during school vacation week and our paths crossed at a Sox game in Baltimore.

What about people going the other way? People who grew up in Baltimore during the hey day of the Orioles and their domination of the AL East that came to Boston for college or work and never left? We often talk about the Sox/Yanks mixed marriages, but there have to be Sox/O's and other mixed marriages in Red Sox Nation. While I have pretty much brought my husband to the light so that I know he means the Red Sox instead of the Yanks when he says, "How are we doing?" as he walks in during a game, do any of us in these mixed marriages ever stop trying to convince the person we love to change on this particular subject? What do we, as Sox fans, know about other teams cultures and traditions?

I was once asked to write an essay for "Seasons of Hartford" magazine about our mixed marriage. I focused the summer my son became a Yankees fan. He came around pretty quickly, but I did have to remind myself that I loved my husband and I loved my son... no matter what faults and bad habits they may have.

So here is a picture of battle of that fight to change.


Walking across the parking lot, Fred and his mom linked arms and began singing.

“Tessie, “Nuf Ced” MacGreevey shouted, we’re not here to mess around. Boston you know we love you madly hear the crowd roar to your sound. Don’t blame us if we ever doubt you, you know we couldn’t live without you. Tessie, you are the only, only, oh ohn-ly…”

“Seriously you two, cut it out,” Ellis said. Ellis was Fred’s step-dad, his mom’s second husband, and a life-long Orioles fan. While they were in Baltimore for Passover with his parents, they decided to catch the Red Sox versus the Orioles at Camden Yards.

“I can’t help it if my mom married a guy with bad taste in baseball teams,” Fred called out over his shoulder. “If you get with the program, you can join the light side.”

Fred and his mom laughed while Ellis trailed behind. They were in their gray Red Sox away jerseys. Fred wore his Youkilis jersey and his mom wore her Varitek one. Ellis had on an Orioles jersey with “Ripken” across the back.

Ellis trailed behind a little as the two danced in front of him singing all of the song “Tessie,” the Dropkick Murphy anthem that Sox fans felt helped propel the team to its first World Series victory in 86 years. He enjoyed seeing the two of them so happy.

“Come on El,” mom called out, “join us in the chorus.”

He caught up with them, smiling.

“I’ll walk with you but I won’t sing.”

“Poop,” mom called him.

“Good thing I love you two,” he said, “or you’d have to buy your own tickets to the game.”

“Thanks for the tickets,” Fred quickly said.

“You can thank me by not singing.”

“Ain’t gonna happen,” he replied.

Fred was amazed at how many Red Sox shirts and caps he saw on people entering the park. His mom had taken him to a couple of away games before when visiting. There were always folks representing Red Sox nation, but nothing like what he was seeing in Baltimore.

Looking around, Fred noticed the way the walkways were laid out, the vendor stands, the brightness of the whole concourse area was similar to what McCoy stadium in Pawtucket was like. It was comfortable and familiar, but as they entered the stadium bowl, Fred was struck by how similar it was to Fenway without the Green Monster.

“So if you took Fenway and McCoy and merged them together, you’d have Camden Yards.”

“Not exactly,” Ellis replied. “The decks and things are more like modern parks but you’re right in that they really wanted to get an intimate feel like you get at a place like Fenway.”

“Is this the Red Sox seating area?” Fred asked as they looked around. Almost everyone around them was wearing Red Sox gear in the close to sold out crowd.

“Nice try my friend, I suspect there are a lot of folks, like us, in the area for school vacation, the holidays and everything else. Some folks will come down from Boston and it’s a chance for people in the general area who originally came from Boston to catch their team. It’s a good location, just like Tampa Bay in the south, for expat Bostonians to catch a game.”

“Believe what you want, the truth is this is Fenway South and your best player retired before this guy was born,” mom chimed in. “Trust me, come to the side of goodness and light. We have cookies.”

“Yeah, I’ll stick with the dark side, we have beer.”

“No you have watered down hops. We have real beer like Sam Adams and Wachusett.”

They laughed.

“Hey Ellis, how come your parents didn’t come to the game with us? Isn’t your dad an O’s fan?”

“Sort of. He hasn’t been to a game in years and I suspect the thought of sitting in the middle of a bunch of Red Sox fans doesn’t really excite him all that much. In fact, the last game he went to was back when Cal Ripken, Jr. was still playing.”

“I like that book he gave me by Ripken, ‘The Ripken Way.’ I was reading it before I went to sleep last night. It was pretty cool about how hard he worked and stuff to the point that his own dad was surprised at what he learned and could do. I read like half of it already.”

“Be sure to tell him that, it will make him happy to hear you’re enjoying it.”

“Maybe we can go to the Ripken Museum together. That would be kind of cool I think.”

Ellis smiled. Fred was a good kid. His mother had done a good job raising him.

“Hey Fred, what are the chances I could get you to wear a Roberts shirt?”

“Slim to none.”

“Can’t blame a man for trying.”

“Maybe not, but she’d kill you if you bought me one.”

“Not if he bought you one Fred. Don’t be so dramatic. I’d kill the two of you if you wore it. In fact, how about I get you a Pedroia shirt to wear so you can stop embarrassing me with that damn Ripken shirt?”

Ellis shook his head.

“Not gonna happen my love.”

“Can’t blame a girl for trying.”

“How about a wager?” Fred asked.

“Since when do you make wagers?”

“Not me mom, I mean between the two of you. If the Sox win, Ellis has to wear a Pedroia shirt. If the O’s win, then you have to wear a Roberts shirt.”

“I think I could do that,” his mom said, “what about you chicken boy?”

“Oh it’s on like Donkey Kong!”

The game was a good one, the score was tight and both teams played hard. It was weird for Teddy to have the Sox leading off instead of the O’s, but he was enjoying himself. If it weren’t for the “Let’s go O’s” chants and the music playing for the O’s instead of the Sox, he would have sworn he was at Fenway.

“So when you were a kid, did your dad take you here for games?”

“Nah, the place opened in 1992. We used to go to games in Memorial Stadium, which was kind of a dump. You’ll see we have our traditions too. Just like they play ‘Sweet Caroline’ for the 8th inning at Fenway, we have ‘Thank G-d I’m a Country Boy’ during the 7th inning.”

“Seriously, you’re proud of a John Denver song for your tradition?” mom interjected.

“Says the woman who gets psyched over a Neil Diamond song.”

“Hey he was sexy once, a word you’ll never hear used in describing John Denver.”

“Perhaps, but I do hear the words ‘old’ and ‘lame’ when it comes to Neil Diamond.”

“Burn!” Fred said.

“Enough from the peanut gallery.”

“We also do the whole ‘O’ thing during the Star Spangled Banner and a lot of the O chants instead of the clapping you do for the Red Sox.”

“Interesting,” Fred said. He watched the game for a little then said, “You know what’s too bad?”

“What?” Ellis asked.

“That announcers get to go to all the parks but they don’t talk about this kind of stuff. I think that if I were ever an announcer, I’d want to let fans know that other teams have their cultures and traditions. It kind of makes me feel like Orioles fans are kind of cool. I mean yeah their team has sort of sucked for 30 years, but they’re still into them with stuff like the songs and chants. That’s worth something.”

“Kind of like the Red Sox sucked for as long as they did and yet the fans still had their traditions and stuff.”

“Just like that,” Fred said. “It would be nice if people knew that then maybe it would be a lot less fighting about team stuff and more like, ‘Hey it’s cool you like your team, it’s cool that we all love baseball so much that we get into our teams like that.’”

“I think you’re onto something there Fred.”

“I think so too,” Fred said. “And you would think Sox and Orioles fans would have a little bit more in common since the guys who own the Sox used to own the O’s.”

“You would think.”

“Well, maybe one day.”


“When I get older, I think I want to write books and stuff about baseball traditions. It could be a lot of fun.”

“I like that idea,” his mom said.

“Tell you what sport, we’ll start this summer by going to the Hall of Fame during vacation and lets see what you can learn there.”

“Can we mom?”

“Like I’m going to say no to Cooperstown? Of course we’ll go.”


In the end, the Sox pulled it out and they stopped at the gift shop on the way out to buy a Pedroia shirt for Ellis.

“My father may disown me over this,” he said putting on the Pedroia shirt as they headed back across the parking lot.

“It was a good bet.”

“I suppose. I guess taking the two of you to the Ripken museum may save the day for me.”

“Since you’re wearing the shirt,” Fred said, he looked at his mom and started, “Don’t blame us if we ever doubt you, you know we couldn’t live without you…”

Ellis looked at his family and smiled, joining in with them he sang, “Tessie, you are my only, only, oh - ohnly…”

Monday, November 28, 2011

Story Twenty Six: The Final Farewell

At yesterday's write in, a friend told me the story of a woman she knew from her neighborhood in New Jersey that had ties to the Yankees. She was such a true and loyal fan, that when she died, the people she knew found a way to scatter her ashes at the old Yankee Stadium even though such things are virtually impossible.

I started thinking about how many loyal sports fans would want to be scattered in the one place that felt the most comfortable to them. What would be the kind of plan a kid would do to honor the wish of someone they loved?


“So how are we going to do this?”

“Carefully chuckle head. Very, very carefully.”

Brandon hoped that no one would look to carefully at the small plastic bag at the bottom of his backpack under his baseball glove. He knew his older brother had a similar one stuffed in his bag as well. Inside were the ashes of their great grandfather who had helped raise them.

At 80 Pop Pop was still a picture of health. He had always told the boys he wouldn’t stop moving until “the day the good Lord sees fit to call me home.” He didn't run away to Florida to hide like a lot of other men his age and he didn't hide away after he lost the "women of my dreams," their Nana. When their folks split up, Pop Pop convinced their mom to move in with him and was just as much a part of their lives as any parent. Pop Pop didn’t stop for anything and had just run the Boston Marathon as a bandit a little more than a month earlier. He was training for a triathlon and, on an easy 20 mile bike ride, an SUV veered and hit him. The driver had been drunk and the boys had to go to court this week to give victim impact statements before the judge pronounced the sentence.

For Brandon, it didn’t matter what the sentence was. It wouldn’t bring back Pop Pop so anything the guy got for drinking in the afternoon was pointless. His mother had said that was the perfect thing to say to the judge.

At least it was better than the wake and funeral. People were trying to comfort him when they said things like, “He didn’t feel a thing…” and “at least he went quickly and doing something he loved.” The words rang hollow for Brandon. His Pop Pop had been there for him. He had given him his first glove, taught him how to throw and told him that he would have a swing for Fenway one day but to play for the love of the game while he was young and could.

If anyone defined what it was to be a Red Sox fan, it was Pop Pop. He had suffered through it all, the bad years, the worse years, the highs and lows. He had told Brandon that he knew his parents marriage was doomed because his dad proposed to his mother at game four of the 1999 playoffs between the Sox and the Yankees. The one where Chuck Knoblauch supposedly tagged out Jose Offerman causing a riot. Mild mannered Jimy Williams flipped his cap. Fans pelted the field with garbage and it was horrible, horrible moment in Red Sox history.

“Anyone who proposed to a girl that day in the park had a marriage doomed from the start,” he’d tell Brandon.

In 2004, Pop Pop convinced their mom to let them stay up for game four against the Cardinals.

“History is going to be made tonight Maura. Let the boys have one night. I kept you up to watch Neil Armstrong land on the moon at that age, let them stay up for this.”

She wasn’t as convinced. After being raised as a Sox fan herself, she knew the Sox could still blow it, and probably would, but she listened to her grandfather and let the boys stay up. In that moment when Jason Varitek charged the mound to catch an excited Keith Foulke, they were jumping up and down screaming in joy in their living room.

“I told you Mo! I told you this was the night! I can die a happy man now and if I do, then make sure you scatter me on the outfield where I can always be a part of the action.”

They all celebrated with root beer and popcorn until the boys fell asleep and it was Pop Pop that carried them into bed and tucked them in. Brandon remembered opening his eyes as Pop Pop kissed his forehead and pulling the covers up around him.
It was that moment in time that Brandon chose to go back to whenever he thought about Pop Pop in the past couple of weeks. Today he and Brandon were supposed to come to their first game of the season. Instead it was his brother Andy that brought him to the game and Brandon knew he had no choice, he had to fulfill Pop pop’s wish from that night.

When he shared the plan with Andy, Andy thought he was nuts.

“Seriously Brandon. What if we end up in a ‘Big Lebowski’ situation?”

“I think we’d be smart enough to make sure the wind was blowing in before we let go.”

“If we get caught, we’ll get tossed out of there.”

“So we won’t get caught. We can do it during batting practice when people are still coming in and it doesn’t matter where you are. We’ll hang out by Pesky’s Pole and, when the breeze is right, we’ll just sort of let him go.”
Andy wasn’t fully convinced, but Brandon had worked on him until he not only agreed but had actually began to work out details.

“We can only scatter a little bit, sort of like how they only sent a little bit of Carl Sagan and Gene Rodenberry into space. That way mom won’t know and we’ve got a better chance of making it happen.”

So they moved stealthily through the house that morning, just scooping a few spoonfuls of their great grandfather into zippered snack bags and burying them deep into their backpacks in hope security wouldn’t notice. It was exciting and they had giggled and spoke in whispered conspiratorial tones until they found themselves standing in front of the gates on Yawkey Way.

“What if they catch us?” Brandon suddenly gulped.

“It was your idea pinhead, so it better work.”

The old Andy was back. The older brother who had no real use for his little brother - except maybe as a punching bag. Gone was the co-conspirator from the past week as they approached the gate.

The bored guard made a cursory glance into their backpacks before affixing the neon band with the Red Sox logo on it to indicate they were cleared to go in the park.

Containing their excitement, they waited until they made it into the crowd on Yawkey Way before high-fiving each other. They made their way to the right field box seats and elbowed their way next to the pole.

Brandon kept a close eye on the flag over the press box. Right now it hung limply as not even a breeze blew in park. On the field there were plenty of players doing warm ups. Some were batting, some were throwing the balls around and still others were doing wind sprints and stretching.

“Pop Pop,” Brandon whispered, “help us out here.”

He took the bag from his backpack and gently elbowed his brother indicating he should do the same. Just as they got the bags out, a breeze began to pick up blowing in the right direction. With a smile, Brandon and Andy held the bags over the wall and gave a shake. The breeze caught the ashes, carrying them into the right field grass and a bit beyond.

The two boys stood there watching the ashes dance a bit on the wind towards the left field grass with a smile on their faces and a tear in their eye.

“Thanks for everything Pop Pop,” Andy whispered. “I’m going to miss you.”

He put his arm around his brother’s shoulders as they stood transfixed watching little motes still flutter on the breeze around various players as they landed.

“Do you think Pop Pop is watching?” Andy asked.

“I think so,” Brandon responded as the wind died again.

“It was a good idea.”

“Thanks. We wouldn’t have been able to pull it off without your planning.”

“I know.”


They both laughed as they began to feel people pushing them from behind who wanted to leave their names on Pesky’s Pole.

“Let’s head down to canvas alley and see if we can get an autograph,” Andy suggested.

As they made their way back up the aisle, Brandon felt a breeze on his forehead. Again he was brought back to October 27, 2004 when the Sox won their first series in 86 years. The breeze felt a little like the kiss his Pop Pop gave him that night.


“What is it squirt?”

“Do you think it will ever stop hurting when you think about Pop Pop?”

They walked a few steps in silence.

“I think that eventually it will, especially as we remember the good stuff. You know, the ‘remember when Pop Pop said…” or ‘remember when Pop Pop caught us…’ sort of stuff. I don’t think he’d want us to feel sad when we think of him. I mean all we pretty much did was laugh when we were with him.”

“That’s true. I know one thing, I’m not going to tell mom about this.”

“Well, I might in like 20 years or something when she can’t punish us any more.”

“Yeah, maybe then. But until then, we better not say anything to her.”

“Another good idea chucklehead,” Andy agreed.

“Who knows, maybe we’ll win another World Series with Pop Pop out there to help.”

“Wouldn’t that be sweet?”

“It certainly would Andy, it certainly would.”

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Story Twenty Five: Theories

As the month winds down, the prompts I've tried avoiding need to be looked at again. Today's pick: someone with a fingernail disease throws a beer to Jacoby Ellsbury from the Green Monster seats. I decided that today I needed to give a nod to Sr. Johnette of blessed memory and my mentor in high school. She used to say "Not me Lord, the students you gave me," all the time and kept encouraging me to write, write and write some more.

I don't understand the obsession these kids have with spilled, falling or otherwise flying beer, but there it is. So here's today's theory about flying beer.


“It would never happen.”

“I’m telling you,” Hannah insisted, “that it could happen. It may be unlikely, but it could happen.”

Jerry shook his head.

“It would never happen. End of discussion.”

“What are you two bickering about this time?”

“Mom, I’m saying that if someone dropped a beer from here,” Jerry indicated the seats on the top of the left field wall, known as the Green Monster, where they were sitting, “that Jacoby Ellsbury could pick it up and have a cold one on a hot day.”

“I’m saying it wouldn’t happen,” Hannah rebutted. “Between the physics of dropping the cup, and the reality that a ball player just wouldn’t drink a beer falling out of the sky, even if he wanted a cold one.”

“I’m saying that nothing goes off the wall from these seats after every thing I went through to get them,” their mother stated, “because we would be escorted out of the park faster than I could ground you for life. Capice?”

“I’m not saying I’d drop one off the wall, even if I could buy a beer… which I can’t because I’m only eleven and can’t buy a beer for another ten years. I’m just saying that if someone wanted to buy a beer for Jacoby Ellsbury that you could do it by just dropping it down to the field for him.”

“I’m saying that, even if you did that, since Ellsbury plays center and not left field that the efforts would be pointless.”

Their mother rolled her eyes.

“What did I do to deserve this?” their mother cast her eyes skyward, “Not me, the children you gave me.”

It was something she said a lot.

“Why is it the good Lord on high thought it would be good idea to give me both of you?” she sighed. Her smile reminded them that she wasn’t serious when she said these things.

“Aw ma,” Jerry sighed, “what would you do without us?”

“Yeah,” Hannah interlaced her fingers under her chin and batted her eyes at her mother, “your life would be so boring with out us.”

“The curse of living in interesting times,” her mother sighed. “At least you both like baseball, unlike some other people we know.”

“Speaking of which, where’s dad?”

“Working. Of course it’s probably a good thing given where his baseball loyalties lie.”

“Mom,” Jerry gave her his serious look, “he can’t help it. He was born and raised in New York. Had nana and grampy raised him properly, he would have been a Red Sox fan behind enemy lines.”

“Yeah and then he would have had a secret shrine to Wade Boggs in his closet where his friends couldn’t see it while pretending to like the Yankees. So when he went to MIT it would have been, ‘Well it is the best engineering school in the country…’ so they wouldn’t know he was coming here to finally live out his destiny as a true believer.”

“No such luck, but we love your father for the man that he is and hope that he will eventually see the light.”

“These are wicked good seats mom,” Jerry said.

“Um yeah. I would hope so given how hard they are to get.”

“I can see the whole park from here.”

“I don’t know,” Hannah said. “I think I like the first base grandstands better.”

“Seriously? Look at this view. Besides, you can’t catch home run balls in the first base grandstands.”

“But you can catch foul balls.”

“Not the same thing.”

“You’re right. It’s better.”

“Nuh uh.”

“Yeah uh.”

“Both of you stop it.”

The sat for a minute and watched the players on the field.

“What if the person dropping the beer to Ellsbury had a finger nail fungus but didn’t know and somehow infected the cup of beer. Then, when Ells had the beer, he got the fungus and his fingernails started falling off?” Jerry asked.

“OK, again given it’s impossible to do that and it would be impossible to not know you’d have something wrong with your finger nails like that. But, given your stupid single minded obsession here, let’s say someone drops a beer to Ellsbury and he drinks it, it would have to be someone who wanted to sabotage the Sox in general and Ellsbury in specific. Which is, again, why I maintain that Ellsbury wouldn’t drink a beer that someone dropped on him from the stands.”

“OK, so he doesn’t drink it, but the guy launches it so it hits him to make sure he gets the finger nail infection, thus ruining the rest of the Sox season.”

Hannah thought for a moment.

“Yeah, I guess that would work. What do you think mom?”

“I think that you guys are focused on the wrong guy.”

“What do you mean?”

“If I wanted to take down the team, I’d either take out Cap’n Tek, since he’s the heart and soul of the team, or I’d take out Dustin Pedroia since he’s the hustle and drive of the team.”

Jerry thought for a moment.

“I could see that. Maybe I’d pull a Tonya Harding and take out his knees.”

“Yeah, age is doing that to him without the police baton,” Hannah snorted.

Her mother shot her a look.

“Don’t diss the Cap’n in front of your mother.”

“Pedroia you can’t keep down,” Jerry noted watching the player make an impossible dive to catch a line drive and make a play robbing the other team of a hit. He jumped up and cheered with the rest of the crowd.

“Two words,” said Hannah, “bore and ing. Pedey always makes plays like that. It’s more exciting when he doesn’t. Oh look, there’s Pedey making a leap ten feet in the air robbing Robbie Cano of a homer. Oh, Pedey’s a dirt dog doing a triple somersault, back handspring and double twisting spiral to make an unassisted triple play. Oh look there’s Pedey lighting up the Boston sky with a laser show that let’s all the SETI know that you don’t mess with Boston when you land to enslave the humans as part of your world domination. Now Kevin Youkilis, he’s the guy I’d take out.”

“To dinner,” Jerry laughed.

Hannah punched him in the arm.

“Seriously,” she said. “He’s the Greek god of walks dear brother. Hit him once, hit him twice, hit him a thousand times with a 90 mile an hour fast ball and he’ll get up and knock you down with his stink eye.”

“This is true,” said their mom. “Think about it, he’s the definition of success as being getting up one more time than you get knocked down. But still, Cap’n Tek is the man and anyone disagreeing with me can walk home.”

“From the Park or the T stop?”

“Both. For a month.”

“Woo Hoo Tek!” Jerry said.

“Cap’n Tek rules, go Tek!” Hannah replied.

“That’s what I like to hear.”

“So we’re agreed, Tek is the man and there’s no way to drop a beer to Jacoby Ellsbury from these seats - with or without a finger nail disease.”

“Agreed,” Hannah emphatically called out.

“I guess,” Jerry sighed. “Still…”

“Walking home…”

“I think that you’d have to do that from the centerfield bleachers and with the trajectory factor, the beer would spill and it wouldn’t make any difference if you wanted to take him out with a fingernail disease because it would be all over the field and warning track.”

“So we’re agreed?”

Jerry sighed, “Agreed.”

“Good, let’s watch the rest of the game.”

They spent the rest of the afternoon enjoying the game which was made sweeter with a Red Sox win. As they left the park and walked towards the T stop, Jerry thought for a moment.

“What if you were sitting in the field boxes and ended up with a ball player stealing your beer after going for a foul ball? I mean, think about it. You go over the wall into someone’s lap, steal a sip or two while you’re down and then pop back up and rejoin the game.”

“Not gonna happen,” Hannah stated. “You’re not going to risk drinking someone else’s beer that you don’t know. Not to mention the cameras on you and everything else.”

“I’m just saying it could happen.”

“I’m saying that it doesn’t work on any level.”

“Walking,” their mom sang.

“Fine,” Jerry muttered.

Their mom sighed, “Not me Lord, the children…”

“You gave me,” Hannah and Jerry finished in chorus.

They all laughed.

“Hey mom, thanks for taking us to the game today,” Hannah smiled.

“Yeah mom, thanks for taking us to the game,” Jerry added.

“Not a problem kiddos. It’s nice to have someone to go to the games with these days and I can’t think of two better people I’d rather spend the afternoon with than you two.”

“Me too mom,” Hannah said with hug.

“Whatever,” said Jerry before he laughed before adding, “me too.”

They followed the crowd onto the train platform and boarded the train back towards Framingham.

Jerry thought it had been a good day at the game, even if no one threw a beer to Jacoby Ellsbury.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Story Twenty Four: Duffy's Cliff

Today's prompt was a Japanese gymnast does a back flip off the Green Monster catching a ball.

I have to admit that watching "The Natural" as background noise when writing about baseball was interesting. I had read the original Malamud short story "To Chicago" years ago. It is the story where a young, innocent Roy Hobbs is discovered and on his way to Chicago with a scout to try out for the Cubs. Roy's naiive as, in the original story, he is a Hassidic Jews that has been sheltered in a religious community similar to the Amish that he choses to leave because of his love for baseball and his thoughts as he lies there feeling his life drain from him are questioning whether this is a Divine punishment.

To me, baseball and literature are something that go hand in hand. Whether it's the sad, tragic beauty of Malamud's perspective on the world or the lyrical beauty of self-discovery and transcendence in WP Kinsella's work, there's something about baseball and literature that seems to pair together like fine dining and a good wine.

this particular story doesn't hold a dying candle stub to Malamud's tragic inner journey of questioning whether or not we should forgo the use of Divine gifts, I realized I wanted to build a sweetness into a kid that might cause many of us shudder a bit if we only looked at the external. Tobikuma will have his own hero's journey with Rebecca at his side, so let me introduce him to you today.


Tobikuma had always been a bit of an oddity.

The son of a Japanese mother and American father, he always considered himself American, but his mother raised him as if he would one day go back to Japan to live. He was fluent in Japanese and English but preferred English. He loved baseball, noodles and anime, which were about the only cross-cultural things that appealed to him.

He did appreciate that his parents were all about letting him just be who he was. What he didn’t appreciate was his principal, Mr. Jenkins, acting like he was more than a principal. He acted like a safety cop or something.

He was the only fifth grader at his school that wore Tripp pants with thick chains on them until the principal called a meeting with his parents. While his parents didn’t mind, Mr. Jenkins made an argument about safety. His mother, as expected, deferred to the principal. His father had appealed to him with the so long as Tobi did his work and toed the line, they were good with whatever he wore within reason. Mr. Jenkins made it clear that chains of any kind were not within his definition of reason.
After that, Tobi started wearing skinny black jeans exclusively and decided it was time to dye his hair a new color every month. This month it was magenta and he smiled to himself every time he saw Mr. Jenkins wince on seeing him.

He enjoyed watching women hold their pocketbooks a little tighter or look at him with an edge of fear in their eyes because of how he looked. Particularly in their community that was the center of PC liberal openness and welcoming. If he were prancing around in heels and a dress, people would go out of their way to say, "Hi" or otherwise make it clear they were supportive. But blue hair, chains and black clothing coupled with indifferent silence scared them.

That gave him an edge that made him smile.

Arriving at school on his skateboard with his headphones around his neck so he could still listen to music and still be aware of traffic around him. He wore a helmet when he skated or Mr. Jenkins would confiscate your scooter, skateboard, bike or any other set of wheels you arrived on until you had the proper safety equipment. He could see Mr. Jenkins on the playground “greeting” kids as they arrived.

“Tobi, are you ready for today’s field trip to Fenway?”

Forcing a smile, “Of course. Who wouldn’t?” he said as he kicked up the end of his skateboard to carry it into school.

“Glad to hear it.”

Most of the kids were either incredibly stoked or bored to tears with the idea of a trip to Fenway as part of their Massachusetts history unit. Tobi would have been happier to go on his own terms, but a day out of school was a good day. A day out of school at Fenway was a better day. Since Mr. Shapiro had prepared a lecture for the bus talking about the Royal Rooters and the effect of the Braves and Red Sox on Boston history and it’s local economy, he figured he was good for an easy day since it was probably based on some of the work his father did for the sports program at Boston College.

At the park, they went on the tour with Mr. S interjecting pieces of history within the guide’s patter about things as they worked their way through the park. One thing they were going to get to do this day was go out on the field to touch the left field wall. A photographer was there with a mini tramp set up. The photographer’s assistant would toss a ball at that wall and someone could jump on the mini tramp to look like they were jumping up to make a catch in front of the Green Monster.

Each kid took their turn to put on the white shirt and make the jump. Tobi kept falling back as each kid eagerly pushed ahead. Finally, he was the last one left in his group.

“C’mon kid,” the photographer yelled, “here’s a shirt for you.”

“No thanks.”

“It’s part of the package.”

“No thanks,” he said again.

“Suit yourself,” the photographer said as he went to position the mini tramp.

“I don’t need that.”


“Seriously. Just throw the ball, I’ll get it.”

“Your photo,” the balding man shrugged.

The assistant nodded at Tobi, who took off towards the wall. As the assistant tossed the ball up, Tobi leapt, planting one foot and one hand on the wall where he landed about halfway up. Easily snagging the ball, he did a back flip as he came down to wild applause from his class mates.

“Wow kid!” the photographer looked shock, “think you could do that again?”

Tobi shrugged.


The assistant gave Tobi the signal and he took off as he tossed the ball. Doing a back flip off the wall, he caught the ball and came down on the warning track again.

“Some moves kid. Maybe one day you’ll be playing left field here.”

Tobi shrugged.

As the group began to move away, Tobi started his own piece of the tour.

“This part of the field used to have a ten foot incline until 1933 until Tom Yawkey demolished it to how we know it now with park renovations.”

He was surprised that the kids were hanging on his every word.

“Duffy Lewis was so good at being able to play the incline, that it was called ‘Duffy’s Cliff,’ and he made guys like Manny Ramirez look like an amateur out here.”

“Dude, how’d you back flip off the wall back there?”

Tobi shrugged.

“I just did,” he said matter of factly.

One of the girls in the group fell into step with him. She was petite and nothing but muscle.

“Tobi,” she shyly said his name.

“Hey Becca.”

“Did you ever take gymnastics or anything?”

“Nah. I skate and stuff so you need to learn to do stuff if you want to do certain tricks and things.”

“Are you thinking about being a ball player one day?”

“I never thought about it. I mean, beyond the usual when I play little league. This year I have a chance to make the travel team but, you know, I guess I always figured I’d figure out what I want to do when it comes time to pick a college.”

“I really want to compete in the Olympics some day.”

“That’s right, you just made a state team or something didn’t you.”

“Yeah. It’s a lot of time but it’s really worth it.”

“Other than the Olympics, what are you thinking for the future?”

“I don’t know. I guess if I make the Olympics then I’ll coach or something.”

“What if you don’t make it to the Olympics?”

“I guess I’ll coach or something.”

They both laughed as they walked along a little.

“Seriously, you need to think about what you’d want to do, other than coaching, if the Olympics don’t work out for you.”

“I guess.”

As they approached the spot where they started, some of the kids gathered around the machine that had a slide show of the photos taken on the field. The ones of Tobi climbing the wall were incredibly impressive looking.

“You should get one,” Becca said.

He shrugged.

“I have the card, my folks can look it up and see if they want one or something.”

“It might be nice if you brought one to your mom. You know, as a surprise.”

He looked again. He really did look like Spiderman climbing the wall.

“I guess,” he said after a minute. “She would think it’s pretty cool.”

“Hey Tobi,” one kid called out, “maybe they should call the wall ‘Tobi’s cliff with the way you climbed it.”

A bunch of kids laughed, but Tobi just shrugged again. He walked up to the photo person and ordered a copy of the photo so he could give it to his mother. He liked that in fifth grade they didn’t have a no gift shop rule like when they were younger.

He also got a bracelet made from the white leather and red stitching of a baseball with the Red Sox logo on it. As they made their way back to the bus, he sat in the seat next to Becca and quietly slipped her the bracelet.

She smiled at him and blushed a little.

“I always wondered, what does Tobikuma mean?”

“It means flying cloud.”

“I like that, it fits you much better than Tobi.”

“Thanks. I like the name Rebecca better than Becca.”

She blushed a little more.

“Maybe I could come by your next baseball game and watch you play left field.”

“I probably won’t try climbing the fence. It is only waist high after all.”

They both laughed.

“So they won’t be renaming the field any time soon?”

“I don’t think they will either.”

They sat in silence for a little bit. When the bus hit a bump in the road, they got thrown together. Tobi took Becca’s hand in his and they both blushed a little.

“I think it’s cool you know so much about Fenway,” she whispered.

“I think it’s cool you want to be in the Olympics. Maybe, if you come to my game, I can come see your gymnastics match or something.”

“Sounds like a plan to me.”

Back at school, Tobi took care to make sure to strap on his helmet properly before he headed home, he had a new reason to make sure he didn’t damage himself if he fell, especially if Becca was going to be at his game later.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Story Twenty Three: The Interview

This story falls in the category of "factual fictions." How do you create a fictional interview with a real ball player? Why you go through a bunch of interviews over the years, starting from his college days, and pull quotes that work to answer questions coming out of your character's mouth.

It is actually also based on a semi-true story. In 2005, Dr. Charles Steinberg gave me permission to film a pilot for a kids' show down in Pawtucket at the Red Sox AAA affiliate, the Pawtucket Red Sox. The idea was a 15 minute short to run on NESN alternating with the (then) 15 minute Sports Desk on Saturday mornings. Dr. Steinberg wanted me to interview an exciting young player just moving up from Portland by the name of Dustin Pedroia. Unfortunately the night before we were to film, Pedroia took a foul ball off the wrist and wasn't able to make it, so Kelly Shoppach subbed for him. My son did a great job asking questions and Kelly Shoppach did a great job talking to a bear puppet on my son's shoulder and my son.

Mr. Bear's Clubhouse, our pilot show, sat on a shelf at NESN for years. Every so often I'd get a rejection and some notes for Mr. Bear until it finally got shelved for good a couple of years ago. Colleen (aka Tessie) did sign a ball for my son, but she never met him. He met some other Red Sox ambassadors (one of whom he had a crush on) and Hazel Mae, formerly of NESN and the MLB Network, and he shoots skater videos as he prepares to start in art school studying mixed media and painting.

So to my fourth grader who gave me the prompt about him getting a job on NESN after he's picked for the Sunday kid introductions and is just too good for them not hire him, thank you for reminding me of the excitement of a kids meeting a "real" ball player and having the chance to interview them for the camera.

Teddy looked through the script one more time.

“Do you think this will work?”

His teacher nodded.

“You put a lot of effort in, you made your case and you won the approval of the team. Now all you have to do is take it one step at a time. If you get stuck, just look at the cue cards and always remember that it’s not a big deal if you mess up, you can fix it in the editing room.”

Teddy nodded.

Dr. Steinberg, the Red Sox PR guy, had given him permission to interview Dustin Pedroia. Teddy loved Pedroia because, like him, he was short. If he was lucky, Teddy might be as tall as Pedroia one day, but it was difficult to know.

Teddy had asked to interview the struggling rookie because he wanted to know how he fought agains the odds to do something that few people got to do: play baseball for the Boston Red Sox. Not only that, he did it against major odds.

He knew about major odds. A month before his third birthday, Teddy had been diagnosed with a kidney disease. Now, in the sixth, he was the shortest kid in his class because the steroids that kept his kidneys functioning had stunted his height. Even many of the girls were taller than him. While he had been “drug free” for two years and he was starting to catch up height wise, but in the mean time he took a lot of abuse from the jocks and popular kids.

Teddy was a tech nerd on the school news program but, after a chance meeting with Andy MacDonald the skateboarder and interviewing him at a local skatepark, his teacher Mr. V wanted him to try to interview more people for the news show. He told Teddy he had a good, easy style and it would be good experience for him.

Now here he was, his first major interview with Dustin “the destroyah” Pedroia.

Set up on the field in front of the dugout, he stood there trying to feel as tall as possible - all five feet of him - with his mike in hand ready to go. Mr. V stood behind the camera and Teddy’s best friend, Jake, stood there holding the questions written in sharpie on poster board as cue cards.

“OK, where’s Teddy Goldman?” a young brunette woman asked.
Teddy immediately recognized “Tessie” from the Dropkick Murphys video. He raised his hand and she looked at him, unable to hide the unspoken questions on her face.

“All right then, “ she said, “I’m Colleen. If you need anything, I’ll be right there next to your teacher. Mr. Pedroia only has few moments. Ask keep your questions coming and when I signal you, wrap it up as Mr. Pedroia has to get to batting practice.”


A moment later, she escorted the ball player to him.

“Hey kid,” Pedroia greeted Teddy, “sorry to make this so quick but it’s a busy day.”

“No problem, and thank you again for your time,” Teddy remembered the drill Mr. V had put him through.

“Where’s this going to air again?”

“On our school news channel and the local public access station.”

Pedroia nodded, “Fire away.”

Teddy faced the camera and started, “This is Teddy and I’m here with Red Sox rookie Dustin Pedroia. Mr. Pedroia, most baseball players are six feet or taller, it’s clear you’re much shorter than that. Do the other players tease you at all?”

“Sure I get short jokes but I figure being big has nothing to do with playing baseball. In fact, I think you move a lot quicker when you’re close to the ground.”

“Seeing how quickly you move, I don’t think anyone would doubt you on that one,” Teddy said easily. “Were you worried you might get missed because of your height?”

“I think anybody, if they were the same size as me, and they were putting up the same numbers as me, they would get recognized just as much as I did.”

Teddy nodded. “What’s it like being a rookie?”

“I didn’t know what to expect at first, but I am who I am, I’m not going to change for anybody,” with an easy smile he added, “It’s not too bad except for the short jokes.”

They both laughed.

“What position do you like to play?”

“It doesn’t matter much which position I play - whatever it takes is fine by me.”

“What advice do you have for kids?”

“I try and set little goals, stuff like that. I’ve put in a lot of hard work and I’m ready for it to show on the field. I think to myself ‘There’s no way that guy’s better than me.’ But that’s what pushes me. At that time was that guy better than me? Yeah, probably. But I wasn’t going to let myself think that. So that’s what drives me to be even better and better. To prove to everybody I’m just as good as they are. You know what I mean? How come people don’t think like that?”

“Good question, but it looks like we have to wrap things up here. I want to thank you again and I’m Teddy here with Mr. Dustin Pedroia. Mr. Pedroia, thank you again,” he turned to shake the ball player’s hand.

“Not a problem kid,” he winked. The stood for a moment until Mr. V gave the sign.

“And we’re clear. Good job Teddy.”

“Thanks again.”

“Not a problem,” he wandered towards the batter’s box while Teddy helped Mr. V and Jake start to pack things up.

“Hey kid,” it was Tessie. He shook his head and reminded himself that her name was Colleen.


“Good job. What grade are you in?”


“Really,” she looked puzzled.

“I know, I know, I look much younger. I have a kidney problem so I’m shorter than most kids my age because of the medicine I had to take to keep things in check.”

“Really? Is that why you wanted to interview Mr. Pedroia?”

“That was a part of it. He’s popular, which was another part.”

“Well Teddy, I think you have a future in broadcasting. There aren’t a lot of people - kids or adults - that could hold their own that calmly in an interview.”

“Thank you.”

“Hey Teddy, you ready?” Jake called out, “We’re all packed here.”

He turned to his friend, “Did you remember to get B roll of players practicing and the park?”

“Done and done my friend.”

Teddy turned to Colleen, “I need to go. It was nice speaking with you.”

“Teddy, here’s my card. In a couple of years, when you’re in high school, if I’m here and you want to intern in the media department, I’d be happy to talk to you then. I was really impressed and I’ll put in a good word with Dr. Steinberg. If we could take take kids under the age of 16, I’d tell him to scoop you up now. But,” she shrugged, “rules are rules.”

“Thanks again.”

“You’re welcome and remember to give me a call in a couple of years.”

He smiled. Walking back to Mr. V, he looked at the card.

“What’s that?”

Stuffing the card in his pocket he looked at his teacher.


“Getting girls phone numbers all ready? I knew you had it in you,” he teased.

Teddy shrugged, “You could say that. But I think I like blondes better. Besides, she’s too tall for me.”
Mr. V laughed. He nodded towards the equipment indicating Teddy should help. He picked up one of the bags with the equipment.

“I wish you could have had your first game with a media pass,” Mr. V said.

“Maybe next time.”

“At least we have some great seats for the game. Dr. Steinberg arranged for us to sit in the owner’s box, which is a rare privilege. I think Jake is going climb out of his skin he’s so excited.”

Teddy shrugged, “How can you not be excited at sitting in the owner’s box at a Red Sox game?”
Mr. V laughed. “We still have work to do. We’ll add titles and edit tomorrow during class and it will air Tuesday.”

“Sounds like a plan.”

As they headed back towards the ramp into the park, Teddy smiled. If Dustin Pedroia didn’t need to be tall to play major league ball, maybe he wouldn’t need to be tall to be a documentary filmmaker one day. He would set small goals and keep building.
His first goal, he would intern in the media department with the Red Sox until he could get a job at NESN. From there he’d go to either Emerson or NYU. He’d find a way to get them to let him make short features to show athletes that were good, hard working people to inspire kids. The guys the media didn’t cover.

He felt the card stock in his pocket poking him.

With a smile he followed his teacher and his friend off the field.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Story Twentytwo: Welcome to School

Happy Thanksgiving!

This is another character sketch as some of the stories seem to want together. Perhaps I see a frame tale forming in some of the stories. So Janet's story is really her attitude for now and I have a kitchen calling me.


Janet hated the first day of school getting to know you exercises. This particularly teacher was all about sum up your philosophy of life in one sentence. She stared at the paper and finally picked up her pencil and wrote:
Bruins hockey, while exciting and enjoyable, exists to get me through the Red Sox off season.
Looking at her paper, she smiled. Succinct, unexpected and it also had the by-product of being true.

When the teacher collected their papers, Janet saw the pasted on smile fade a little when the teacher saw her paper on top. Coming from a boy, that kind of thing means one thing but from a girl, it’s still unexpected. In fact, Janet would postulate, the more liberal and “inclusive” the teacher, the more shocked they tended to be that she was “the sport” twin and her brother, Jason, was all about art and dance. It was even more fun for Janet because her brother looked like a line backer and she was often described as a “mere slip of a thing.”

“What an interesting philosophy,” the teacher smiled her teacher smile, “but I meant more along the lines of your philosophy towards school.”

“I don’t see how it needs to change,” Janet replied. “It doesn’t matter if I’m in school or not, the Bruins exist so there is meaning to the Red Sox off season.”

This was Janet’s favorite part, watching the internal debate about picking battles. She had already won this one. She knew she would win the next two as well. The share what book you read this summer and the share some place special you went this summer. She had been preparing this for the past week.

It didn’t take long before the share someplace special discussion got to her.

“My father and I went on a major league ball park tour this summer,” she said with a confident smile. “We went to see the Red Sox play in Anaheim, Oakland, Texas, Chicago, Baltimore and Kansas City. If nothing else, it convinced me the old Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers song about New England is absolutely right because I’ve ‘been out west to Californ.” She made her voice go up the way his does in the song that always got played before games at Fenway. “But I missed the land where I was born’”

A bunch of kids stated singing along with her when she sang “Oh New England” and her first thought about the impromptu concert was this was all priceless.

Score: Janet two, the new teacher still struggling. She was pretty sure she’d get one more in before the hallway talk. The teacher was struggling right now and Janet was glad. It was important to show these people early and often exactly who was in charge.

The teacher moved on and, not surprisingly, a couple of the goody two shoe kids did exactly as expected. When the teacher got to Jason, Janet wanted to hurl. Mr. Perfect’s philosophy was Ghandi’s “Be the change you want to see,” and he talked about their major league baseball tour as having “a cross country RV trip with my family getting to enjoy things that were important to all of us.”

The teacher was regaining ground and Janet knew that the teacher now knew how to neutralize her. She would call on Janet early, cut her off and move on to one of the goodie two shoes. So she had a choice of employing the disaffected “whatever,” for the last piece of summer stuff or try to push her a bit more. She had a decision to make and she needed to make it soon.

“All of you had to read three books over the summer, two from the list that was sent to you and one free choice book. I’ll collect your book reports because it would take too long for all of us to share our reports. What I am going to do is ask you to just state the title of the free reading book.”

The teacher looked straight at Janet with a smile.

“Janet, would you like to start.”

“I read ‘The Baseball Codes” by Jason Turbow.”

The teacher smiled, “What a great book that is. I particularly loved some of the stories in there about some of my more favorite moments in baseball.”

Janet was speechless as the teacher moved on.

Damn, Janet two, teacher one.

After she went through the room they went through the usual first day thing - making name tags for lockers, handing out various books, folders and things as always. Towards the end of the day came the assignment notebooks, but this year the notebook was different than usual.

“I designed and make my own assignment books,” the teacher started. “One thing that will happen this year will be a lot of time management and learning how to break down tasks. It will start with me telling you how to break things down and progress through the year to you guys finding what works for you. You won’t just have 30 minutes of reading like everyone else. You will have weeks where you have free reading, weeks where you will have to read within a genre or subject and weeks where you will have will all have an assigned book. I do not accept late work unless your parents have provided a specific excuse in advance. That includes things like vacations, recitals and those sorts of things. Once a month you get a free homework pass. Some assignments the pass does not apply and I will tell you in advance. Second miss of an assignment you stay in during recess to do it. Third time is a conference with your parents.”

She looked at Janet on that one.

“Your first assignment is the book ‘How to be Like Jackie Robinson,’” she said. “Jason, could you please pass out the books,” and she indicated a milk crate off to the side.

“Now you get to hear a bit about me. I have been a Red Sox fan since before the designated hitter rule. I grew up spending afternoons at Fenway and you won’t meet a bigger fan than me. My husband and I are both teachers and he used to be a ball player back in the day.”

She paused as the kids built into an excited murmur and the questions began to slip out. She smiled and held up her hands.

“I’ll answer questions later and yes he did play in the major leagues for a short time. My job here this year is to take you from learning to read to reading to learn. It will also be helping some of you,” she looked directly at Janet, “understand it’s not a win or lose situation or competition. It’s about realizing that there’s a ton to learn and you are just really starting out.”

Janet looked at the teacher. By her reckoning right now, the teacher was dead even with her and starting to pull ahead. She needed to make a decision: did she want to start the year defeated? Then her brother dropped the book on the desk in front her with a thump.

“Hope your happy,” he hissed, “I have to read a stupid baseball book.”

She smiled.

“Along with reading for 30 minutes, you need to take your philosophy statement and turn it into a full essay with an introductory paragraph, three arguments supporting your philosophy and a concluding paragraph.”

Janet heard her brother’s groan and knew that the win didn’t need to mean she bested her teacher. Every minute Mr. Perfect was sulky was a victory for her. He hated going to Wrigley Park to catch a Cubs game and then the next day get to catch a Red Sox/White Sox game. She hated the art museum but in the end, it was worth the price of two ball games. Now they had to read a baseball based book and he would hate every minute of it.

Worked for her.

She thought she’d give this teacher a chance. Anyone who could torture her brother without blinking an eye was worth a chance. She’d leave them at even on for the first day and build from there.
Pulling out a blank sheet of paper in the few minutes they had, she started her essay.

“My philosophy is that Bruins hockey, while exciting and enjoyable, exists to get me through the Red Sox off season….”
It was going to be a good year.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Story Twentyone: Working Weekends

Today's prompt comes not only from a prompt but from something one of my students said to me recently. The prompt was someone is working on a computer in the bleachers, which gets destroyed by the longest home run ever. The statement was one of my students who hates weekends because their parents divorced a while ago and it's a source of tension for this kid. The question asked of me was why parents don't get that it's the kid's weekend, not theirs? My student was frustrated that one parent was complaining about some event on "thier" weekend. The kid asked me why parents don't see it as the kid's weekend because, "it's not like my isn't working the whole time pretty much any way...."

So this one is for that student... and all the kids... who just want their parents to know that it's hard on them too.


“You brought your netbook? To a game?!”

Sheila was disgusted with her father in that moment. Ever since her parents got divorced, her father complained he didn’t have enough time with her anymore, but it was the same thing every weekend as when her folks were married: he was always working. Now he was finally taking her to a game at Fenway and he brought a net book with him as they sat in the bleachers two rows above the famous Ted Williams red seat.

When Da, her grandfather, used to take her to games back when she was little, he would point out the red seat out in the bleachers and tell the story of how Ted Williams, in June of 1946, drove a Fred Hutchinson pitch for “the longest joy ride ever hit in Fenway” to knock a Yankees fan’s hat off his head.

“I’m telling you kiddo,” her grandfather would say, “it was a glorious thing, the ball just kept going 502 feet before it fell from the sky. Some poor schmuck of a Yankees fan in the stands had pulled his straw boater over his eyes and took a nap until Teddy Ballgame woke him up.” He would chuckle at the memory. “Fred Hutchinson should be grateful for that day because, if not for that infamous home run, he would have been another faded memory like Stan Papi and Wally Pipp. A sad way to be remembered in history, but at least those men are remembered.”

She and Da would always have someone take a picture of them behind the seat. The biggest surprise was the day he actually got her a ticket for that exact seat. She had secretly hoped Big Papi would hit a home run that far that day. Even though he did hit one into the bleachers, it wasn’t nearly that far up. Shortly after her parents divorced, Da’s health started to decline. She would spend one Sunday afternoon a month watching the game with him until he moved into the assisted living facility a month ago. Now her father never wanted to go there and Sheila was growing angrier with her father for being such a jerk.

“Look Sheila, I know you don’t understand and I’m sorry but if I don’t get this proposal finished then it could mean my job. I figured this was the best way to go to a game with you and still be able finish this up before going into the office tomorrow. They have wi-fi here and I’m almost done. By the fourth inning I should be done and we can enjoy the rest of the game together.”

“Fine,” she muttered as she slouched into the seat a bit more. She could see the red seat in front of her and feel a tear near by as she thought of her Da. “If you’re going to work, then I want to go see Da after the game so I can tell him about it.”

“The new place isn’t that kid friendly.”

“Why? Because it’s where old people go to die?”

“What would make you say that?”

“Because, it’s where old people go to die because they can’t take care of themselves anymore.”

Her father rolled his eyes.

“It’s not like that.”

“I’m ten, not a baby. I get it. Da’s old which is why he needs me to watch the games with him now more than ever. If you’re going to work, the least you can do is let me tell Da about it afterwards.”

Her father looked at her and sighed.

“Fine, if can get this finished, then I’ll take you to see Da after the game.”

Sheila could live with that. She’d be watching the game by herself for the most part, but she could live with that.

As the game got started, she knew exactly how to play on her father’s need to work with her annoyance to get what she wanted. For the most part, all she wanted was a hot dog, soda and a sports sundae bar. She was tempted to annoy him for other things that came by, like the souvenir stuff of the giant read foam finger, the rally monkey and a pennant but then she got a grip. She didn’t need or want those things, so she watched the game.

In the fourth inning, the score was still tied at zero. Jon Lester was locked in a pitcher’s duel with Bret Cecil, who actually decided to pitch for a change. She kept looking over at her father during the inning. He hadn’t looked up from his computer the entire time. Looking around her, she saw other kids with adults having a good time. They were keeping score, laughing and watching the game, talking about things and otherwise spending time together. She could have had a better seat at home or, better yet, with her Da.

She could here his voice now complaining about how the one day Cecil decided to actually keep the ball in the park would be today. He would ask her to figure out the exchange rate difference between a Canadian dollar and a US dollar to see if he’d be worth more - and perhaps pitch better as a result - if he played for a stateside team. They would laugh and talk about different players. He would talk to her about how Pedroia was a hustler who deserves any and all accolades he received. He’d then make her look up accolades in the dictionary and would accept nothing less than her telling him it was a noun that meant special recognition or award.

Instead, she sat here as alone as if she were in front of her TV at home being ignored like always.

The Jays went down in order and she looked over at her father’s furrowed brow.

“It’s the fourth inning.”

“Mmmhmm,” he muttered.

“It’s the FOURTH inning,” she stated again, this time with force.

“Sheila, I have to finish this.”

“Take me home.”

“OK,” he wasn’t listening.

“I said take me home, NOW. Home to mom’s house. If you’re not going to spend time with me when you’re with me, at least bring me home so I can spend time with my friends.”

He looked up from his work.

“I mean it,” she said, her voice trembling. “Either turn off the computer and spend time with me or take me home so I can spend it with people who want to spend time with me. You don’t take me to see Da any more because you don’t like that he’s going to die soon because he’s old. You pick me up and complain about mom and how you never get to see me but all you do is spend time with your stupid computer because you have to work since apparently you don’t work enough when you don’t see me. You never ask me what I’m doing or let me spend my weekends with my friends. It’s always ‘your weekend’ instead of ‘my weekend’ and now here we are at Fenway Park and you brought a stupid computer. Take me home or take me to Da so I can at least watch the game with someone who cares about me.”

Tears were rolling down her cheeks now. She knew the people around her were staring at her but she didn’t care. She was tired of it. She didn’t care that her parents fought the way they did but it was time for them to stop making her miserable.

The tears were dripping down her cheeks when she said, “I think it’s safe to say that we have known for centuries the earth revolves around the sun and not you. You’re mad because I have a tournament on your weekend, well you’re working on my weekend so stop it.”

Her father sat there in shock looking at her. He looked down at the net book in his lap. Then he smiled.

“Give me two minutes to save and post this, then it goes away.”

“Two minutes and I’m timing you.” She glared at him as he looked down and saved his work.

“And we’re good,” he said. “It’s up on Google docs and I’m yours the rest of the day.”

Suddenly there was a cheer and the crowd noise grew. Sheila looked up and saw it the ball coming, sailing through the sky. She was unable to even think of Dustin Pedroia running the bases as she reached up as she watched the ball fall from the sky. Fighting off the larger bodies around her, somehow she managed to catch the ball on the edge of her glove and trap it. People pushed and jostled and she pulled it tight to her chest.

The profanity she heard from next to her came from her father’s mouth as she heard the sound of the net book hitting the concrete. She could feel him shielding her from people grabbing at her until they backed off a little to wave at the camera. She looked at her glove at the ball. Holding it up she jumped up and down screaming.

Then things settled back down.

For the first time since 1946, a ball traveled more than 502 feet into the Fenway Park bleachers. This one was hit by Dustin Pedroia and Brett Cecil would now join Wally Pipp, Fred Hutchinson and Stan Papi in baseball history. A man remembered not for his accomplishments but how his failure allowed someone else’s accomplishment.

As they settled back down she looked at her dad.

“Dad, you can be a Wally Pipp or a Lou Gerhig. You can spend your time with me or not when you’re with me, but ask yourself how you want me to remember you in the end. I love you and I love mom and you guys need to stop fighting with each other through me. I just want to be a kid who goes to ball games with her dad who gets that sometimes, just sometimes, your weekend falls when I have other stuff going. For a long time I’ve had to deal with you have other stuff going on my weekend.”

He gave her hug and said, “You’ve got it kiddo. My net book is toast but that’s OK. How about we go show Da that ball after the game?”

“I can live with that,” she smiled.

“So can I.”

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Story Twenty: The Necessity of Nerds

Wow! I can't believe the month is now winding down. Just as some of the stories feel like a snapshot of something much larger, this one feels more like a character sketch. One thing Norton Juster discussed the other day was how hard it is to start writing. He often will do things to start like write a dialogue between characters that he will never use just so he can hear the character's voice and get a sense of who they are. He also spoke of a magic moment that happens when you realize you're not writing a story but, rather, eavesdropping on one.

Anyone who is a writer will tell you that his discussion is not so much an aha moment, but is more of, "Hey, that's a nice way of describing normal for me...."

This story is one of those "conversations" that will probably get tossed aside. A bit of a character study of someone who would be involved in a situation that what is written here. Jeremy is a nerd coming to a level of self-realization. I'm not sure what his story is going to be yet, but I suspect it will be a bit of a hero's journey. In the meantime, meet Jeremy as he gets ready for the MCAS and fantasy baseball season.


Jeremy’s book shelves weren’t just stuffed, they were overstuffed.

As one of those kids who read before he could speak because he didn’t start speaking until he could speak in complete paragraphs. He looked every bit the nerd with his big glasses, braces and shaggy hair cut. He tended towards Hawaiian shirts and khakis over the more popular t-shirts and jeans his classmates wore.

He pretended not to notice when kids tended to avoid him on the playground but wanted to partner with him on research projects. He knew the ones who were (not so) secretly grateful for not having to sit at the peanut allergy table with him, because he knew the truth was he’d be the most popular kid when it came to fantasy baseball picks.

Little did they know it was, in part, because of those overstuffed bookshelves that his fantasy baseball teams were always the strongest.

Jeremy was fascinated by Bill James, the man who changed how baseball was played by looking at numbers differently. Bill James made it guys like Jeremy a valuable commodity when it came to talking sports in general and baseball in particular. He filled his bookshelves with magazines, books and almanacs and studied as if they were religious texts and he was a monk.

He once heard Bill James say, “I learned to write because I am one of those people who somehow cannot manage the common communications of smiles and gestures, but must use words to get across things that other people would never need to say.”
It was probably one of the times that it really hit him why he gravitated towards Bill James the way the moon was a satellite of the Earth. Too often Jeremy felt that he didn’t have “the common communications of smiles and gestures,” the way other kids did.

He knew he was the odd man out, and that seemed to be the story of his life.

But the recent words that he returned to over and over again were from an article about talent when Bill James wrote, “It is my very strong belief that there is talent everywhere and all the time.” While James was arguing why we have so much talent in baseball and sports instead of great writers, those words inspired Jeremy every time he sat alone pouring through old extracts, almanacs, magazines and player guides. As he read through those things, he felt like he was reading the writings of a kindred spirit.

Jeremy had committed most of the words to memory at this point. Now if only they would come in handy at just the right moment, then he’d be OK. Today was draft day, so there were plenty of kids who would have peanut free lunches. He’d have company for a few days and he supposed he should be happy about it, but why couldn’t he have been a cool kid instead?
Well, he’d have to feel good about being the cool kid even if it was only for a couple of days. He supposed if it weren’t for draft day, then he’d be eating alone all year long instead of just most of it.

He took a deep breath and headed out the door to school.

It didn’t take long for the more popular kids to start attaching themselves to him for advice. He was glad to slowly work through his morning work to have some time to think things through before he was the most popular kid in the class.
Because they were coming up on the MCAS, the Massachusetts version of No Child Left Behind testing, there was a lot of teacher nervousness and more serious work instead of the usual sorts of instruction. But nothing could have prepared him for the writing prompt they were given that morning.

“OK cats and kittens,” Mr. McGarrett started with a hand clap, “today’s prompt for you to work on today. As you write I want you to remember the basics: tell them what you want to tell them, tell them, tell them again and then tell them what you told them. On today’s menu is: why do we pay more attention to professional athletes than academic geniuses?”

Jeremy smiled and began to write.

Tell them what you’re going to tell them: There is always an abundance of talent around us. Talent, genius, whatever you want to call it, is around us every day no matter where you look. It may not always be obvious and you may not always know you’re looking at it, but it is there and it is always present. What we look at and for genius and talent depends on what we need at the time.

Tell them: Four hundred years ago, London had more writers of talent and genius than the world has ever seen to the point where we still study the works of William Shakespeare, Charles Dickens, the poets of the Romantic era, John Milton and more. While some people argue that our focus on sports figure is superfluous and inferior to the focus on great minds, I would argue that we are in a situation where we need to appreciate the beauty and grace of athletic talent and genius. According to Bill James, the developer of Sabermetrics, which changed how we value and view athletes, we don’t need great writers at this time. In a recent piece in Slate, he stated “We need new athletes all the time because we need new games everyday.”

Tell them what you just told them: Since we are still studying centuries of great literature and have growing need for great athletes, who have much shorter careers, we focus on the athletes. This does not diminish the need for great authors, only that our focus needs to be elsewhere at this time. By changing the focus, we ask the questions differently which leads to looking at information differently. By looking at objective evaluations of players, rather than the traditional method that was based on emotional and intuitive guesses, the questions are asked differently which forces our perspective to view circumstances differently.

Tell them what you told them: Because the focus on genius shifts on the needs for the time in which you examine for traits of genius, societal needs change. In the end our current focus needs to be athletic genius, but as the objectivity of time prevails and that genius is no longer necessary, the discovery genius beyond athletics will be revealed as needed.

He read through the short essay and felt good about it. Not too much, not too little. Should be just enough to score as he needed it to.

With a smile, he leaned back and looked around the room at the kids he could tell were panicking. Most of those panicking were the kids that only brought peanut free lunch during draft time.

He thought a bit about the question again. This week his genius would be recognized because it was a necessary genius. In a moth or so, it would be as necessary, so it would be overlooked yet again.

With a smile, Jeremy thought, “Bill James was absolutely right. Genius is recognized as it is needed and necessary.”
It was OK for him to have a set of overstuffed bookshelves and memorizing the work of Bill James. Jeremy would be recognized as a genius for the week or so as he did every year at this time. He needed to be a genius to the world around him as kids began thinking about baseball for real. Next week, a different genius would be needed for this particular world. That’s how it worked. It’s not that his perspective or knowledge wasn’t needed or desired, only that it wasn’t necessary for that particular slice of time.

“It is my very strong belief that there is talent everywhere and all the time.”

There is talent and sometimes he needed to remember that other talents were just as genius as his. His day would come. Maybe it would be in the next few years, maybe many years later, but his time would come and it would be for more than a week at the peanut free table. Perhaps one day he would be Bill James’ intern. Maybe he would be his replacement or maybe even his competition at a different team.

It would happen and it would all happen in good time. But for now he would need to settle what he had. He may not be Shakespeare or Dickens, but he still knew how to ask the different questions and look at the problems from a variety of angles.
Tonight he would go home to his overstuffed bookshelves. He’d check on line for any new articles. He would spend some time looking over stats, making his own picks and registering his on line draft that, in the end, would probably In the end it would all work out, but for now he would have to learn to be content with the limited time that he would be recognized until his real day came.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Story Nineteen: Science!

"There is nothing more terrifying than a blank sheet of paper and how to begin." - Norton Juster, author of "The Phantom Tollbooth"

Yesterday I had the wonderful opportunity of seeing Norton Juster speak about "The Phantom Tollbooth," creative life and writing. One thing he talked about is how, at the end of the day, he often stops in the middle of a paragraph so when he sits down the next day, he's not picking it up from scratch.

It made me chuckle through my sleep deprived haze as that was this story.

Because these stories are here for to help students understand the process of writing, there are things posted that are not necessarily stories I would normally make public. This particular story to me was the sign I needed to go home at 3 am during the 24 hour write in (there was something about the sentence "aI anct ‘stay ai=ke" that was enough to say that I had crossed into gibberish mode). This is one that started strong, faded as I did and came back a bit as I came back as well. Since I am committed to not editing this month, I can see the part that is "OK, so here's where I'm going to write about...." place holders. I look at this and see another much larger story here that will go on the white board under "developing."

Now that I no longer have sleep deprivation to blame, it's time to focus on the home stretch and get the last 10 stories written.


Danielle hated science.

She was never going to be a scientist, not like the news was always talking about a whole lot of women who were scientists to begin with. Also, it wasn’t like she was going to do much more in life than be a teacher, sales clerk or mother. If she stuck with retail, then science wouldn’t ever be a factor in life. Anything else would take too much work and work was not something she really wanted to do. So why did she have to do a science fair project if she wasn’t going to do science? What good did it serve by having her do a science project?

But there was Mrs. Duggan telling her she had to challenge herself and stretch her wings.

“Dare to imagine something different Danielle. We now live in a world where women can do whatever men do and still lead a fulfilling life.”


“Think about great women before you: Marie Curie, Amelia Earhart, Amy Johnson, Joan of Arc…”

“Died from radiation poisoning, lost over the ocean someplace, drowned in the Thames, heard voices and burned at the stake. Yep, that’s certainly a crew of women to look up to all right.”

Mrs. Duggan looked like her head was going to explode.

“Danielle, you’re missing the point.”

“No I’m not. I’m not a science girl. I’m a sports girl and to ask me to do science is as crazy as asking Joan of Arc to take up knitting and raise llamas.”

“Which is not a bad thing.”

“It is when you have a direct hotline to heaven while trying to kick the future king’s backside to the throne.”
Mrs. Duggan sighed. Then she thought of something.

“What is Tommy John surgery?”

“It’s when a pitcher undergoes surgical reconstruction of an elbow ligament.”

“Go on.”

“They take a tendon from the knee and then use that to fix the elbow. It has an 85-92% recovery chance, you take off a big chunk of the year in rehab while gradually ease themselves back into the game. Why?”

“That’s science for you, you never know when it might come in handy.”

“What do you mean?”

“You can do your science fair project on Tommy John surgery.”


“It’s sports science. That is, unless, you’d rather write about the physics of a slap shot or home run ball.”



“So you’re saying that if I write and present a report about Dice-K and John Lackey, that you’ll call it science and let me present it at the science fair?”


“I can do that.”

“Good. Now that’s settled, you have until the end of the week like everyone else.”

“Gotcha,” Danielle said as she turned to leave the classroom.


She turned and faced Mrs. Duggan.

“You need to put together a poster and full presentation.”

“Don’t worry Mrs. D, I’m on it.”

The day of the science fair arrived and Danielle was thinking of throwing up and going home.

The report was done. That wasn’t the problem.

It wasn’t hard to find reliable information on the internet about he surgery. Almost every major league site along with the CDC and AMA sites had plenty of information. On the baseball pages there were great debates about what all this mean to the Red Sox pitching staff. There were even reports of pitchers who had undergone the surgery and their stats before and after surgery.
The presentation board was easy. There were great diagrams, pictures, trading cards and things. Typing up a sentence or two to explain the illustrations, not a big deal and the layout was easy. The problem wasn’t even the five page paper that had to go with her presentation. She wrote that shortly after all the research.

The problem was the presentation.

In a crowd, Danielle could be the loudest voice. With her friends she could joke and come up with the perfect zinger that would make everyone laugh. But when she stood up there all by herself facing the room full of people, her voice got small and her throat got dry. Not only that, after the speech, she would have to stand by her poster and explain it, answer questions and pretend to be an expert.

So not only was science not her thing, but now she had to pretend to be something she really wasn’t: smart.

At least she had managed to convince her mother to let her dress comfortably instead of in the dress and fancy clothes, she convinced her mother that if she went dressed as herself she’d be better able to give her speech.

But walking into the school gym, it was taking everything she had not to run out the door and back home to hide under the covers.


It was Mrs. Duggan. She waved to get Danielle’s attention and Danielle realized she couldn’t escape. She had been seen, recognized and now she was being summoned. She took a deep breath and moved towards her teacher.

“Your board looks absolutely fantastic. I’m sure it will generate a lot of conversations. So I have you set up over there,” she pointed to a spot under the basketball hoop near by. “Basically the drill is just explain the board, answer questions and when the judges come by, they’ll ask you about what you did and what you learned. Just relax and be yourself and you’ll do just fine.”

Danielle rolled her eyes but dutifully took her spot. She wore a red t-shirt that had the words “Dice-K” on the front. The K had the rising sun image that is associated with Japan, but the center of the sun was a baseball. On the back it said something in Japanese with the number 18.

Taking a deep breath, she steeled herself for the next two hours.

People filed through the gymnasium, stopping and looking at boards, flipping through her printed report, asking questions and leaving comments on the clip board that was attached to the tables at each station.

When the judges came through, she recognized one of her old teachers. He was a big Red Sox fan and he talked to her about what she thought about the team’s chances were for the upcoming season. It was so easy to explain how Tommy John surgery worked and what she thought would happen for Dice-K as he came back this year and the prospects for John Lackey.

“I have to confess,” her teacher dropped his voice, “I hear this term all the time but had no idea exactly what was involved. It’s pretty big stuff isn’t it?”

“Yeah. Personally, I think it’s kind of cool that they tendon from the knee to repair the elbow. Of course it makes me glad that our pitchers don’t have to run for bases or master batting the way they do in the National League. On the other hand I’ve never been a fan of the designated hitter rule. I mean if Josh Beckett can hit home runs in inter-league play, then maybe it’s time for Bud Selig to acknowledged this is a 40 year fail.”

“I couldn’t agree with you more,” he said with a smile. “Good job here. I have to say I’m pleasantly surprised with the work you did here. Nice work indeed.”

Time flew past and before she knew it, the principal was on the stage and the horrible, screeching feedback that she seemed to use to get everyone’s attention at the start of all school assemblies.

“Thank you all for coming out tonight,” she announced before everyone cringed at the second round of feedback.

“While all of our students did a wonderful job, the judges have decided some kids did an extraordinary and… or…. Exceeded all expectations.

There was a polite round of applause from all the parents who were Iining the room.

She announced the honorable mentions, then the third and second place winers. She applauded like everyone else and watched as they ran up to the stage, grabbed their certificate and run back down to put the shiny, sati ribbon on the desk in front of their project.

It was then she heard the announcement.

“By unanimous agreement, the judges felt that this particular student has really gone above and beyond the scope of the project. Let’s hope her predictions hold true for this year’s Red Sox and congratulate Danielle from Mr. Mahoney’s room! Danielle, come on up and get your prize.

She stood there, shocked in the moment before one of her friends have her a push and she ran up to the stage to accept the certificate and ribbon.

Staring at the ribbon, she heard Mrs. Duggan whisper, “did you get radiation, disappear, drown or burn?”

“I’m good,” she whispered back.


Danielle still didn’t think of herself as a science girl, but maybe if she looked at the blue ribbon long enough, she’d change her mind about that.”