Yesterday, one of my fourth graders handed me a detailed prompt that was such a kid fantasy it made me smile. The problem is, as an adult how do you take that fantasy and bring it back to earth? Especially after you see movies like "Rookie of the Year" and "Little Big League" every spring? Well, it took 2500 words and need a fair amount of editing but I think I did his prompt justice.
A quick note: all of these stories are first drafts. Because I have to put away my inner editor for the month of November, I know that the second I start mucking about, I'm lost and the results go downhill from there. I'm willing to take any notes and comments for when I do sit down edit, I have a good idea of where to go with some of these stories. Feel free to comment, share or email me your thoughts.
So enjoy today's story: "Signed"
Jonathan loved baseball. Ever since he could throw anything from an early age, his father would say, “That boy has an arm made for Fenway I tell you!” He was the star pitcher on his Little League team and one of the only 10 year olds to make the Williamsport team, where almost everyone was 12.
Today he was a little ticked off. It was stupidly hot and he could feel the sweat dripping down his face and back. He wished he had worn a t-shirt instead of the polyester shirt like the players wear. His blonde hair was stuck to his face and head. He and his dad had come to Fenway to try and get some day of game tickets. Who knew it would be hard to get tickets against Baltimore?
Since his dad wasn’t willing to buy from scalpers, they stood outside the park on Landsdowne Street at the Sausage Guy cart getting hot dogs and listening to the PA echo out through the neighborhood.
“Now batting, number 20, Kevin Youkilis.”
They could hear the crowd chant “Yooooouuuuukkk,” which sounded a little like booing because of the sound of his name. But anyone who knew the Red Sox knew it was a chant of love for a guy who was the part of the heart and soul of the team.
“Dad, wouldn’t it be cool if he hit one over the wall and I caught it?”
“Jon, my boy, that would be awesome. Let’s finish up the dogs and head home before mom figures out I tried to sneak in an extra game with you this weekend.”
As they walked down the street, they heard the cheer of the crowd and people yelling. Looking up, Jonathan saw the ball come over the top of the Green Monster and straight at him. But his hands were full he didn’t want to drop his soda or the last few bites of his hot dog.
Then it hit him… square in the forehead and the last thing going through Jonathan’s mind as he crumbled was, “but I wasn’t finished with my hot dog.”
He woke up a while later, a bag of ice to his forehead and a man in a white shirt shining a light in his eyes in a strange room.
“Hey buddy, how you feeling?” the man asked.
The man checked Jonathan’s blood pressure, took his temperature and asked him a series of questions.
“Well, for a kid who could have had a major concussion, I think you’re going to be just fine,” he said with a smile. “Before I forget,” he tossed a ball to Jonathan who immediately put his hand up to catch it, not missing a beat. “Maybe Youk will sign it for you.”
“Be careful what you wish for Jon,” he heard his dad say, “that Youk homer was like a laser shot to your head. “The good news is, other than you’re OK, we got invited to be on the field during batting practice tomorrow. Youk wants to meet you.”
The next day, Jonathan and his dad got to Fenway around 11 am for batting practice. The pretty girl in the red shirt with the words “Red Sox Ambassadors” sewn under the team logo indicated she worked in the front offices as some sort of intern or something.
“So you’re the young boy Youk almost took out yesterday,” she smiled. It was a pretty smile and he couldn’t help but smile back.
“Yeah, I brought the ball with me. Do you think he’ll sign it for me?”
“You never know, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he signed it at the very least,” she winked.
She lead Jonathan and his dad down a tunnel between the infield and outfield box seats where the grounds crew usually stood on guard during the game. They walked out onto the warning track.
Jonathan couldn’t believe it. All his life he had wanted to walk out onto the field at Fenway with the team and here he was, on the field looking at the players as they took batting practice. In the cage surrounding home plate was Big Papi taking easy cuts at the balls tossed to him by the coach from behind a screen on pitchers mound. Various players were scattered around the field, tossing the balls back and forth, fielding the balls Papi hit towards them.
He was in heaven.
Then he saw Youk across the field heading towards the batting cage. He didn’t know why he thought of it but suddenly he felt the ball in his hand and called out, “Hey Youk, want your ball back?”
He reared back and threw it from where he was standing on the warning track behind first towards Youk at home. The ball sailed past Youk, but the man stood up and took notice.
“Wow! Hey did you guys see the arm on that kid!”
He signaled for Jonathan to join him.
“That’s some arm kid. Have you ever thought about pitching? I think you’d be a great addition to our bull pen.”
“My dad said I was born for Fenway.”
“You’re dad’s absolutely right. Hey, Young!” he yelled, “check this kid out.”
Jonathan smiled. His dad and the girl from the front office were just staring at him along with most of the players on the field.
Youk approached him with the guy who was behind the screen a moment before. Curt Young, the pitching coach from Boston looked him up and down.
“You think you can do that again kid?” the coach asked.
“Not a problem,” he said taking the ball from the older man.
“Hey Tek,” called out Youk, “see if you can catch this kid.”
Jason Varitek took a position behind the plate as they moved the screen out of the way.
“OK kid, nice and easy. Your job is to put the ball in my glove like it’s a target,” the catcher growled in a friendly way. Jonathan nodded and remembered how his dad taught him. Moving from his stance, he stepped forward with left foot as he reared back with his right arm and fired right at the glove.
“STRIKE!” yelled Youk. The smile on his face looked like it would split his face in two. Jonathan tried not to let his excitement show.
“OK, let’s try that again,” Tek barked.
Jonathan reared back and Youk took a swing but missed.
“Strike two!” Youk yelled.
Terry Francona, the team manager had joined Coach Young to watch what was happening.
“One more, remember, just put it in the glove. Even if Youk gets a piece, you have seven guys behind you to help you out of the jam. OK, now here we go for one more.”
He reared back and fired again. Youk swung and missed, again.
“Hey kid,” Francona yelled, “is your mom or dad here?”
Jonathan’s dad stepped up and shook the his hand. “I’m his dad.”
“Do you think we can give the kid a try today? We’re stuck right now and normally we wouldn’t be looking at a kid this young but an arm like that is a gift and I’d like to train him properly now rather than let some high school or college ruin him by over pitching.”
“Um, yeah,” his dad said.
“Good. Hey kid, let’s see if we can find something small enough for you.”
Jonathan couldn’t believe his luck. Here he was about to join the Boston Red Sox as a pitcher and he was still in elementary school. Wait until his friends Harry and Jason found out!
As Youk started to guide him off the field, he heard someone yell, “Heads!”
He felt the ball that he never saw as it hit the back of his head. “Not again,” he moaned as he went face down on the sacred infield grass at Fenway.”
Jonathan felt like he was emerging from underwater. He was trying to claw his way up through the layers of fog that seemed to hold him down on the unfamiliar bed. Everything in the room was bright and clean. In the background the game was on TV and Youk was stepping into the batter’s box.
“Mr. and Mrs. Levy?” the doctor asked as he entered the room.
Jonathan’s parents stood up from the chairs next to the bed. He could see his dad’s face looked pinched and worried. He could tell his mother had been crying but he didn’t know where he was or why.
The doctor shook his parents’ hands, but Jonathan still couldn’t quite get through the fog or open his eyes all the way to ask what was going on.
“The good news is the MRI and the Cat scan both show that, while there’s a concussion, it’s not nearly as severe as we first thought. To be honest, it was his head hitting the pavement that did the most damage. But with some rest and a little time, he should be just fine.”
Jonathan’s mother began to cry. “Oh thank G-d,” she said as she grabbed his dad. His dad wrapped his arms around his mother and kissed her on the top of the head.
“How much longer will he be out?” his father asked.
“There’s no way of telling, but it’s a good thing you were right outside of Fenway. Between the emergency staff there and how close you were to the hospital area, getting him here within 20 minutes, half hour of him hitting the ground like made a huge difference in what we could do to get him stabilized. Don’t worry Mr. Levy, your son will be fine.”
The doctor reached out and patted his father’s shoulder.
“Thank you Doctor,” his father managed to free his hand to offer it to the doctor.
“Dad?” Jonathan managed to weakly squeak.
Everyone looked towards the bed and smiled.
“Hey champ,” his dad said as Jonathan’s mom pulled away and smothered him in a hug.
“Welcome back Jonathan,” the doctor said. “That was quite a hit you took there.”
“Yeah, who hit the ball that nailed me? Is Tito mad that I’m not going to be able to pitch today?”
The adults all exchanged funny looks.
“Jonathan, what do you remember?” the doctor asked as he flashed a light in his eyes and felt spots on his face and head. Jonathan winced a little when his fingers touched certain spots.
“I was walking towards the dugout with Youk and Tito to get a real game shirt. They wanted me to join the bullpen.”
His father laughed. “Even in your dreams you’re a team player.”
“Do you remember the home run ball that hit you on Landsdowne?”
“Yeah,” he said, “that’s why Youk invited us to batting practice today. When I struck him out, the pitching coach said he needed my arm in the bullpen.”
“What day is it?” the doctor asked.
“Sunday. We’re playing the Orioles today before the all-star break.”
“It’s Monday night,” his mother said. “You’ve been out since the ball hit you Saturday when you and your dad were outside the park.”
Jonathan tried to sit up, but he thought he was going to hurl and put his head back down. He was confused. He was supposed to be the new middle reliever, Pap’s set up guy. What were they talking about?
His dad sat down on the bed and gently brushed the hair out of Jonathan’s eyes. “Son, it was all a dream.”
“I didn’t whip the ball at Youk at BP?”
“‘Fraid not son.”
“Tek didn’t catch me as I struck Youk out?”
His father shook his head.
“Jonathan!” his mother barked, “I don’t care how out of it you were, you still don’t use language like that.”
He was back to reality, back to normal. No batting practice or contract negotiations. He started to feel a tear try to escape.
“Don’t worry buddy,” his dad said, “there’ll be plenty of time for that in the future. Right now you just need to get yourself better. That means lots of rest until the doc says it’s time to go home.”
Jonathan closed his eyes. He was so stupid thinking a 10 year old kid would be able to sign with the Sox. He heard his parents talking to the doctor again before leaving the room and then his parents whispering.
As he tried to fall back into the fog he had just fought so hard to get through, there was a knock on the door.
“Is this where the kid who tried to catch my homer with his head is?”
Jonathan opened his eyes. It was Kevin Youkilis! In his arms were a basket filled with a bunch of things.
“But the game’s on,” Jonathan squeaked.
“That’s last night’s game,” his dad told him, “I thought you’d want the game in the background and the 2 hour replay is all that’s on.” He then turned to Youk and invited him in.
Pulling up a chair he sat next to the bed.
“I’m glad you’re OK,” Youk said, “I just ran into your doctor outside your room and he said I can stay for a few minutes but not to tire you out.”
Jonathan smiled, “I just dreamt I struck you out during BP.”
“Well, from what your dad said, it wouldn’t surprise me if in ten or so years you’re able to do just that. But there’s plenty of time for that to come. Right now I want to make sure you’re OK and brought you some stuff from the team. I have a ball the whole team signed, including Tito, a bat from Pedey and a glove from me.”
“Gee, thanks Mr. Youkilis.”
“Not a problem. And when the doc says it’s Ok, and if it’s OK with your folks, I’d love it if you were a guest of mine at a game.
I’ll even make sure they let you on the field in the press area during BP.”
“I’d like that,” Jonathan replied.
“Great. I’ve got to go. I’ve got to get to the park, but next time, I suggest you drop the food and use your hands to catch the ball. Deal?”
“Deal.” Jonathan smiled as Youk left the room.
It may have been a dream, but one thing Jonathan knew, dreams could come true with a bit of hard work. He’d show them all that he could play… but first he wanted to sleep on it. Who knows, maybe this time he’d see what would happen without getting hit in the head a couple of times.