Sleight of Hand

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Sports  |  House: Booksie Classic

Baseball has gone from old school stats to analytics this story is about one one ex player now front office executive who had to keep himself from swinging too far in either direction.

Sleight of Hand

“Man, if you gotta ask you’ll never know.”

Louis Armstrong

Spring Training 8 Months ago

Jack pulled into his parking spot at The Indiana’s Speeds spring training facility as he started to get his things he stopped and looked out onto the field seeing his players doing the same exercises he had done back in his day wishing he was out there.

“Hello glad you could make it” A man said tapping on the car window

Jack came out of his own thoughts and turned to the window it was Frank Brown the Speeds owner.

“Well I’d have been here sooner but you know Midwestern winter weather can be unpredictable” he said

“Especially in February do you miss it?”

“What do you think Frank you’ve lived in the Midwest your whole life?”

“No, Jack not the weather going through the motions of spring training as a player?”

Jack took another look onto the field remembering the time it took to get back into a throwing routine and in basic shape. “You ask me that question when I was 25 I would say yes but today I answer you as a 44 year old now. Frank we both know players are faster, stronger and quicker which something I never was so the far more I’m removed I don’t miss it as much as before I retired.”

“I hear you, the player you were to the player I saw growing up to the players my dad watched to the players my grandfather watched these guys are dam good at what they do.” Frank said

Jack “Players have changed but not the game itself”

Frank “Amen.”

Jack “All right my daydreams of being a big leaguer are over time to go to work so everyone here.”

Frank “All pitchers and catchers have reported for duty”

Jack “And our other players”

Frank “They are trickling in as we speak.”

Jack “Ok let me get settled and go over who and what we have and we can talk then”

Frank “Sounds good” he said walking back towards the field

Jack stood in the parking lot holding his laptop, briefcase and a cup of coffee feeling the Arizona sun on his back. After a long flight from Indianapolis to Arizona the last thing he wanted to do was paperwork so he dropped his stuff off at the make shift office at the ball park and headed to the Managers office.

“Well look who is here our fearless leader” Ed said

“Talking about you again” Jack said shaking Ed’s hand

“Depends on who you talk to. Have a seat so what kind of team are you giving me this year?’”

Jack leaned back in his chair “Well we both know with payroll flexibility being limited we have to make do with what we have and the little that we have done but until opening day a few more moves could be made.”

Ed “Fine I will let the coaching staff know of your plans.”

Jack “Once everyone is here and you address the team we can go from there” 

Ed “Which will probably be tomorrow since no one comes to spring training late”

Jack “Yep things have changed since we broke into the big leagues”

Ed “Indeed”

Jack walked up to the field from the dugout and watched his team not from a player stand point but from his current job President of Baseball operations. Five successful seasons making post season with one World Series. This was the year with he had one last run with the players he had before free agency and bringing up young players would change the team for better or worse. In all the years since he was in the positon this was the year he wanted to win the most. He headed back down into the dugout grabbed his things and headed to the hotel we would call home for the next two months. Jack pulled into a parking lot in front of an odd shaped Purple Building the hotel no one knew about Jack’s best spring training secret.

Don the hotel manager “Rooms all ready”

Jack “Thanks”

Jack walked the down the walkway to his home away from home put his suitcase down opened his brief case and pulled out to huge piles of paper and looked at them. One of them was scouting reports and the other was analytics of players my times have changed since he was a player. He took off his shoes, grabbed a bottle of beer and turned on the TV and sat on the bed looking at the piles of papers now he wished he was still a player he took a sip of his beer and turned his attention to the TV and later was asleep.

“Accountability. Yes we won 95 games but in the last month of the season we weren’t accountable for our scoring opportunities. As a team we need to get better at be accountable for our offensive scoring opportunities. As far as defense we are still at a high level and always can improve and our pitching needs to be consistent at a high level as well. There may be some room for new additions to the team but as of right now we are the team that needs to be accountable for every aspect of play this year.” Ed said to his players who stood in front him

Accountability that word fit perfectly with how the season came to an abrupt halt with the team getting bounced out of the first round of the playoffs due to the lack of offense. Jack and the front office had to rethink and reevaluate his team not so much relying on the talent of his team and look to new ways of producing more offense. Now with analytics driving the sport he had to not only stay ahead of the curve with the rest of the teams but find a way to improve his the best way he could with the team he currently had.

Red Campbell was entering his 49th year in the big leagues first as pitcher and now a pitching coach. He was old school in terms of his pitching staff in wanting his pitchers to pitch and not just throw. He kept his coaching basic with the fundamentals and used the analytics as more as teaching tool for himself along with his pitchers.

“I swear every year this paper gets longer with more stuff on it” he said taking the sheet from Jack

Jack “Yes. Red back in your day you didn’t have papers to look at all you had was a saying “Go 9”

“Yes. Never 3rd time threw the order” Red said

“Times have changed for both of us since we played.” Jack said

Red “This game is about adjustments has and always will be and also throw strike one.”

Jack “The best pitch in baseball”

Red “I taught you well you were one of my prized students who got that the first time I said it to you and it gave you a good career”

“Not by today’s numbers” Jack replied

“Jack stop it every once in a while it doesn’t hurt to look back when you played with all the analytics added it to. You had a good career regardless of what today’s numbers says. You were the last of the old school pitchers and I’d rather be evaluated by those numbers then these new ones.” He said

Jack leaned back in his chair and rubbed his face “I’ve been in the analytical world for too long that’s the only way I think now.” He said

“Well if you need a refresher in old school pick up a baseball card and on the back of one. Like yours.”

“Do they still even make baseball cards?” he asked

Red went into his back pocket pulling an unopened pack and tossing it onto his desk and left the office. Jack played with the pack wondering if he has this job 30 years ago without the analytics would it be easier it seemed like it would be but ever since he was kid Baseball had to weather some type of storm big or small something was impacting the game he loved so much and right now it was analytics.

“Ready if you are?” Bud Kelly the Speed’s hitting coach

Jack “Nope come on in. You’re the one I need to talk to the most” he said getting his paperwork together

Bud “I’m open to all ideas you have” he said

Jack “That’s the problem one year we b-hacked the ball to death, then its first to third them to death and now it’s once we get them on how do we get them over and in.”

Bud “A combination of all three perhaps”

Jack “Aka Situational hitting”

Bud “Yep Old school fundamentals”

Jack “With a little launch angle”

Bud “I like put the ball in play better”

Jack “My kind of man. Bud let me ask you something back when we were playing we were somewhat in dated with numbers basic simple numbers now that we have swung so far the other way do you think it’s doing more harm than good for every major league player?” 

Bud leaned back in his chair and thought for a moment. Bud like Jack was an above average player with consisted numbers every year he played. Just took the simple approach to the game and made a good living for himself. When he became a coach he still took that small simple approach until analytics came in which he embraced a little bit more than Red. Bud used it as another language to his players to communicate his message about hitting.

“Well you know these young players are info and technology driven so if they can handle and process it in a way that is successful great but before they can do that. They need to know the basic fundamentals of the game and analytics are a tool to reinforce the fundamentals.” He said

“Very true. When was the last time you look at the back of a baseball card?” Jack asked

“Oh God when I was a kid or when the last time I looked at the back of mine” Bud said with a laugh

“They were numbers we all lived and died by now its stuff an average 10 year may or may not get. Baseball has always been a numbers driven game but some of these high tech numbers really that helpful and useful?”

“You may think that pre and post-game but it’s during the game they matter the most outcomes and tendencies is what this game is based on through the world of analytics.” Bud said

“In others words when we played with all the video studying we were new school at the time and now we are old school too?” Jack asked

Bud “In some ways I’m afraid so” he said

Jack “Then I trust you and other hitting coaches use the analytics and your own expertise to customize an approach to each hitter and then in situational hitting talk about one approach one mind set” he said

Bud “I like it simple but effective” he said getting up

Jack “This year we have to stay the course with this approach” he said

Bud “Understood and by the way the last time I did look at a baseball card was when I had to prove you wrong that yes you did strike me out 8 times in one year it was the same year I hit the only home run you gave up that year.”

“Yeah the last game of the season at your last at bat” he said

“You still got the win and the complete game”

“But not the shut out” Jack said

Bud “You got enough shut outs and complete games then our pitching staff’s career combined walking out of the office

“Sorry I’m late had to get the latest projections” JC Martin said the clubs bench coach

“Don’t worry about it. So I will trade you your stack of papers for mine” he said

“Sure thing” Jc said

Each man quickly looked over the paperwork just to see what they had to decipher through later.

“Ah why are there scouting reports in here?” Jc asked

“We have always given you scouting reports what you don’t look at them?”

“Well to tell you the truth not really yes I do for lower A ball players but for the rest of them not so much.”

“I see well at least you are being honest with me. So I’d like you to look at them the same way you to with the analytics the Eye test is still important in this game and the scouts are its life line. Also I want you to use the basic info like pitching and hitting charts this year more meat and potatoes stats then all the head spinning ones” Jack said

“Sure thing and why I may ask” he said

“What are the stats on the back of a baseball card?” Jack asked

“War, Whip, Slg and ops” Jc answered

Jack couldn’t believe what he just heard “Really they managed to put that on there too”

Jc “Yep pretty soon the back of a baseball card will be all sabermetric.” He said

“Come on Jc you and I played in the same era doesn’t anything old school appeal to you anymore?”

Jc Martin was an average infielder in his playing days in which old school numbers didn’t fare well to him but the analytics made him a better player number wise. Jc was a sound fundamental player with his baseball IQ higher than most players and that’s what the scouts saw the Eye test of a scout got him and kept in the big leagues. Once he retired and headed straight to the study of sabermetrics wanting to help players like himself get to the big leagues.

“I’d have to go back and look to see what the normal grading system was when we played”

“Games, Runs, RBI, and homers you know things that actually matter in how we win games”

“Yes I know what those are although now my brain has been wired in such a way I see stuff like that and can spit it out analytically.” He said

Jack “What about the Eye test?”

Jc “That can be quantified sabermatically”

Jack “Gotcha. You of all people should know where you may not rank high statically or the eye test you have to excel at one to make it to the big leagues and stay here. So that’s all want this year is to help the Eye test guys.”

Jc “Baseball is all about cycles and mine is about to come full circle.”

Jack “Just find more of a happy medium” he said

Jc “I can go back to my roots on this one”

Jack “Thanks”

Jack headed onto the field through the dugout and walked over to the batting cage. “So how is it going?” He asked

The gentleman took his arms off the cage he was resting on lifted his white bucket hat up “Pure raw talent and I have to somehow put that into analytics” he said

“Oh I think I can help you with that” Jack replied

“Good then we can switch jobs and I can sit up the in cushy office while you travel this great land of ours trying to find the next mlb star” He said

Jack “Well Nate too late for that now the Baseball gods already how our careers laid out before today.”

Nate “Jack I’ve been a scout for almost 50 years and now more than ever has this game been driven by numbers not like old school numbers but fake numbers” he said

Jack let out a laugh “Those fake numbers are now on the back of Baseball cards” he said

“Don’t get me started on that. I get both sides of what you front office people go by nowadays in evaluating a player that’s more of a realistic determination where us last of a dying breed old scouts see black and white can’t hit the curve can’t get the slider over when he needs to. Both sides have been wrong on players good and bad but the human element has gone from the game with all this analytics.”

Jack patted Nate on the arm “See Nate Wilson that’s why all 30 teams need old school scouts like you more than ever to get to know these kids as people and not just players. Yes we have you guys fill out extra paper work for the analytics but more importantly those old school scouting reports those are and still be relevant in helping us in the front office put together a major league roster.”

“Yeah even those reports are getting longer to fill couldn’t be like when you played when I all needed to write up was if you had good or bad manners” he said

“And just so you know that’s the report we always look at first” Jack said

“Bull” Nate said

“All right Mr. Wilson I’m going to make the rest of my rounds” Jack said

“Sure thing boss back to the grind the life of a scout” he said

Jack walked to the back fields heading to see the young talent that would make up the Speeds farm system and couldn’t stop thinking about what Nate had said something so simple as to having good or bad manners still meant a lot. Jack walked up to each of the players and introduced himself taking mental notes of all their manners and remembering how he felt being on the back fields when the big wigs came to see you.

“It’s a beautiful day for a ball game” Frank said entering Jack’s office

“Always is this time of year” he said putting his hands behind his head leaning back in his chair

“So care to join me for a few innings?” Frank asked

“Sure if we could get this white elephant out of the room” Jack said

“Joe Maxwell” Jack said

“Oh that one.” Frank let out a deep breath

“Frank we have to make a decision or at least stick to one plan.” He said

Frank “What are our options” he asked

Jack “Well we can offer him more money with shorter years, longer years with less pay that could rise with incentives, trade him now or at the trade dead line weather we are in the race or not or we let him walk as a free agent.”

Frank “A few better than others” he said

“At least we have a few to choose from not like some clubs where there is only one.”

Frank “Agreed. Have you spoken to his agent?”

Jack “Here and there I wasn’t going to make the official call until we had our options and our plan put into place.” He said

Frank “I think it was easier when my grandfather owned the club no free agents, salary caps and small vs large markets. As an owner you grabbed all the money you could and if you didn’t like a player on your time you released him and that was it. As an owner you were hands on everything until…”

Jack “Until the players formed a union and general managers where still yes men to the owners.”

Frank “That’s when my grandfather got fed up and gave it all to my dad to handle” he said

Jack “Your grandfather was a fair owner. I just think he just got a little overwhelmed with the way the game was changing on and off the field and he knew it was time for your dad to take the reins.” He said

Frank “And then when he got overwhelmed he passed it onto you.” He said

Jack “But you were ready for it, you saw the way the game was heading before you took over and was ahead of the curve but the two things you, your dad, and your grandfather are good and fair owners not to many clubs are like that nowadays”

Frank “And we were blessed to have hired good people we could trust and that includes you Jack so what you thinks the best plan of action to Joe I trust your judgement.”

Jack “So this decision is all on me just answer me this question Frank do you want me to keep Joe at any costs or stick to what is best for the club?”

Frank “Head vs Heart question” he said

Jack “More like past vs future performance” he said

Frank “Let’s see what Joe wants and go from there” he said

Jack “You didn’t answer my question but I’d take the advice”

Frank “Just trying to put off the inviable for both of us” he said leaving the office

Jack leaned back in chair rubbing his face putting it was a few weeks before the season started and this was the last linger piece of the teams long term puzzle trying to keep the team’s home grown all-star who was about the start the prime of his career and the money he would command from any team. Joe was high draft pick and quickly made it the big leagues and became a cornerstone in the team’s successful run and it was time to see if retaining Joe to keep that window of winning open for a few more years and how much it would cost. No need to go over what they could or couldn’t do to retain his services for a few more years or the rest of his career. Jack started to reach for the phone to call Joe’s agent thinking back in the day this deal would done by Christmas but now the Baseball front office season was 365. He put the phone down and went to sit with Frank.

Frank “So what did Dick say?”

Jack “Didn’t call him to nice of a day to talk business”

“Well there is the man of the hour” Wes said

“When I entered the place it said your name on the marquee” Jack said

“Yeah but it’s less than a week away before Opening day and you haven’t made a significant offseason move.” He said

Jack “Don’t have room in the budget. Plus I like the team we have”

“No choice to like them right?” Wes asked

“Pretty much” Jack said

Wes “Well if the team can stay healthy and have close to good or above average seasons”

Jack “And just win one more game then last year”

Wes “Exactly. So what going on in the rest of your life”

Jack “Same ole same ole” he said

“All work and no play makes Jack…” Wes said sipping his beer

“I have to be all work to catch the worm” he said

“Well then I’ll make sure to add an extra song to the set list” he said

Jack “Can I see the set list so I’ll know when to leave”

Wes “I’m afraid not” he said

Jack “Why?”

Wes “Because I haven’t made it out yet so am scram” he said

“As you wish” Jack said getting up to leave the dressing room

Wes started to pull out a piece of paper and marker “Hey try and relaxed tonight and that phone better be off. I don’t want to hear it from the side of the stage”

“I have better seats” Jack said

“Where could you have better seats” Wes asked

“Front row” Jack said

“How did you get front row seats?” Wes asked

“Thanks to you” Jack said with smile

“I want this year’s playoff tickets comped” He yelled

Jack “We need to make the play offs first” Jack replied

Wes “We will.”

Jack took his seat directly in front of the stage for a concert that Major League Baseball put on for the fans who mostly attended all day spring training games with Wes Turner heading. Wes Turner was a rock musician who grew up in Indy and was a lifelong Speed fan. Both of their careers ran parallel while Jack was making his way up through the minors Wes was playing small clubs waiting to be signed by a record label. As each reached the next level of success the spotlight started to get closer and the pressure to perform for the public became greater. One night early in their professional careers after a tough loss by Jack went to one of Wes’s shows and Wes’s second album not living up to the hype drowned their sorrows after the show and became friends since.

“Beautiful night for a ball game or a concert which ever you prefer” Wes said to the crowd

Jack sat back in his chair taking a sip of his beer when he felt his phone vibrate he went to go reach for it when his eyes caught Wes’s and left his phone is in his pocket.

Wes “Let’s start the show with Maybe it’s time to let the old ways die” he said with sly smile

Jack thought to himself did Wes have that plan being the first song or was that actually the first song he had planned all along. Jack listened to Wes’s voice with the words he was seeing as Jack was daydreaming about his career up till now and how a lot had changed and how a lot things in Baseball had fallen by the way side and maybe it was time to let a few more die for good or bad.

“Mighty nice seeing you here” Wes said writing something down on his scorecard

Jack “Didn’t think you’d be here until the 5th” he said sipping his coffee

Wes “I could say the same about you” he said

“What I kept my promise I stayed for the whole show” he said

“Yes you did” he said

Jack “So now can I see the set list”

“OOOWW” a voice screamed from the pitching mound

“Oh shit” Jack said getting out of his seat heading to the club house  

Jack entered the clubhouse with Ed and Red outside the training room their faces said it all.

Ed “Shoulder”

Red “Yep”

Jack “Recovery time unknown” he said  

“The main question now for this ball club can Tyler Richardson make it back with the great stuff he had before the injury” The voice came over the tv Jack turned off the TV and rested his hands behind his head.

Tyler was 25 and now was learning to pitch instead of throwing but it was still a work in progress. Tyler would at least be out a season in which this could be the teams last good run with the players they before Jack had to re tool the entire team and Tyler was part of that window. Jack was pressed for time and a player short of the rooster he looked over what and who he had to make the big league club. For all 30 clubs extra pitching was a luxury to have at any point in time during the season. Knowing he had no room for payroll or good minor league players to trade for a good starting pitcher he had to go with in the origination. He picked up his phone and called Red.

Jack “Who can we bring north that is somewhat ready?” he asked

Red “Billy Ross”

Jack “That’s what I thought let me get back to you.”

Jack tossed his phone on the bed and looked around his hotel room he truly did not need this in terms of this type of injury to one of his top starters but it did happen and he needed to fix it. He took a deep breath rubbed his eyes and started to look for all his paperwork on Billy Ross.

“Who is it?” Jack said sitting on the bed covered in papers eating out of a Chinese container

“Frank” the voice said

“It’s open” Jack said with his mouth full

Frank came into the room “Didn’t think Arizona encounter tornados”

“Well this maybe a first and its name is Billy Ross” Jack said

Frank took a seat “Is he our best option?”

Jack putting a fork full of food in his mouth “He’s are only option can’t afford a free agent, don’t have any high prospect to use for trade bait and if the other 29 clubs don’t release a starting pitcher within the next 5 days leave us with Billy.”

Frank “ok is he ready to pitch in the big leagues?”

Jack “Well old or new school answer”

Frank “Both” he said

Jack “He has a perfectly healthy strong arm with low velocity but knows how to pitch.”

Frank “So million dollar question is do we baby him with innings and pitch counts or just go old school with him no limits.”

Jack “I have a two million dollar question is due we take him north with us in 5 days or call him up two weeks later.”

Frank “And keep him an extra year before he becomes a free agent”

Jack “Bingo”

Frank “From what I heard and saw he’s a keeper has exceled at every level of pro ball risk vs reward?” he said

Jack put his hands on top of his head “More of head vs heart” he said

Frank “Nowadays it’s called old school vs new school new numbers vs the old ones”

Jack “No matter what terms you use or how you quantify the numbers he’s ready to pitch in the big leagues” he said

Frank “Then bring him up north now” he said

Jack “And loose him a year early that’s what I’m struggling with the most”

Frank “Let me ask if this helps do we truly need him to bring north with us.”

Jack “Looking at the schedule and the off days we can bring an extra bat and use an opener for one or two starts and that’s it we definitely need a starting pitcher.” He said

Frank “Problem solved if that’s the only route we can take”

Jack “Or maybe pick up a released pitcher”

Frank “Jack you never leave a stone unturned. Anything else I should be aware of before we start this for real”

Jack “Knock on wood no” he said letting out a deep breath

Frank “Then call it a day and get some sleep” he said getting up

Jack ‘If I have enough energy to clear off the bed” he said

Frank “Go lay on the other one” he said leaving the room

Jack sat on the bed lifeless for a minutes feeling like he was plain old tired when he was a pitcher in spring a good tired meaning he put in a full day’s work and with the Billy Ross situation he did. Finally he got up turned the light off and laid on other bed in his room when his phone went off it was a text from Wes.

“See ya in a couple of weeks and if it’s cold I aint sitting in the stands I’m sitting with you in the box”

Jack smiled put his phone back on the night stand Wes would have to wait for Jack’s smart ass reply tomorrow.

Start of the Season

With team’s roster finalized and all the other players in the organization in the respective levels of ball. Jack flew back to Indianapolis to meet with the other side of the organization the business side. In college Jack majored in Business in college in case his baseball career didn’t pan out and with him being a player for so long his business skills were a little rusty but he came up to full speed pretty quickly and understood how both went together.

“Ok what do we have any major going on this month” Jack asked

Frank “Other than Opening day”

Jack “That would be a major one” he said

Tom Davis President of Business Operations “Everything looks good all the way around although we are still under the restraint of spending money on players for a few more years it still looks like trade or farm system route.” He said

Jack put his head down letting out a deep breath with Tom’s words being the final nail in the coffin Jack was stuck with what had to work with his big league roster and farm system.  

Frank “Jack something wrong?”

Jack “Nope Tom just confirmed my hope against hope I have to play with the toys I’ve been given.” He said

Frank “Victims of our own success” he said

“Or our money trees are going a bit bare” he said

Tom “We are by no means strapped for cash but if you plan on making a major moves where contracts are involved please call me first” he said

Jack “So anything I’d should be forewarned about?”

Samantha Collins head of marketing “Other than our annual fund raisers we are having our first legends night where we honor former players through the years and we are having you as an honoree.” She said

Jack laid back in his chair what she just made him feel like he just aged twenty years. “Am I that old?” he asked

Samantha “No it’s more of a generational night and you are the bridge to the past and future players in the organization” she said

Jack “Samantha I don’t know you to take that as an insult or compliment but thank you” he said

Samantha “Jack it’s going to be a fun night it’s just a night to celebrate the great people we have had in this organization.” She said enthuastically

Jack “Do I have to speak at this thing?” he asked

Samantha “Yes it’s preferred but not necessarily.”

Frank “Don’t worry about making it to long we will have a pitch clock on you” he said with smile

Jack “I don’t think it’s the pitchers that need the clock it’s going to be the batters. So when is this night planned for?”

“The first game back from the all-star break” She said

Jack thought to himself well at least he had time for that piece of business.

Jack walked into the stadium feeling like it was the first day of school. Opening Day never got old for anyone who was associated with the game Opening Day meant your team’s chance to start over and this year in Jack’s case may be his last hurrah to win it all. 

“You’re here early” Frank said entering Jack’s office

“Just because it’s Opening Day for us doesn’t mean the rest of the Baseball world is going to stop.” He said

“Wow that’s something I thought I’d never hear coming out of your mouth” Frank said

“That makes two of us but this is the day and age where the game actually takes a back seat from the business of Baseball.” He said

Frank “I hear you Opening Day felt like a National Holiday.”

Jack “Ever since I was a kid from the last out of the World Series I couldn’t wait for opening day and more anticipation when I started my career and now since I’m in the front office now I’m just going through the motions now it’s another day at the office with a Baseball game.”

Frank “Yes even being an owner at times can lessen the love of the game but that’s while we are still in this for the love of the game.”

Jack “As long as it doesn’t turn into a love hate relationship.”

Frank “In what way?”

Jack ‘You still love the game but hate having to deal with the business side of it.”

Frank “That’s why you have to at times stop and just watch the game as a game enjoyed the pleasure of watching a Baseball game let’s say with no strings attached.”

Jack “Easier said than done”

Frank “Take my advice try to do it as a 12 year old kid and not a 38 year old man in the front office and today would be a great day to do it.”

Jack put his hands on his hips and let out a deep breath looking at the paperwork there was nothing immediate pending on his plate that he wasn’t aware of or fully updated on so he felt he could play hooky today.

“So have you been down on the field yet?” Jack asked

Frank “No stopped up here first to come get you” he said

“Ok” he said starting to put on his suit jacket

“Jack what 12 year old wears a suit to a Baseball game” Frank said

Jack stopped and had to think what Frank had just said

“Oh yeah” he said taking it back off

“And loose the tie” Frank added

Jack undid his tie tossing it on the desk and grabbed his Baseball cap and started to walk out of the office with Frank when his assistant met him at the door with the starting lineup.

Frank gave Jack a look “Nah I trust Ed’s judgement” he said

Jack and Frank made their way into club house and chatted with everyone before making their way out onto the field to catch a little batting practice. Jack took a look around the stadium remembering the feeling he had when he came here as a kid on a summer day and being able to see a Baseball game in person.

“50 years old and still keeps score” Jack said

“Nothing wrong with that” Wes said filling out is scorecard

“Nope one of the beauties of our sport” He said

“So what brings you by to be among the people that have to pay for their seats” Wes said

“Nothing just want to take in a ball game like you” he said

“And when will you be leaving to watch from the sky box before or after the National Anthem”

“Nice day I was thinking the whole game.” Jack said

“Or until the team is losing and people figure out you’re seating here” Wes said

“Nope today I’m not Jack the Baseball executive. I’m Jack the 12 year old” he said

“Ok and why are we going back in the time machine?” Wes asked

“Wes let me ask you something when you watch a game now do you watch it as an adult or a kid?” he asked

“I don’t know hadn’t thought of it that way” he said

“Ok let me ask it another way when you were a kid and watched were you watching the game based on the players stats or what they did on the field?” he asked

Wes “Well I wasn’t a box score watcher in that regard just whatever stats they put up on the tv I guess” he said

“And that’s what most of Baseball fans did they watch the game with what the players did on the field and how they played not by the numbers that were next to their names” he said

“All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” Wes said

Jack “Meaning?”

Wes “Meaning you have been now trained to watch the game thru analytic glasses and not through the eyes of a 12 year old”

Jack “Exactly sort of feel like an owner back in the day saying why am I paying this bum all this money he can’t hit his way out of an open paper bag” he said

Wes “Third time through the order is a bitch” he said with a smile

“Among all the other things that has shifted our game” he said

“Yes for better or worse the game has changed part of life as well no one is trying to overhaul the game just adapting to what is better for the game as a whole. Remember this game is based on cycles somethings will come back around even better” Wes said

Jack “I don’t know if somethings will ever come back and or if they do come back it will be for the better of the game.”

Wes “Sometimes you have to bite the bullet and accept change more now to be completely open to it.” He said

Jack “Yes in life but in Baseball I’m not saying everything should stay sacred more like a happy medium between old and new school.” He said

Wes “Just remember Jack what you kind of said earlier all the stats on paper say one thing but it’s those 9 guys on the field that bring the game to life not the stats.” He said

Jack closed his eyes and titled his back Wes was right it was the players themselves that made the game what it was their talent and athleticism was still part of the game no matter how far the game was analytically driven it was the players that played the game not the numbers.

“Thanks for the pep talk coach” Jack said getting up

Wes “Where are you going?”

Jack “I’ll be back” he said

Jack was long for a little bit when he returned to Wes with a couple of hot dogs and beer “When did 12 year olds get to buy beer?”

Jack “That was 21 year old Jack.” He said

Wes “Fair enough so why do you have Jose batting cleanup and not Joe”

Jack “I didn’t look at the lineup today remember.”

Wes “Totally immersed in this” he said

Jack “Totally, man nothing tastes better than a hot dog at a ballgame” he said

“See there you go that hasn’t changed for you” Wes said

“Nope it’s the little things like that, that keep the game beautiful” he said “To Opening Day” He said raising his cup

Wes “To Opening Day”

It was a warm mild day with the sun out and a little breeze warm if you sat in the sun a little cooler if you sat in the shade but it was Opening Day spring had unofficially arrived. After all the ceremonies were all over and the player introductions it was time to play ball and get the season officially under way. With Tyler being out for the season the starting rotation was moved up a day with so many days off between games Jack had a little time to buy as to who the fifth starter would be.

“Strike” The umpire shouted as the crowd cheered

Jack and Wes didn’t talk much during the game both enjoying the game in their own way as an old school pitcher’s duel had the game scoreless all the way to the eighth inning. When Ed came out to take out the pitcher after a walk.

Wes leaning over “Third time through the order”

Jack “He went eight” he said

Wes “That he did”

After the relief pitcher came in and got two outs the other team’s best hitter hit a double and broke the scoreless tie game. For a moment Jack went back to being a Baseball executive doubting himself maybe he should have looked at the line ups. The team went down 123 in the bottom of the inning and the speeds bullpen put up a scoreless ninth. “All we need is a bloop and a blast” the 12 year old Jack said to himself. After the first two batters went down quickly it wasn’t looking good. Joe quickly got in a 0-2 count and fought back to earn a walk. Now the other team brought in their closer to face Jose. The Speeds chances dropped lower. Jack and Wes watched the pitchers miss the first three pitches for balls and then watched Jose foul off the next two. The crowd up on their feet cheering as loud as they could the pitcher came to his set position and delivered the pitch as Jose seemed to pick up the ball late Jack thought he’s going down swinging but Jose’s bat made contact with the ball and the wind took care of the rest placing it in Jack’s opened hand the speed had one Opening Day in dramatic fashion the 12 year old Jack was ecstatic 38 year old Jack relieved it always felt good to win on Opening Day. Jack looked down at the baseball and gripped it like he was starting it felt good remembering all the opening day starts he had and the feeling of winning the first game of the year.

Wes “Hey maybe Jose should hit clean up more often”

Jack “Why because he is your favorite player”

Wes “That’s old school Wes, Analytics Wes says otherwise”

Jack “Well for the record I like old school Wes.” He said stretching and started his way out of the aisle as he passed a young boy who brought his mitt and placed the ball in it and kept walking.

Wes “1 down 161 to go”

Jack “Don’t remind me”

Jack pumped his fist as the final out was made with the team winning a 2-1 game in a rear Friday afternoon game. Jack started to make his way out of the clubs stadium suite and when back into his office before heading home so he thought. On his desk he found the update medical status on Tyler’s surgery, the shrinking off days and the list of opponents coming up he knew exactly where this was leading he had to bring Billy up now. Right now the club was a few games over 500 and from the looks of the schedule they were going to need another started. Jack leaned over and looked at his calendar it was exactly two weeks were Billy could be called up and the club would still keep him an extra year before he became a free agent. Jack grabbed his phone and texted Frank

“Bringing Billy up for the Albuquerque series”

Frank “Fine don’t want to make it to obvious”

Jack “Yes and no”

Frank “Method to the madness’

Jack “Something like that”

Jack reached the top step of place hasn’t changed a bit he said to himself looking around The Albuquerque Diablo stadium beautiful green field in the middle of New Mexico’s southwestern scenery made him want to put on the spikes and head to the mound.

“You had an 0-2 count on Tom Brinks threw him a cookie and he jacked it to the deepest part of the park and the look on your face was priceless” Nate said from the stands

Jack “Before or after Willie caught the ball”

Nate “Both” he said getting out of his seat

Jack “What are you doing here?”

Nate “Came to see the ace of the staff” he said

Jack “Why is there something wrong you could have called and not flown all the way out here”

Nate “No Billy maybe the last pitcher I’ve scouted to be called up”

Jack “Nate what are you talking about?”

“Jack I’ve been in this game a long time and I’ve lived out my dream by being in Baseball almost my entire life and now let’s just say I’m ready to go watch Baseball for the pure enjoyment of it.” He said

Jack put his head down “Yes you don’t realize how quickly time passes when you get to do what you love your entire life.” He said

Nate “Something like that”

Jack “So are you telling me now that you are officially retiring?”

Nate rubbed the back of his neck” Sort of not really I did tell Frank this would be my last season and he gave me his blessing.”

Jack “Good enough I’ll get Samantha to put something together for you when we get home”

Nate “No need to fuss over me I’ve had Suzie do that to me for 45 years”

Jack “And she should be Sainted for it”

Nate “Jack I’m a lucky guy in that regard the fact she loves Baseball as much as I do she never complained about traveling to the not so glamourous cities and such but she made do with where she was and made my travelers easier in always making sure I got to be a few hours away from the game which is probably why I stayed a scout for so long there more to life than just Baseball Jack remember that”

 Jack “Easier said than done”

Nate “I used to think that way to but you, yourself I have to do it luckily I had Suzie. You had Kasey”

Jack “Ah Nate don’t start Kasey and I it didn’t work out for a lot of reasons”

Nate “Well, being a scout for most of my adult life I know some of the reasons were the same ones Suzie and I had to go through and made it work. You and Kasey…”

Jack “Me and Kasey were never meant to be” he said heading out onto the field

Nate “Bull crap” he shouted

The team started to come out onto the field for batting practice and Jack would meet with the press to discuss Billy’s debut.

Jack “We are excited to have Billy Ross make his major league debut with the Speed to night. We felt as a team he was ready to and our best option to join our club with the injury to Tyler Richardson.”

Reporter “Why is Billy making his debut here and not at home?”

Jack “With Tyler going down, the way the schedule was set up and the number of off days in the beginning of the year we time it in way where when we needed that fifth started that’s when we would bring him up.”

Reporter “Is this outing going to be based on pitch count or innings?”

Jack “Performance weather its one or the other or both it’s going to be based on performance”

Reporter “With all the soon to be top free agents signing extensions what the status with Joe Maxwell”

Jack “We are still in the process of what are options are as a club moving forward and what are options are financially and we will make our best effort and offer to keep Joe as a member of the Speed.” He said

Jack made his way into the locker room something as president he rarely did for back in his day when any of the front office came to visit the locker room it wasn’t always a cheerful visit. Now with analytics and social media prevalent in today’s locker room open communication from the office to the dugout was crucial into today’s game and Jack always maintained the balance of when it was time to come visit the guys or when to stay in his office.

Jack made his way to Billy’s locker that was next to their catcher Bob Thomas’s locker “So how things going?” he asked

Billy “Fine” he said quietly

Jack “Are you nervous?”

Billy was silent for a moment afraid to say anything “A little” he said with his head down

Jack “Glad to hear it if you told me no then I’d be worried”

Billy “So it’s normal you had the same feeling?”

Jack “Any human with a pulse would be nervous in the first big league appearance”

Billy “Can I ask you a question?”

Jack “Anything”

Billy “How did you handle it”

Jack put his head down for a second and let out a deep breath he had to be one hundred percent honest with Billy “I trusted my stuff like you I don’t throw hard so I had to rely on my stuff and my gut. You have a little bit more information let’s call it but I’ve seen you pitch you have what it takes to be a major leaguer so just remember to breathe, slow things down trust Bob and trust yourself. “

Billy took in what Jack had said “Thanks”

Jack got up and started to walk out of the locker room “Billy also remember if you throw a no hitter always run to your catcher” he said

Billy “Like you forgot to do when you threw yours here and ran to Wille instead” he said

Jack “I wasn’t going to say anything to put more pressure on you” he said

Billy “Don’t worry Tom Brinks isn’t in the lineup”

Jack “Fair enough” he said leaving with a smile on his face Billy was going to be just fine

Jack made his way into Ed’s office with Red

Ed “So we are going by what you said out their performance?”

Jack “Yes, I have to for his first start I don’t any restrictions on him until I see firsthand what kind of stuff he has, how he uses it and what the hitters are going to do” he said

Red “Ha old school I love it my boy is going 9” he said clapping his hands together

Jack “Unless we are losing and it’s the third time through the order” he said

Ed “New school got to rear its ugly head”

Jack “We are all going to be watching him more with hearts then our heads so just remember it’s his first start and it’s nothing to base his season up here or his entire career.” He said

Ed and Red nodded in agreement.

Jack “What are you doing here?”

Wes taking a bite out one of the Stadiums famous Diablo Burgers “Band had a night off from working on the album” he said

Jack “Which so happen to coincide with Billy’s debut” He said texting Samantha about Nate being included in Legends Night

Wes “Funny how that worked out”

Jack “How many more bridges in Brooklyn are you going to sell me”

Wes “Got to support my team plus you been high on Billy since Nate saw him”

Jack “Yes all true I just hope he just stays true to his stuff” he said looking down at his phone it was Samantha who just texted back “Done”

“He will always have” Nate said sitting next to the two of them

The Speed went down quickly in the top of the first much to Jack’s disappointment hoping they could score giving Billy a little bit more confidence when he took the mound.

“You look worse than an expectant father” Nate said

“Can’t help it feeling what I felt the first time I took the mound” he said

Wes “He will feel better after the first pitch” he said

Nate “Who Jack or Billy” he asked

Wes “Billy and Jack feel better after he takes a sip of beer” he said

Nate “Agreed”

Billy got out of the first with a minimum number of pitches and looked settled in while he was walking off the mound which eased some of Jack’s anxiety. Both pitchers had command of their stuff with the Speed’s batters making contact for outs where Billy kept throwing first strike after first strike and going through the Diablo’s line up with no effort. The game was scoreless heading into the top of the ninth when with two outs Jose got a single and Joe hit a home run out into the deepest part of the park. Now Jack’s anxiety came back the lower third of the Diablos order was up they were tough outs in the lineup and Jack prayed for once the third time through the order wrong for Billy’s debut. Billy got the first two batters out one a strike out and one on a hard hit ball to the short stop. Now the Diablo’s had a pinch hitter who smacked Billy’s first pitch fastball out of the park tying run was up at the plate. Up until now Jack had been watching the game as a fan and now he had to watch it as an executive. “Ed please take him out” he said softly

“Wish is granted” Wes said

Ed made his way out to the mound with the whole infield standing with Billy telling him he did a great job. Billy left the mound there were a few Speed fans in the stands along with Jack, Nate and Wes giving him a standing ovation. Ed brought in the Speed’s closer to make sure Billy got the win and with one pitch Billy Ross won his major league debut.

Nate “My heart can’t take all this I like it better in my neck of the woods”

Jack “Well then I suggest you watch minor league games once you retire” he said

Memorial Day marked one of the gauging points as to where a team is and what direction it may go in up or down. The Speed where in first place by a slim margin where no one in the division was getting hot enough to gain a big league and not look back. The team wasn’t lacking in anything just playing good Baseball so drastic moves needed to be made. Jack could breathe a bit easier and turn his attention to the Amateur Draft. 

Jack put his head behind his head and leaned back in his chair “Ok kids what are we looking at”

Nate “You tell us boss you want arms or bats this draft” he said

Jack rubbed his hands over his face “How about a little of both we could use both”

Nate “Let me ask you what do you want and what do you need?”

Jack “Overall is this year’s draft producing arms or bats”

Nate “A little of both”

Jack knew this conversation was going nowhere quick and would be going in circles with these back and forth lobs at each other.

Nate “Jack bottom line we need both but if we look at it in terms of what we need at the major league level it’s pitching we both know are staff is one of the oldest in the league and with a few free agents at the end of the season.”

Jack “ok that’s a start” he said shuffling his papers looking at all the pitchers

“Do you want Old school analytics or New School analytics” A voice said

“Liz I love you to death but please tell you are joking about new and old school analytics”

“Jack times they are changing once again in our beloved game yes the new wave in analytics is called liquid analytics.”

Nate looked at Liz “What in the hell is liquid analytics”

Liz Jackson was The Negro Leagues pitcher William Jackson’s granddaughter who spent the first few years of her career as a major league broadcaster and then wanted a positon with a major league club and her love of numbers jumped into the analytic pool and landed a job with the Speed. “One part of Liquid Analytics is Effective Velocity- Science of controlling contact through pitch tunneling, sequencing and an advanced understanding of how each pitch changes the landscape. Basic concepts of Effective velocity- Cut fastball usage to 50 percent, Elevate fastballs to reduce reaction time, create EV tunnels to increase deception.” She said

Nate “What the hell”

Jack “She means the game within the game within the game”

Liz “Pretty much I have basic Liquid Analytic data on all the pitchers in the draft and give you a major league pitcher who they most compare to.” She said

Jack “Liz some of these players are retired why not list all current players”

Liz “Because back in the day that’s how almost all pitchers pitched but now with all the new measurements and data we can now start to blend old school baseball with the analytics”

Jack “Hallejah old school Baseball is finally making a comeback”

Liz “Not so fast there is so much more science we can tap into make the game more efficient “

Jack “Speed up pace of play the commissioner would love to hear that”

Nate “With all this technology and science in the game it’s going to make it robotic and not real Baseball more like video game Baseball”

Liz “Guys I know where you are coming from I myself at times feel this is not the game we once knew but it’s how we use the technology to make our players better and understand how to use it to help them to their full advantage to make them better players. At the end of the day it’s still going to be the nine players that take the field and execute the info not us mad scientists the human element and eye test will never change on the field during a game it’s how we use it during a game that makes it work or not.”

Jack “Liz I hear you but the way Old school Baseball is being faded out I don’t like it. I know that the numbers don’t lie but there are days I wish we could play a game straight threw and let happen what is supposed to happen”

Liz “Yes Jack I agree there are days I wish I could watch a game like I did as a child with my grandfather and just listen to him tell me what the pitcher was going to throw and why and he was right on almost one hundred percent of the time that was fun the analytic part of this job has taken the fun out of watching a game for me at times”

Nate “To late to turn back now in all this we have to keep up with the joneses or be left in the dust.” He said

Jack “Lead, follow or get the hell out of the way” he said

Liz “More like stay current and relevant in the analytic world” she said

Jack “That’s why I want you Liz to be in the draft room on draft day just to make sure are picks, analytics and old school scouting reports all match up.”

The three of them went back to work completing their drafts selections and back up plans in case other teams that drafted the players they wanted ahead of them. Jack got up from the table and headed to his mini refrigerator and grabbed three bottles of beer.

“Normally I don’t do this at the office but I think we all could use one and deserve one”

Nate “That hit the spot Jack”

Liz “Beats the lemonade I had to drink when I watched games with my grandfather”

Jack taking a sip “Liz was your grandfather old school till the end or did he embrace the changes in the game.”

Liz “He understood why the game was changing he always used to say “Why are they taking the long road to get to the same place when the shortcut still works.”

Nate “If it aint broke don’t fix it”

Jack “Third time through the order would have killed him” he said

Liz “No he was ahead of his time on that one. I’d watch games with him and after the first couple of pitches in the first inning he say “Lucky if he sees this batter again with the stuff he is throwing.” Again Jack with all the numbers in front of us we are still trying to find that happy medium of when to go against the numbers more often.”

Nate “Well I don’t think I’ll ever see it in my lifetime and I plan on living for a more years”

Jack “Liz did your grandfather liked the way I pitched”

Liz “That’s understatement every time you took the mound he said he’s going to go nine. He loved your pitching you knew how to command a game.”

Jack let out a little smile before taking another sip “I loved talking pitching with him. I learned a lot he was a great mentor.”

Liz “He was always fond of you Jack and always enjoyed your company”

Nate “I’ll drink to that” he said lifting his bottle

“To Nate and William Jackson Old School Baseball to Liz Jackson and New School Baseball and to me Jack Nelson stuck in the middle of both them.”


All Star Break

Jack entered his office frustrated the team had just blown the game had led the game the entire way and then just couldn’t hold the lead. Today the pitching was outstanding it was the offense that couldn’t get it going again other than Joe’s home run the teams only run. Joe and Jose’s bats were carrying the team but for how long he needed another consistent bat at the plate either by bringing someone up or trading for one something he totally did not want to think about at the moment. He looked at the schedule to see who they were playing next when he saw the words All-star break from Monday-Thursday. Jack closed his eyes and started to drift off.

“I still see you take the last game losses before the break harder now then you did when you played.” A voice said standing behind his chair giving him a kiss on top of the head

His eyes still closed holding her hands “Stings more now so what are you doing in town?”  He said swinging the chair around pulling her onto his lap

“Just got done with a story in New York and I have a few days off before I start my next story and rented a beach house in Malibu for a few days and thought I’d take in a game”

“Malibu huh back when we were together you didn’t want to leave the house let alone the bed”

“That’s when I had a nine to five job and I knew for those few days were we needed to make up for lost time.”

“But we made up for it in the offseason” he said

Kasey “No Jack that was borrowed time we were two different people back then you were getting acquainted to being a big league player while I was a struggling freelance writer. We were navigating adulthood together we needed each other as buddies not as lovers”

“So what are you saying our time together was wasted?”

Kasey “Oh my god Jack never you are and still part of my life our time together was meant to happen and then it served its purpose as life took us in different directions in our careers it took us apart.” She said with watery eyes

“I still love you Kasey” he said

“I know but you love this more” she said tossing a Baseball in the air

Jack looked at the Baseball if she only knew what was going through his mind as he was starting to lose the love of the game. “Kasey why are you here?” he asked still looking at the Baseball

Kasey was in tears she said hugging him “I miss you Jack”

Jack slept the entire flight out to Malibu and woke up feeling drained from today’s loss and Kasey’s surprise appearance to flying half way across country to be with her was something he needed and mostly importantly wanted he missed her too. Getting off the plane after a long road trip and her driving him from the airport felt like old times.

“Want something to eat?” she asked

“No I’m good” he said with his eyes closed

When they got to the beach house Jack headed for the shower while Kasey started to watch TV on the bed. Jack got into bed and started to check his phone.

“Jack I’m not asking you or expecting you not to be tied to your phone while we are together”

Jack put his phone down took her in his arms and started to kiss her.

Jack shot up out of bed from his text tone going off on his phone 530 am California time. He grabbed his shorts and headed out onto the deck shutting the door.

“What’s wrong” he said

Bud “He wants to change his swing” he said

Jack “Who?”

Bud “Joe”

Jack “No absolutely not I know why he wants to because he’s thinking he had to carrying the ball club and he doesn’t tell him to take these days off and do nothing Baseball related. We are a good hitting some of our players just need to be a little more patient at the plate. Joe is fine”

Bud “I wish you could come over right now and tell him that”

Jack “I would but I’m in California for a few days” he said looking at Kasey asleep

Bud “Oh didn’t think you were leaving town”

Jack “Last minute plans. Bud does Ed or any of the other coaches know about Joe’s intentions about changing his swing?”

Bud “Don’t think so I came by the office to pick something up and there he was watching video and practicing different swings”

Jack “Did he see you?”

Bud “Probably not.”

Jack “Is he still there?”

Bud “Yep”

Jack whispered “Put him on the phone”


“Joe this is Jack don’t not mess with your swing don’t take this upon yourself to fix our offense that’s my responsibility. Do us both a favor and go home and rest we still have a lot of games to go and I need you at your best.” He said

“But Jack I can get better at hitting the low sliders in the dirt”

Jack “You can work at that in the off season now we need the Joe Maxwell just to have the same good consistent at bats he’s had his entire career if you want to work on something start talking to our younger guys about being more patient at the plate.”

“Ok Bud and I can start that now” he said excited

“No after the break or I will tell Ed to bench you the first series back” he said

“Lead by example” Joe said

Jack “Exactly you’ve done that your whole career don’t ever change that.” He said

“Got it” he said handing the phone back to Bud

“He’s packing up his stuff” Bud said

Jack “Escort him to the car.”

Bud “Well do sorry about waking up I thought you’d like to know what he was up to”

Jack “No problem” he said hanging up the phone and muting it

Jack put his phone down on the night stand and got back into bed with Kasey rolling over with her eyes opened “What time is it” she asked

“Our time” he said taking her in his arms again

Once Jack had got up late morning he didn’t know what to do with himself Kasey had already been gone to the store and made them breakfast and now he was fighting the urge not to grab his phone.

“I see you muted it” she said sliding his phone across the table as she took a sip of her coffee

“What did you think I wasn’t after what you said last night. I could have stayed home and muted my phone if I didn’t want to be bothered.”

Kasey “Then why did you come”

Jack “I missed you too Kasey it’s been a long time so how is life treating you?”

Kasey “Can’t say life is grand nor can I say it sucks how about you?”

Jack “Feels like a standstill like a nonstop nine to five job”

Kasey “Really so I was wrong what I said in your office about loving the game more than me”

Jack “I still love the game just don’t love the way that’s going trust me I understand the how’s and why‘s but maybe I’m just getting old at this front office gig.”

Kasey “Then maybe you should do something else”

Jack “Like what?”

Kasey “Like something that makes you happy”

Kasey’s words struck a chord with Jack what else in the world could make him happier than being in the game of Baseball his entire life and if he did choose something else what the hell would it be.

“Are you happy with what you do?” he asked

“Pays the bills handsomely yes and to have the freedom to finally write the stories I want to write that took hard work over the years Jack like you I had to hone my craft just as well we’ve both come a long way in our careers and something we should be damn proud of.”

Jack “What about your personal life are you happy there?”

Kasey “Ah we don’t need to go there” she said

Jack “Why”

Kasey “Because Jack you were my first love and my best love not saying I had some serious relationships after we broke up but there was something between us that made us good for each other. Nowadays with my schedule who knows if I could survive another serious relationship plus I love my freedom. What about you?”

Jack “I never heard Baseball being a jealous woman but I’ve been close to her rearing her ugly head. Some women I dated got it and some not at all but you Kasey you understood it completely didn’t like it at times but you got it.”

Kasey “Yes I did all too well and that’s why I had to end it with you Jack I didn’t want to but I had too for both us we were growing too much apart personally and professionally.”

Jack “At the time as a player I didn’t see but once I moved into the front office I knew what you meant.”

Kasey “After we broke up I immersed myself in my work thinking that would fill the void of us not being together but no such luck.”

Jack “All work and no play” he said pulling her out of her seat taking her back to bed

The few days Jack and Kasey were together they talked about everything but their careers took walks along the beach and cooked it was a time for them to reconnect not as lovers but as people.

Kasey stood at the doorway to the patio looking at Jack stare out into the ocean with his laptop on in front of him. “Wow you scared me” he said

“Didn’t mean to” she said

Jack “Maybe you did I got to get this done by Saturday” he said going back to his laptop

Kasey started to head back into house “Take along as you need I kept you away long enough”

“Kasey please come back I need your help” he said handing her his laptop

She started to read “What is this your retirement speech?”

Jack “No Saturday they are having legends night and they are honoring me and that’s what I got so far I just want you to clean it up a little.”

Kasey “ok so are you done is this all you want to say?”

Jack “Pretty much”

Kasey put the laptop down and started her edits on Jack’s speech and handed it back to him and read it. “Thank you” he said

Kasey “No problem” she said walking back into the house

Jack grabbed her hand and pulled her to him as he started to kiss her “I got an idea why don’t you stay at my place till the end of the season and then we can take a real vacation.”

“Oh god no Jack please don’t do this to us” she said

Jack “Why don’t you want to see where this leads us?”

Kasey “Jack I know where this is going to leads us back to breaking up again. I broke up with you once before I can’t go through that again I love you too much.”

Jack “Then why in the hell did you invite me out here in the first place”

Kasey “To see if we could give it another shot and we are still married to our careers. I’m sorry Jack for leading you on like this I was being selfish I just wanted you back in my life and I can see it’s not going to happen.”

Jack “Kasey I never left you, you left me and I have never closed the door on us having any type of relationship if you wanted to try and have a relationship I’d try to make it work never think I wouldn’t.”

Kasey “I know that what scares me Jack I just don’t want to lose you again to the game of Baseball.” She said

Jack kissed her and took her to bed and made love to her the following the morning he started to pack.

Jack “I can take a cab to the airport I have to see Tyler pitch in Arizona”

“So honest truth will he pitch again the same way he did?” Jack asked

Dr “Yes, by all means he can it’s just he won’t have the high velocity on his fast ball no matter how hard it he wants to. I don’t think Tyler’s problem will be physical it’s more between the ears.”

Jack “In what way?”

“Now he is going to have to start to pitch all the time and not just throw or it could be a career ending injury aka he needed to throw fifty percent fast balls and fifty percent other pitchers.” Dr

Jack “Have you told him that”

Dr “We have and he’s somewhat receptive to it. It seems he’s on board with it when he talks to Red but when he gets frustrated he wants to throw more fastballs.”

Jack “Should I talk to him?”

Dr let out a laugh “As his boss no that won’t go over to well and an ex pitcher and I don’t know although having him talk to Billy might help.”

Jack thought for a moment at least with Billy being up with the big club and working with Red maybe there was some force in numbers.

“Ok I will talk to Billy and let me know how things are going” he said

Dr “Sure thing” he said

Tyler shouted “Hey Dr think I can make it back after the all-star break?”

Dr “Work on your curve ball and we’ll see” he said

“Ahh the curve ball is over rated it’s all about the fast ball Dr”

“That’s what you think” the Dr said under his breath

“Exactly” he said tossing a baseball up in the all

Tyler walked off the mound feeling great no signs of soreness and every type of pitch he threw seemed to have great location and speed in his mind he was ready to take the mound sooner than anyone would expected. 

“Hey Ty” Jack said

“Hey” he said grabbing a towel and something to drink

A few minutes of silence went by then the team Dr and trainer showed up Tyler tried to read everyone’s body language which didn’t look like to Tyler they were all on the same page.

“What gives” he said

Jack “From all accounts it looks like your arm is healthy enough to pitch and granted we could use from fresh arms but”

Tyler “But what”

Jack “But we need you to working on your pitching and less on your throwing” he said

“Analytics say I should be back on the mound with the big club already” he said

Jack let out a sigh dam analytics “Yes and that’s good as well but we need to become more of a pitcher then a thrower if we are going to deep in the playoffs this year we need pitchers not throwers.” He said

“More like Billy” Tyler said

“Yes” Jack replied

Tyler “You mean pitch like Billy’s who analytics are far worse than mine and I’m sure we are bound to fall short this year in making the playoffs” he said

“Tyler this game wasn’t founded on analytics it was founded on knowing how and when to pitch go back to the great pitchers and yes their analytics suck but guess what they got people out bottom line know how and when to get people out. That’s how you stay in the big leagues always has always will getting people out on knowing how to pitch not by your spin rate.”

“When did you become old school all of the sudden” Tyler said

“That’s my problem I was born and raised in old school told to go nine and not three times through the order. I’ve shifted so far to other side in all if this I can’t remember the last time I saw a pitcher throw a complete game. All we want is for you to take your time and learn your craft you have the stuff and potential we just need to get you in the right frame of mind” he said 

“If I put in the work can I come up and start one game before the season ends?” he asked

“Our plan is to have you pitch tilt the end of the triple A season then you will be a rooster call up and we can take it from there” Jack said

Tyler was not too happy with that answer but he had been with this organization long enough to know it was for the best for the team and most importantly himself “Deal” he said

Jack “Thank You Tyler”

“How do you throw your Curve?” Tyler asked

Jack gripped the ball and looked at it and felt something he hadn’t in a long time the simple pleasure of throwing the baseball. He threw what he had left in the tank of a curve ball to Tyler.

“Wow that has a spin rate of…”

Jack “Tyler”

Tyler “Curve down and away for a swing in miss to get out of the inning”

Jack “That’s more like it” he said tossing another ball high up in the air

Kasey “Be careful for what you wish for” she said

“What do mean” Jack said taking her hand

“He’s going to start at least one game before the season with the big club” she said

“You know something I don’t?” he said

“He has a lot to prove you meaning the front staff, the coaching staff and more importantly himself. Don’t worry Jack he will be fine once he accepts he’s a pitcher and not a thrower”

Jack “How do you know” he said

“Firsthand experience” she said 

“I was never a thrower Kasey” he said

“I know and you knew it and you accepted it thus you long career in the big leagues”

“Tyler and I don’t have the same mental makeup I hope he can commit to the adjustment completely”

Kasey “He will if he wants to stay in the big leagues he will”

Jack “When did you become a scout”

Kasey “When we broke up and I was moving out I found copies of the scouting reports they scouts took on you. Why did you keep that for sentimental reasons or something to fuel the fire”

Jack “Both. That’s the history of my career and now validation that I was a big league pitcher”

Kasey looked at her phone “Got to get going don’t want to miss our flight”

Jack “Our flight?”

Kasey “No Jack I hadn’t changed my mind about us getting back together. I just want to be part of tomorrow then I’m back off into my own little world called my life.” She said

“Both of us have to head back to reality sometime soon” he said

“Jack this is reality is just ours will always intersect from time to time and now it’s one of those times so let’s make the most of it.” She said

“I agree” he said

Jack sat behind the steering wheel for a moment

“What’s wrong?” she asked

“Kas remember you said to me that maybe I’d enjoy doing something else for a living”

“Yes” she said

“Well I think I may be found something”


“Scouting” he said

“Would that be a demotion?” she said

“Yeah but it would give me freedom and less pressure” he said backing the car back

“Ahh yes something we’d all want in our jobs” she said

The flight back to Indianapolis Kasey slept and Jack was glued to his laptop trying to catch up on what needed his pressing attention but somehow he couldn’t stay focused his mind drifting elsewhere.

“Hungry I could fix you something” he asked entering his apartment

Kasey “No I’m good” she said with a yawn

Jack took her in his arms “I’m glad you here for tomorrow” he said

“So am I” she said

He had to fight the urge to kiss her “You take the bed I got the couch”

“Jack” she said

“No, I got work to catch up in here” he said

“Are you sure” she asked

“Yep” he said

“Ok” she said heading into his bedroom

Jack went to the refrigerator grabbed a bottle of beer and headed to his closet and pulled out a box opened it and started to read the yellow tinted papers that contained his scouting reports.

“Don’t know which one to wear” Kasey asked

“I’ve been one to wear both of them at the same time” he said looking at his World Series rings

“Which one means more to you?” she asked

“Unfortunately both of them not to many of us can say then won a World Series ring as a player as well as a person in the front office” he said

“What are you being honored for tonight?” She asked

“Both” he said

“You never forget your first one” she said grabbing the ring he won as an executive

“You would make me wear the one I won as a player” he said

“We were together when you won your first one” she said

“Seems like a lifetime ago” he said

“Jack don’t start yes tonight is a night to celebrate not be morose. I was proud of you when you won as player and I was proud of you when you won as an executive.” She said

“Likewise Kasey I too followed your career after we broke up getting all the awards and recognition I’m proud of you” he said

Kasey “We both have come a long way in our respective careers and tonight one of us is being honored as a legend” she said

“Do I hear sarcasm in your voice” he said

“Nope at least one of us now is on the fast track to the Hall of Fame” she said

“You’ll get a Pulitzer or Nobel prize before I get into the hall of fame” he said

“Keep dreaming” she said

“Am I for both of us” he said giving her a kiss she didn’t back away from

“Well look who’s here” Wes said giving Kasey a hug and a kiss

“Good to see you Wes” she said

“Jack didn’t say you were coming”

“Neither did I” she said

“Oh did Jack invite you?” he asked

“Sort of” she said looking down

“What do you mean?” he asked

“Wes I don’t want to go into details but Jack and I have been together the past of couple of days”

Wes looked at her face like she was about to cry and noticed the World Series ring on her finger “So are you guys back together?”

Brushing a tear away “No, I wish I could tell you we were but no Wes. Jack and I are longer a couple but we are still friends.” She said

Wes “Fair enough you guys were good together” he said

“I know that’s what everyone says” She said

Wes “Well I’m glad you are here.” He said

Kasey “So I am” she said

The festivities started on time with the Speed’s play by play announcer heading the ceremony honoring players and personal that were no longer alive and then it was Nate’s turn.

“The life of a scout in not glamorous from when I started and we have come a long way since then scouts are the backbone of any club weather old or new school or a combo of both. When I started out it was it was an old duffle bag, bulky binders, a box of pens that never worked and pencils that always needed sharpening. Now it’s lap tops and cell phones and travel we used our cars as not only as our modes of transportation they also served as our dining rooms and sometimes our bedrooms. Now we take flights and rent a car with lodging at small hotels. Times and things have changed but the one constant that goes into a bulky binder or lap top was what are own human eyes saw the raw talent of a player who was going to make to the major leagues. My fellow old school scouts some have fought hard not to be open to the new tools given to them to evaluate talent others have embraced it and the others like myself.  I had to adapt over the years in what I had to use to measure that raw pure talent or hidden potential of a player and now with analytics it has times made my job either easier or harder going with the numbers or my two eyes. I want to thank the Speed for trusting me at times for them to go against the numbers and go with my own eyes. Baseball maybe behind the times in changing the sport to make it better but I’ve learned it’s not about me or the players its always been for the good of them game to bring the talent to the big league for the good of the game. Baseball has been my life and she blessed me with a good life a dream come true. People asked me about how Suzie is going to take me being retired it was bittersweet for her for she won’t see her friends she has made over the years in all the small towns but she has the memories and now it’s here time to get called up to the majors she wants to tour every major league ballpark and shop and she deserves it. The Team asked me if I wanted a gold watch I said no being able to bring young players to the majors and have long good careers is thank you tenfold. Thank you Speed and the players that I have helped live their dream thank you”  

The announcer gave Jack his introduction

“Thank You. Tonight is a celebration of our Teams rich history and the people that contributed their lives in some way to make the Indiana Speed a team that is not only recognized for its players but for its owners and management. The Indiana Speed is a family team not only for our fans that have been generational but our owners as well. When I was first drafted by the team it was an honor to wear a uniform that a player could take pride in wearing. Pride something I always took the mound when I pitched Pride in the player I was and the team I played for. Pride my teammates had when times weren’t so great we held our heads high knowing times would get better. I had the most Pride when I retired being with one team my entire career. When I moved to the front office I still carried that pride for I still represented the team but in a different role. The Pride I carry as an executive is still one of honor and being able to pass down such pride to the front office as well as the team itself. Like Nate had said the game of Baseball has changed so much and I was on the tail end of being an old school Baseball player to entering the front office with the beginning of analytics the norm as you would say but if you swing all the way either old or new school or somewhere in the middle you still do your job with pride. When I learned of this honor I didn’t feel pride I felt proud of this organization and I was able to be a part of it. Thank you.”

“You passed the audition” Wes said tapping Jack on the shoulder handing him a beer

“You didn’t look a bit nervous at all” Kasey said

“Because I wasn’t now I am first game back from the break I don’t know if it’s going to foretell how the second half of the season is going to be.”

Wes “If it’s a clunker game tonight chalk it up to just getting the cobwebs out” he said

“Easy for a backseat executive” he said sipping his beer

“Jack you want to take the mound tonight to get your mind off this. God you were never this nervous when you came back from break.” Kasey said

“Just want the team to get back into a steady rhythm tonight” he said

The game started with the team being a little slow but somehow managed to win the game 2-1.

“They look fine to me” Kasey said

“Not a spec of rust on the boys from what I can see” Wes said

Jack “Ha Ha both of you” he said

Wes “Jack word of advice is to easy to look ahead and or behind sometimes you have to look in front of you and nothing else team is fine.” He gave Kasey a hug “Good seeing you again”

Kasey “Same here”

Wes headed out of the aisle and up the stairs.

Kasey walked up to Jack and gave him a long kiss “Take care of you Jack” she said and left

“You’ll always have a ticket waiting for you” he said

“You Baseball players and your superstitions” she said with her back to him still walking up the stairs.

Trade Deadline July 31st

“Not to be seduced by talent” Jack stared at the words on the paper “Easier said than done” he said leaning back in his chair. He looked at the clock in his office it was 1000am Central time 12 hours to go before the only trade deadline of the season would end. Jack was in the position to where he didn’t have to make a trade, nor was the team desperate which would make the decision easier. One of a top talented player was going to be moved and Jack was in a dilemma where or not to acquire him pros and cons to this player. Jack was trying to weigh them quickly and carefully before time ran out.

“I thought you’d have both ears glued to a phone by now” Frank said entering the office

“More like my fingers with all the texting that goes on today” Jack said

“Fair enough so are we buyers or sellers?” he asked

“More like buyer beware.” He said

“For us and possible 28 other teams” Jack said

Frank “The player in question?”

Jack “Danny Hunter”

Frank “Are lumberjacks releasing him or want something in return?”

Jack “Don’t know haven’t called yet”

Frank “How come?”

Jack “Well we are in a good shape just needed that one long stretch of wins to put the division away but like everyone else in contention always good use more pitching it’s our hitting I’m not sold on we have to get better with runners in scoring position” he said

Frank “How can Danny help us?”

Jack “It would make our line up a little bit longer providing he’s not in his known slumps”

Frank “How our his numbers”

Jack “He hasn’t hit it yet and I’m afraid he’s going to go into it we just can’t predict when and that we can hide to a certain extent it’s something else we can’t”

Frank “That is?”

Jack “His off the field drinking issues.”

Frank “I thought he’d had stopped drinking since he got busted”

Jack “Publicly yes and I’ve talked to a few ex-teammates, trainers and coaches and he does still drink. It’s almost like trying to sign a free agent know the player vs the person.” He said

Frank “My family has made sure of two things when brining in players they should be embraced by the community only to be read in sports section in the paper not on front page on the actual paper.”

Jack “Bottom line is do we stick with the team we have Joe Maxwell that is clean player off the field and is consistent on the field and try to resign him in the off season or Danny Hunter a risk to fix short term and a player who has had off field issues.”

Frank scratched the back of his head “Now he’d only be a rental player to us if we couldn’t reach a deal with him and we’d lose some players if they wanted to trade him instead of releasing him”

Jack “Bingo” he said rubbing his face 

Frank “So hard do you want to go after him?”

Jack “I don’t know”

Frank looked at the clock “Well you better find out soon time is a ticking” he said

Assistant came into the office “Wait we’ve been waiting for” she said placing a piece of paper on Jack’s desk it was The Lumberjacks proposal for acquiring Danny Hunter.

“They are doing their due diligence” Jack said

Assistant “More like playing one side against the other mystery team is involved”

Jack “50/50 if there is a mystery team that’s a feeler tactic to see how much we are willing to part with or pick up his reaming salary on his contract.” He said

Frank “So let’s hear it what are they are and not offering”

Jack “Trade Joe for Danny”

Frank “What! Do we have prospects as trade bait instead?”

Jack “Relax it was a joke free agent trade for free trade. They know we really don’t have a stocked piled farm system anymore they have a list of a few players and cash considerations like picking up the rest of his contract.”

Frank “What is how much?”

Jack “We can’t afford 24 million”

Frank “Dam owners and the big free agent contracts”

Jack let out a laugh “Look who is talking coming to our side future performance vs past. I could counter offer with a few better players and lower the money on the contract”

Frank “Again Jack if you truly want Danny you have my blessing I trust you remember if we bring him here and there is backlash from his drinking its both of our names on the line.”

Jack “Thanks for the advice and the vote of confidence and I hear you about the court of public opinion with the drinking”

Frank “Good we understand each other now I will let you go to work”

Jack “ok if I strike up something I will call you first before I do anything”

Frank “Thank you” left the office shutting the door

Jack picked up the phone and called Ed wanting to know if Danny could truly help the club offense and would be welcomed in the clubhouse. Then he returned all the other GM’s phone calls in trades he truly couldn’t make and the ones he truly wasn’t interested in. Leaving the ones that include Joe. There were a few that were tempting with the team being able to replenish their farm system in a hurry any GM would trade Joe without thinking twice but with Jack he did think. Jack was never traded and he was thankful and lucky not to have that anxiety of wondering if he’d ever get that phone call. Joe was about to hit the prime of his career and had meant a lot to the team on and off the field he deserved and earned the right to be a free agent. Once the season was over the team would offer the best that they could and see what happens. Jack could and did take some heat for some of the trades he made over the years but he didn’t want his legacy in that department to be he traded Joe Maxwell. Jack sat in his darkened office staring at the clock 1159 changed to 1200 he closed his eyes and fell asleep.

August 1st

Jack’s phone rang awaking him from a dead sleep

“Couldn’t pull the trigger on Danny” a voice said

Jack still groggy had to think who he was talking to “Nope head and heart were agreement on this one”

Walter “But you still agonized over it”

Jack “All the way to midnight”

Walter “Fell asleep in your chair”

Jack “Yep how did you know”

Walter “Been there done that at least I made sure the couch in my office was long enough for my legs only time I slept on that thing.” 

Jack yawned “I’ll keep that in mind so since there is no more August waiver trades why the phone call or just to bust my balls about Danny Hunter.”

Walter “We need a new head of scouting since Nate is retiring anyone you could recommend” 

Jack “Me”

Walter “funny be serious”

Jack “I am”

Walter “really no longer having fun being the stud gm of the league”

Jack “more like a change of scenery”

Walter “have you talked to frank”

Jack “no just starting to put out feelers if I want to do this”

Walter “Jack since you and I have been good friends over the years I won’t say anything probably won’t do anything until after the season but if you are serious about this you would be mine first choice so let’s talk at the end of the season and see if you want to jump ship.”

“Thank you and I will let you know one way or another” Jack hung up the phone and put his head in his hands and closed his eyes

Frank “No news is good news or you did something without telling me?” he said entering the office

Jack with his head still in his hands “Neither I couldn’t do it I couldn’t trade Joe nor could I trade for Danny”

Frank “Now you are having regrets with not doing one or the other or both?”

Jack lifted his head and said “Neither with all the numbers in front of me this time I trusted my gut on both and I’m very content with the decision.”

Frank “But you still look like hell”

Jack “Because I sat in this chair and watched the clock turn to midnight praying the phone wouldn’t ring with our people calling me saying we have to do this trade or that trade.”

Frank “Why”

Jack “Because I don’t have it in me anymore to trade players by their stats and what analytics say. I got burned by that a few times and that was me encouraging butting heads from scouts or analytics and for us being able to show our mistakes and having input from front office people who have played and not played but the easier decisions when scouts and analytics matched up.” 

Frank “Always doing what was best for the team when you first got this job and now you are looking what’s best for the player.”

Jack “I’m afraid so sorry Frank I didn’t do anything to help the team yesterday”

Frank “No need to worry you looked at the team and the options were out there and sometimes to best trades are the ones you don’t make” he said

“Launch angles, spin rates, war, third time through the order and everything else all I want to do is watch a baseball game” looking out the window onto the empty field. Jack said

Frank “I wish I could tell you, you could but for that you’d have to leave the front office to do that.”

Jack got out of the shower and checked his phone before shutting it off before he left the office he put out a statement to why the team didn’t make any moves and called it day or a past 24 hours. He walked over to the bar and made himself a strong drink and headed out his balcony overlooking the Indianapolis skyline. The team had the day off coming back home from a successful road trip and ready for a long home stand. He took a sip of his drink and closed his eyes picturing Nate and Suzie heading on their last few trips and what it would be like to tag along and what Frank had said to him earlier in the day. If he truly still wanted to stay in Baseball he could stay in the grind as a GM or to take Walter up on his offer and start fresh as a scout and would he be able to maintain his contacts with the only organization he’s been with his entire baseball career. For Baseball and Speed Family was all he knew his entire Baseball life. He picked up his phone and started to call Kasey but stopped and started to dial another number.


“Wes have you ever thought about going solo?”

Wes “No the fact we have the freedom to do other things outside the band any good band nowadays to keep longevity and creativity in band and we still want to continue to make music together but more importantly we are brothers and love each other as people why?”

September Last Month of the Season

Jack made his way into the locker room September first the day were all 30 clubs could bring up their minor leaguers to the 40 man roster. Seeing these young players with grins on their faces getting a taste of what life is like in the majors.

“Excuse me”

Jack “Yes”

“My name is Drake Johnson. Thank you for bringing me up”

Jack was taken aback by the words “No reason to thank me you did it yourself the stuff you have I could see you making the big league roster next spring.”

“Don’t let him bull you Drake he’s probably never seen you pitch all he’s seen are you numbers.” a voice said

Jack’s attention “Excuse me yes I have when I was watching Tyler’s rehab assignment I watched Tyler pitch and didn’t look at any sheet of paper with numbers on it. What’s your name?”

The young man’s face started to turn red “Mike Bellows” he said

“Yep, Mike Bellows saw you too old school line drive hitter not too much into the launch angle thing are you and you cover a lot of ground in the outfield.” Jack said

Mike “Yes sir” he said with his head down

Jack “Yep think you can make the roster next year too and I’m not lying to you either. So what was that comment about”

Mike “All we hear about as players is numbers this numbers that and not as people with talent so when something says will you could make it to the majors if these numbers looked better. Doesn’t anybody look at us as people with real talent anymore?”

Jack “I do I value that first more than numbers and remember when I started out there wasn’t anything as analytics it was your raw natural talent and good scouts report that got you to the majors and it was your own hard work that kept you from having a long or short career in the majors.”

Drake “Sometimes we all get overloaded with numbers we like the information to help us a better players but sometimes we just can’t digest it before game time sometimes it’s easier to play the game while the game is going on.”

Jack “I hear ya sometimes I’d like to watch a player and not watch him threw the analytics”

Mike “Keep games simple all it is a Baseball game throw the ball, catch the ball, hit the ball”

Jack “Amen brother preaching to the choir”

Drake “Sorry if we made you mad we just love playing the game of Baseball like you did”

Jack “No need to apologize guys no matter what era you played in its tough to keep performing and improving in this game so thanks for the input and my door is always open if you want to need to talk.”

Both of them “Thank you sir”

“Jack please call me Jack” he said

Jack headed out of the locker room and ran into Nate “What the deal with Mike Bellows and Drake Johnson”

Nate “Bellows leader in club house everywhere he goes and Johnson quite kid leads by example”

Jack patting Nate on the back “That’s what I thought”

Nate “How did you know without looking at a scouting report”

Jack “I just had a conversation with them both put them both at ease about making it to the big leagues and some of us in the evil number driven front office looks at them as players first”   

Nate “That’s the same thing I tell them you’d make a good scout Jack”

Jack sat outside the skybox taking a sip of his beer it was a cool fall late afternoon game and it was the last month of the season. He looked at the scoreboard and saw the standings The Speed had a one game lead in the division. Right now Jack was a fan of the game today all the divisions were tight races and this is why he loved being a fan of the game as a kid. His phone rang with a text from Kasey “Love and miss you Jack good luck the rest of the way” He wanted to type back he loved and missed her too but just typed back “Thanks”  

Last Day of the Season

Jack sat at his desk motionless on his desk where only two sheets of paper Nate’s final scouting report and Liz’s last analytic sheet of the season. Jack thought he could save Ed the grief and took it upon himself the team needed to win to make the playoffs or it was go home and he had to make a choice heart vs head, Nate vs Liz. Tyler vs Billy who should start and who would be available to pitch in relief.

“JC old school or new school with our starting pitcher today?” Jack asked

Jack took his seat in the skybox and looked at the scoreboard with all the games starting at the same time to not give teams out west an upper hand Jack was going to be part fan and part executive today wishing today he could be one or the other and not both. Not securing a playoff berth before today made him go back and think of what he could have done before today just one little small thing to help his club make it and not having everything come down to one game the last game of the season.

Tyler was the last to take the mound as the butterflies pounded harder in his stomach then his fast ball hitting the catcher’s mitt.

Catcher “Ty you ok?” he asked

“Yeah just let me throw the first one a fastball then I will throw what you tell me”

“You got it” he said tapping Tyler on the chest

The batter stepped into the batter’s box Tyler stepped on the rubber taking his last deep breath got set and just went into his pitching motion throwing the ball like he never was gone.

“Strike one” the umpire called

“Yes” Tyler said softly

He got back on the mound and looked at the catcher for the sign he wanted Tyler to throw his curve ball and started his wind up again

 “Strike two” umpire called

Tyler looked into the catcher again asking for the curve again and Tyler gripped the ball for his new found pitch threw it

“Strike three” umpire yelled

Tyler felt good only 26 more to go.

Tyler was throwing at this normal pace speed and location not wavering at all until he got to the 7th inning. He had gotten the first two batters out and had the next batter 0-2. He had the catcher started to strategically throw pitchers some the batter could swing at for the last out of the inning.

“Ball three” the umpire called

“God damit that ball was right there” Tyler said getting the ball back from his catcher trying to stay calm he walked off the mound circling it rubbing the baseball shaking his head. He got back on the mound looked in for the sign and shook off the catcher twice he wanted Tyler to throw the curve but Tyler wanted to throw only the fastball catcher tossed hands up like ok. Tyler gripped the ball hard and with all his might tossed the ball as fast as he could.

The batter swung and sent the ball out of the ballpark

Tyler upset with himself “Dam I should have thrown the curve”

Ed came out of the dugout pointing to the bull pen for the new pitcher to come in. “Great start Ty

All his teammates patted him on the back giving him real encouragement and support he needed today. He walked towards the dugout getting a standing ovation he tipped his cap to the crowd. Jack’s plan of having Tyler start and Billy to come in as a reliever was working out although he wished they had the lead. Billy got the last out of the 7th and pitched the 8th and 9th keeping the game at one 1-0.

“All we need is a bloop and a blast” Jack thought to himself heading into the bottom of the ninth.

Three more outs to play with determine if the team would continue their post season run.

The first two batters went down quickly with Joe coming up and worked a 0-2 to a 3-2 count and getting a walk. Jose could end it with one swing the pitcher threw him two balls and Jose fouled off the next two pitches. The catcher went to the mound along with the rest of the infielders and headed back. Jose took a deep breath and headed back into the batter’s box and waited for the ball he saw it clearly enough to make out it was a breaking ball and smacked it back up the middle for a single Joe running with the pitch making it to third. Jack put his hands together praying we just need another one like that he said to himself.  He looked out onto the field the other team was making a pitching change he looked over to the lineup card to see who was up next. The other team was forcing Ed’s hands either he’d let their best defensive player who had terrible numbers against this pitcher or pinch hit for him with another player who a tad bit better numbers. Jack didn’t have to see the analytical data he just prayed Ed knew what both batters were up against. Ed went with the defensive player Tony Graham.

Jack stood up out of his seat with all the rest of the people in the stadium shifting his weight from one foot to the other.

“Strike one” umpire called

“Ball one” umpire called

Tony swung and missed

The team was down to their last strike. Pitcher got set and delivered the ball Tony swung made contact with the ball sending it to the deepest part of the stadium the centerfield ran back to the wall and stood there and waited for the ball to come down right into his glove.

15 seconds ago the stadium was loud and deafening and now it was completely silent. The Indiana Speed had missed making the playoffs by a half a game.

“Accountability now it’s my turn to in how this season was a failure. What if getting Danny Hunter for two months would have gotten us over the hump” Jack said tossing the ball in the empty stadium

Wes “Jack don’t do this to yourself” he said tossing the ball back

Wes “Don’t drive yourself crazy with that kind of stuff or you might be out of a job sooner than you think.” He said

Jack “Then maybe it’s time I hang up the briefcase as well.”

Wes “What are you talking about quitting?”

Jack “Let me ask you this with the music business changing the way that it has from when you started it out why do you still do it?”

Wes “Because I love making music granted it’s not about record sales anymore it always been about the music.”

Jack “Well I love the game of Baseball but I feel Baseball is still swinging too far to the right with analytics. Maybe I’m still more old school then I thought about analytics.”

Wes “Another man moved by sleight of hand”

Jack stood in front of Franks closed office door and raised his hand up to the door to knock but instead slid a piece of paper under the door with the unopened pack of baseball cards that contained Jack’s rookie card.

One week later

 “Are you sure you want to do this?” Frank said

“Can’t go back now everyone has been told and been promoted” Jack said closing the trunk of his car

Frank looked down at the ground for a second “You’re right so where is your first assignment?”

“My high school Alma Mater” he said patting Frank on the arm

“Yep, makes sense have start to come full circle somewhere” 

“I’ll call you after you get back from the owner meetings” Jack said getting into the car

“Fine” Frank said walking away

Jack started the car and looked down at his back seat that had a clip board, stopwatch, a few pencils and a full folder of unsigned baseball prospects.

“So why would a successful big league pitcher and front office executive want to become a scout” Kasey said

“As Louis Armstrong said about what is Jazz Man, if you gotta ask you’ll never know.” he said putting the car in drive and headed west into the autumn sun set.


Submitted: June 30, 2019

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