He rounds first base

It had been a terrible year. An anemic .199 batting average, one paltry homerun, six lowly RBI’s, and a bloated 13 errors at third base, a minor league record. The year had begun with all kinds of optimism. After a terrific spring training, he began the season in AAA, remarkable for a rookie. Inside baseball people tabbed him “likely to make the big leagues, a late-season call up at the very least.” But, once the season began, it was evident that Edwin Held, known by teammates and fans as “Duke,” was destined for disappointment and a career freefall to the bowels of baseball. He lasted at the AAA level for a month and a half, dropped to AA ball and ultimately ended the year with the single A Pikesville Parrots. As he sat in the quiet car of a train that had departed Pikesville’s tiny station, he tried putting a positive spin on the numbers. He tried convincing himself that the intangibles of the game were more important than the numbers, the leadership qualities he brought to a team, his ability to advance runners with less than two outs. Statistics meant nothing he kept repeating to himself. It was useless. The back of his never-to-be-issued baseball card read, FAILURE. He massaged his temples, closed his eyes and tried to forget about the tough year that had been.

Heading for second

Edwin sensed someone nearby. Instinctively, he opened his eyes. Standing beside him was Sam, the Pikesville Parrots’ manager, travelling secretary, trainer, and all around factotum. He even dressed as the Parrot mascot one game when, at the last minute, the regular guy called out sick. His short-cropped grey hair was visible under a bright green baseball cap, the “P” logo a crisp yellow. He was a Parrot through and through. It made Edwin think about his parents and the dry cleaning business to which they had devoted their lives, six to six, six days a week, the business he had forsaken for an unfulfilled nomad’s life. He became increasingly depressed. Sam had been with the Parrots for fifteen years. That took dedication. His parents had dedication. Sam moved into the café car and motioned with his finger for Edwin to join him. Edwin obliged.


“Sure,” said Edwin softly. “Why not.” It wasn’t a question. “A little cream. No sugar.”

Around second

The two sat facing each other as the Mohawk Glider wended its way through stark farmlands and flat terrain toward Elmwood City. “I know what you’re thinking, Duke. We all go through it. Don’t quit now. It’s one season. We all have doubts in this game. Hell, Mickey Mantle wanted to quit, but his father talked him out of it. Self-doubt and confidence roller coasters are part of the game, always have been and I suppose always will be. Hang in there. You have too much potential to quit now.”

Edwin sipped his coffee. “Nah. You’re a winner, Sam. Me? I made a mistake this year, messing up my own life and the lives of my parents. All they ever wanted from me was to graduate high school and stay near home and help run the family business. So, what does this selfish prick do? I go out and waste everyone’s time playing baseball, chasing a one in a million dream. What the hell was I thinking?”

He’s going for third

 “Don’t talk like that. You did what any 18-year-old with your talent would have done. No regrets, Duke. Hey, there’s always next year. And, if nothing else you got to travel.”
Edwin didn’t look up. “Yeah. Pikesville, Brownley, Cedar Ridge, Cooperton, and let’s not forget the awe inspiring Woodslope, home of the Woodslope Wallabies!” They both laughed, Edwin’s laughter short-lived.

A gum-chewing conductor walked through the café car, holding a hole-puncher and a stack of mutilated tickets. He paused briefly near Edwin’s seat, blew a bubble which popped so loudly it reminded Edwin of the crack of bat on ball when he hit his one homerun during the first week of the season. What a difficult year it had been. “Elmwood City’s next. Elmwood City. Next station stop is Elmwood City. Exit from either side of the car.”

He’s running through the stop sign

 “Well, this is it for me, Sam. Home sweet home. I haven’t seen my mother or father all year. I’m scared shitless. I let them down. I let myself down. I can’t wait to see them, talk to them.” He barely whispered the words.

Sam reached over and put his thumb under Edwin’s chin and lifted it up. “Don’t make a decision now. Give it more thought. You have all winter and then some to think about it. And whatever you decide, remember, you’ll always be a Parrot. No one can ever take that away from you!” Edwin’s expression didn’t change. “Listen, you are young and you have a future in this crazy game. I know it’s in your blood. Don’t do anything rash. It’s still the 1st inning Duke, this game’s far from over.” They shook hands and hugged.

Heading for home

Edwin spotted them the moment he stepped off the train. The “them” were his mother and Starch. His mother appeared shorter, her hair thinner than Edwin had remembered. She was hunched over and gripped tightly on a leash. Starch, the family’s dachshund wagged his tail and shook all over. Where was his father? Edwin swallowed hard. His mother aged in the year since he had broken the news that he was going to pursue his dream and his dream didn’t include dry cleaning dirty shirts and suits. His mother greeted him with reddened eyes and an outstretched arm and what appeared to be a forced smile. Edwin ran toward them, switching his gaze from the old lady to Starch and back again. “Welcome home,” his mother said softly. Edwin gave her a hug; afraid to squeeze too hard and then quickly stepped back. “Where’s dad?” Edwin’s mother removed a used tissue from her pocket and blew her nose. Edwin shuddered. This was going to be a lot tougher than hitting a curve She tightened the grip on Starch’s leash. “We need to talk.”

He’s out at the plate!


Bruce Harris is the author of Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson: ABout Type (www.batteredbox.com). He is a member of SABR (Society of American Baseball Research) and his baseball nonfiction has appeared in The Baseball Research Journal.