Benjamin Young, 17, SS/3B, R/R, Harper Woods H.S.: Reads the ball off the bat better than anyone coming out of high school. Fluid range left and right. Soft hands, accurate arm with confidence to make the off-balance throw. More a slinger than a thrower. Toolsy player with a leader’s instincts in the field. A spray hitter with fringy power, his compact swing generates decent bat speed but leaves him vulnerable to pitches down and out of the zone. At 6’1”, 205 pounds, may grow too big to stay at shortstop. Good makeup, solid grades, some family baggage.

We bring the phone outside so we don’t miss the call.

Benji’s agent—that still sounds so weird—told him it might come before 5 o’clock, if the first two rounds proceed as the experts say. All the mock drafts have Burrell going to the Phillies but after that it’s up in the air. Weak class, college commitments, signability issues: anything can happen, the agent said. An elbow injury here, a DUI there, we could be looking at first round.

Then he said: I shouldn’t tell you this, but Detroit’s been checking in.

Once we heard this, me and Donleavy got to work. We roped in Donleavy’s brother to call the Young residence around 2:30 or so, when they’d be into the first round. He’d put on his best cool executive voice and be all, this is Randy Smith, General Manager of the Detroit Tigers baseball club and may I speak with Mr. Benjamin Young, please?

With all of us gathered round while Benji shits himself.

It’s not believable, C. J. says. Detroit needs pitching.

You guys are jerks, Kimmi says. She and Spike are here with the baby. It’s still surreal to see that thing, the way Spike holds her to his side the way a running back holds a football.

Kid’ll forgive us when he gets his bonus, Donleavy says. Then he’ll forget us.

Benji’s folks are throwing him a party for his big day. His aunts and uncles and cousins are all here in their backyard. Maybe forty people in all. Rumor is there might be some celebratory under-age champagne later, so long as we’re discreet about it.

Action News is here to do a feature on Benji and his folks. Harper Woods has never seen one of its own go first round before. If I wanted, I could tell Action News that me and Benji switched positions during our junior year so he could be marketed as a shortstop. Guys at short can be moved anywhere, Coach said. Benji always had the hands for either position but this year I got to play the line and take bad hops into my mouth.

The rest of the seniors arrive: Duster, Virgil, Lorenzo. All us never-wills. Donleavy quit after Babe Ruth and Duster never came back to baseball after he got sick. C. J.’s hoping to intern in a front office somewhere. Lorenzo’s driving trucks for his dad. Virgil got a scholarship to Maryland. Best I could do for myself was a chance to play juco ball in Ohio.

Lorenzo brings news. The A’s took Mulder, he says.

You shitting me? Second overall? Mulder?

I heard Detroit was looking at Mulder, C. J. says.

Two-thirty on the dot, the phone chirps. Everyone hushes. Someone turns down the radio while Benji’s dad hands him the receiver.

But Benji’s back is turned to us so we can’t see his face. He plugs his other ear with his finger.

We hear him say, all giddy, Are you serious? And there are Benji’s folks off to the side, leaning in, optimistic.    

Kimmi mouths to me over the baby’s head, You’re an asshole.

Donleavy mutters, Aw, fuck.

Whit, Spike whispers. You did this. You go tell him.

Swear to God, they have one kid and he and Kimmi are all Ma and Pa Responsible now. It’s rich.

I walk up to Benji and tap him on the shoulder, make the cut-off sign across my throat. Joke’s over, guys, I say, loud enough for Donleavy’s brother to hear me. His cackle comes through the phone.

Hey, man. I’m sorry.

It’s all right, Whit. He collapses the antenna, then stuffs the phone into my ribcage. It was a good play, he says. I owe you one.

We do what we always used to do when the day was slow. We find a Wiffle bat wrapped with electrical tape and a tube of tennis balls and head out to the street. We bring the champagne, pop it early, pass around swigs. Benji lives on a cul-de-sac bordering a ravine so it’s not like cops or anyone will see us. With a couple of his cousins joining us, it’s five-on-five.

The rules are the same. Over the guardrail is a home run. Into the woods on a hop is a double. Everything else is an out. When we were kids it was a challenge. Now it feels like you could spit that far.

We can dent our own cars. Spike hits the antenna on top of the Action News van and we laugh and decide that should count as a homer. I hang a changeup to Virgil and he loses it into the ravine.

Then Benji steps in against me. Vulnerable to pitches down and out of the zone.

Easy on me there, Juco, he says.

I let the first pitch fly and it sails up and in.

Jesus, watch the melon! That’s money!

The second pitch is behind his head.

Whit! What the fuck are you doing?

Everything goes silent, even the birds. I flip the ball to C. J. and tell him to pitch. Everyone lasers their eyes on me.

I already know how it will go down and I don’t care. I wonder if this will be the last time we all play ball together. We don’t talk about that. We don’t talk about the fact that it is getting close to dusk and Benji’s relatives are anxious to leave and Action News is waiting, except the phone hasn’t rung for real yet and one of us will need to answer it when it does.

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Neil Serven lives and works as a dictionary editor in western Massachusetts. His fiction has appeared in Washington Square Review, Atticus Review, Cobalt, and elsewhere, and he blogs at .