Saturday, May 21, 2016

Short Story - Time Past

Time Past
words: 1,061
Gary George stepped into the box, giving the bat a partial swing. A few cheers echoed from the crowd. It wasn’t like the roar he used to generate.

If I can just make contact.
He felt like a rookie, his abilities had declined as his age increased and he was nervous. More than not being the franchise player, he was worried about finishing the season without getting cut.

He planted his foot and glared at the pitcher. He took a deep breath as the pitcher wound up.

Gary swung and winced.
SMACK. The ball struck the leather mitt.
He took a few steps out of the batter’s box, walking off the pain of the swing.

He stepped into the box again and readied the bat. The pitcher wound up.
“BALL!” The umpire called.

Gary wondered if he was getting too old for this. He wondered if he’d ever break this cold streak. He was coasting on his achievements now and he couldn’t help it.

Gary exhaled and took another deep breath.

CRACK! The bat connected with the ball, Gary grunted at the effort. The ball sailed through the gap between the second and the shortstop.

He ran hard through first, hoping he could beat the ball.
“SAFE!”

The management called him a clubhouse leader, which was a nice way of calling him old. The young guys didn’t care to listen. They were there to play ball and buy cars. He felt the same way at that age. He could see now the value in the advice the vets tried to give him. If only he had listened.

The first base coach smacked the back of his helmet. “Nice hit.”

He had tried to talk to them about life, how the millions only go so far when you spend it like you’ll lose it.

He took a few steps towards second. Swiping the bag was no longer possible. He didn’t have the speed and sliding left him sore. He body only had a couple of years left if that, and he didn’t like to think about it.

That had been a hard lesson. Once age began taking a toll his power and speed began to decline. The team had been good to him, but he had to take a pay cut to stay.

Gary readied for the play as the batter strolled to the plate. The first two pitches passed the batter without a swing. Gary would tag the base each time.

He readied for the play again. The ball hit the bat, and he took a few steps to second. Foul ball.

He had sold off cars and the big house, so big you could get lost in it. You buy all this crap and there’s no point to it. He tried to counsel the rookies and the other guys but they weren’t ready to think about life after ball. He wasn’t sure they even believed that existed. They were living the dream, and living the dream rarely accounts for the future.

Gary had started thinking about the future and life after ball a few years ago. It would all work out was no longer acceptable, to him or his family. He had started late, but had began investing in stocks and bonds. You’d think the millions he got paid would last a lifetime, but it doesn’t.

The batter smacked the ball resulting in pop up to short center. Gary took a few steps before running back to the bag after the catch.

He could be an analyst but he didn’t want to be an empty suit with ESPN trading in on his name alone. Maybe he could make a go of it, provide insight, but he wasn’t so sure. The guys that were good, they went to school for it, trained to be on camera and not look like an idiot. Handfuls of press conferences weren’t the same thing.

Plenty of guys had hired a coach and practiced being on camera. It was something to think about. He had to do something after ball to ensure he even could retire.

Gonzalez hit a chopper up the middle. Gary pumped his arms, headed to second base. He didn’t have to slide thankfully.

A strikeout and a grounder ended the inning. He jogged into the dugout, a few guys high fived his single as they ran on to the field. He hated having to sit in the dugout, but his legs and arms were glad he sat out defense.

The show circuit was one ption, signing autographs and meeting fans. It wasn’t a real job and it wasn’t always steady. Some fans were good, some obnoxious.

Gary thought about his future. He clapped when his team made a play and jeered when they didn’t. Gary looked up the bench to the coach. That was one way to keep the uniform well past your prime. With the budget adjustments he had made, he was hoping eight more years would let him retire. If he could land a gig as an analyst, he could cut it down to five.

After the third out the players returned to the dugout. Four batters later they were back on the field.

It wasn’t that he was dead set on retiring and not working, he just wanted the option. He wanted to know that if he retired his family was set. Gary figured he’d work in the sport as long as they’d let him. He could probably handle a front office job.

Gary got another at bat, but smacked a weak flyout to third base.

There was no way to reach his teammates. The money seems endless. He was glad he never got injured. That would have been a stark reality, but it explains why so many players don’t bat an eye at grafting a tendon from your leg into your arm.

Gary figured he would get an at at bat in the eighth. They were down by two, and just a few years ago he might have had the power to make a difference. Now that situation made him nervous. Half the fans knew he wouldn’t make the play and the other half would call him lucky if he did.
He stepped into the box one more time, took a deep breath, and glared at the pitcher.
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