“The Red Sox brought up the kid, 20 years old,” I say. “The youth movement again.” Some 20-year-old gets promoted to play third base, and here I am withering on the vine watching PBS.
“You’re over 70 years old,” my wife replies. “What would bringing up a 70-year-old be called — the ‘we’ve lost our minds’ movement?”
Sure, I’ve slowed down a step, but I’ve compensated. Know the hitters, position yourself correctly, shorten your stroke — don’t swing for the fences. Here I am, a line-drive-hitting third baseman with minimal salary demands watching some PBS mystery while waiting for the call. What is with these British mysteries anyway? Doesn’t anyone realize that the entire rural population has been murdered? And by vicars! The guys in the dugout would have a good laugh at that one. (Note to self: Don’t bring NPR tote bag into the clubhouse.)
“Sid says a September call-up is not out of the question,” I say.
“What’s on the table?” I’m beginning to wonder what’s worse: having a fake agent named Sid or my wife encouraging it.
“The club has some concern about a long-term contract for a 70-year-old, so it’ll be winter ball in Venezuela,” I tell her. “High three figures. You’ll like Caracas — if we’re not murdered or kidnapped.”
My fictitious record speaks for itself: lifetime .283 hitter, always hit lefties well (.323), 28th all-time in doubles, which surprises a lot of people — ahead of Ted Williams and Babe Ruth, though you’d never pick that up from the talking heads on ESPN.
One time my wife invited a colleague from the university, a psychology professor, over for dinner with her spouse — seemingly a nice guy but actually a Yankees fan. My wife mentioned my “lively imagination,” and her colleague responded that there was a whole psychological field devoted to the study of individuals who are overwhelmed by sports fantasies to the point that they lose touch with reality. “But I’m 28th all-time in doubles,” I replied. We never saw them again.
The British mystery has given way to an oldies folk band. If I were in The Show, I’d be dancing to Lady Gaga while celebrating a walk-off home run, but here I am listening to a bunch of moldering geriatrics singing “Leaving on a Jet Plane.” I feel like spitting my sunflower seeds on the dugout floor. It’s an expensive rug, so I refrain.
I visit a Red Sox site on my phone. Twenty-year-old third baseman Rafael Devers just hit a home run.
“Devers has a flaw in his swing,” I say authoritatively.
“Who is Devers?”
“The kid they just brought up. The one who’s taking food out of your family’s mouth. He hits the fastball, but wait until they discover he can’t handle the slower stuff. I can adjust.”
“Because they’ll pitch underhand to you, like in T-ball?”
The walking corpses of folk music give way to an animal show. The announcers always sound as if they are delivering a funeral oration: “The carpenter beetle emerges from his winter hole in the ground, seeking the bounty of spring.” Here I am, a righthanded pull hitter who can tattoo the wall at Fenway, watching a beetle head out of a dung hole instead of spraying champagne over everyone in the clubhouse as we clinch the pennant. OK, they might spray me with camomile tea instead.
Now I go to one of those sabermetric baseball sites. Like beer, baseball has been nerdified. Instead of “Give me a Bud,” it has to be an 8.4 percent ABV IPA made with artisan barley malt and toasted Czech hops. Being 28th in doubles no longer cuts it. I quickly use advanced statistics to customize my numbers — WAR, OPS+. They boost me from fake major leaguer to fake borderline Hall of Famer.
I’m up. Adjust the hat. The game is 80 percent mental and 20 percent sartorial. Who said that? Yogi? Sid?
I check my phone again. Devers struck out — probably on the off-speed stuff.
“Don’t make plans for October,’’ I say to my wife. “I’m waiting for the call.”
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