Thursday, April 5, 2007

Guest Bias: The Short And Happy Life of a Royals Middle Reliever

So you let a guy post a guest blog, and he thinks he knows what he's talking about. Ted Bauer is back for more punishment. He maintains a decent blog A Price Above Bip Roberts , but he tends to go a bit overboard on some of his claims. For example, he seems to think - in contrast to my ever-so-eloquent Benchwarmers post of Monday - that the life of a benchwarmer is all sunshine and lollipops, specifically when you play on a bad team. He also seemed to think, back at the beginning of the week, that the BoSox would shatter the spirits of the Royals off the proverbial bat. Er, that didn't happen. Check his rants, penned Sunday, then let him know just how wrong he is.

When I sat down to write something for my associate MC Bias, I started out with a meandering, poetic essay on "what baseball means to the American soul," peppered with a few references to Jim Nantz's place in the sports culture this week. I realized it pretty much sucked, and who could give a rat's ass what I think about baseball's place in our hearts?

I scrapped that in favor of something on Joe Torre, because I firmly believe this is probably his last year at River Avenue, but then I realized there are far more interesting, informed surveyors of Joe Torre's time in the Bronx, so I scrapped that.

I needed something, though. I mean, at the time the Mets game is 6-1, I was Instant Messenging with a girl I knew in high school in a futile effort to get some and slowly realizing she basically has a boyfriend, and I had little else to kill my time. Then it hit me: a diary. An Opening Day Diary of a Royals middle reliever.

In stark contrast to Mr. Bias, I used to tell people back when that I think the ultimate dream job would be Kansas City Royals middle reliever. You make the league minimum, which automatically makes you richer than half of America; then, you basically get paid to plug holes. See, playing for KC in this day and age, you're almost never going to enter a meaningful situation. Either the starter got absolutely rained down upon, and you're on the short side of a 7-1 game, or you're mopping up something, or you're bridging to a closer no one really thinks can close in a game everyone expects you to lose.

Basically, you make a lot of money to travel around the United States for a summer, telling girls you play professional baseball, seeing a lot of ballparks, working maybe 100 innings, and never really having a lot of responsibility. Sure, I mean, I bet the losing gets grating after a while, but doesn't the pressure of winning too?

If I were a KC middle reliever, here's how my day would look tomorrow:

Arrive at ballpark. Exchange pleasantries with groundscrew and other assorted personnel I haven't seen for a while. Old Man Morty, one of the clubhouse guys, says to me, "I really think this is the year!" I smile and say, "Totally." I'm so full of crap, it's unbelievable. Providing false hope to a man close to the grave should be punishable with something horrible. Instead, I'm removing a paperback copy of the latest James Baldacci novel from my duffel bag. I'll be reading this by the 4th.

Some of the dudes arrive. We, too, exchange pleasantries. Someone yelps, "Who the hell are we playing today, anyway?"

Jersey'ed up - I sometimes think the KC jersey is embedded with a sweet stench of failure that high-quality free agents can smell, like one of those dog whistle kind of deals - I take the field at Kauffman. A few VIPs are milling about, and some hardcore fans. I take my first deep breath of the spring. Nothing like the smell of napalm in the morning.

I'm limbering up playing catch with a few guys in the outfield. A fan asks for my autograph. "Any idea who I am?" I ask. "None," he admits. "But you're wearing the jersey." Imagine if it was really that easy in other professions to become revered. "Do you know what accounts I manage?" "Not a clue, but you're wearing the suit."

David Ortiz walks around the batting cages with Manny Ramirez. They take a few practice hacks. I'm pretty sure one of them landed by Bill Self's toupee over in Lawrence. I turn to my brethren and mouth, "Oh crap." They are just staring straight ahead.

I'm up in the bullpen now, sitting around and not doing much of anything. Meche, who we're calling "Millions" until he bloodies one of us at a bar later this week, is throwing around. Me and the guys are scoping out a few females slowly filing into the bleacher area. "Think this year will be better than last, overall?" one asks. The bullpen catcher chimes in with a new question: "Best road trip of the past season?" I vote for Seattle, which pleases Millions. "I was making out with this girl at this tiki bar," I begin, before the pitching coach shows up. I quickly halt my story. He glares at me, then smiles. "It's Opening Day, baby," he intones. "Nothing like that."

I see a fan with a paper bag on his dome. Nothing like it.

Millions is tossing his final practice pitches near us. I've cracked the Baldacci book already - we were on the field too early - and am already near the beginning of Chapter 2. One of the guys is starting his first Hot Foot of the season, aiming for the bullpen catcher as a target. A few girls have winked or waved ("The Essential Ws," as we call it) down at us already. Millions looks nervous. "Hey Millions," I bellow, drawing a glare. "Don't sweat the small stuff out there, you know? No one expects anything." He stares at the ground, then looks back at me as if to say something, then stares back at the ground. "It's KC, baby," I finish. A good middle reliever can always get the last word, because when else does he? "If it ain't BBQ, it don't matter." Millions smiles and begins his trot to the dugout.

National Anthem is gearing up; I'm wondering if they'd let me take a laptop out here. I'm then wondering if Kauffman is wired for WiFi. I wonder if it would be a seminal moment of my career if I took a "wireless dump" in the bullpen of Kauffman. This Baldacci book isn't too well paced; once we sit down, I'm headed to my bullpen bag for some US Weekly. I heard there's an article about Katie Holmes and Chris Klein's torrid sexual history together, and it possibly being rekindled. That's some good stuff.

No comments:

Post a Comment