Lew shook his head as Doozer’s foul ball landed neatly in the catcher’s mitt, once again signaling Number Six to approach that sublime creature known as home plate. It was a routine Lew had gone through so many times before he was just about numb to it. It’s always a little scarier, though, when you represent the tying or winning run, especially with two men out. On many such occasions he had been the hero, and on quite a few others he had been the goat. There were those players who were fortunate enough to find the thin line between the two, the equilibrium, so as to go almost unnoticed: they did not have a hero’s reputation, nor were they branded with the stigma of a goat in the minds of the fans. Lew fancied himself one of those players. Whether the fans did or not, he wasn’t sure. At this point, playing for a Triple-A club, he didn’t really care. He wanted to be known as a worker, a spirited competitor, nothing more, nothing less.
“Now batting, Number Six, left fielder Lew Pearson!” boomed the static-filled public address system. Lew found it amazing that the fans could consistently understand the crackly voice, but apparently they could, as a chorus of “Loooooo” rained down on him from the sparse crowd. The fans did seem to appreciate him, and the noise was almost always there when he came to bat unless he had made some unforgivable error earlier in the game. Most of those who still cherished the ritual were the middle-aged, beer-chugging diehards who watched him in his so-called glory days shortly after coming up from Toledo of Double A, a hot-shot fielder with a “heck of a future in Major League ball.” Back then he could afford to be optimistic, to relish the quotes of local columnists, but as time wore on his high hopes ever-so-gradually dwindled. Lew didn’t know what to attribute it to. Maybe it was the broken wrist that shelved him half a season in his second year in Indianapolis. Or perhaps he just lost sight of his goals and got trapped in a rut when he took on a family. No. He found that theory difficult to believe. His family, the one thing he loved more than baseball, could not have been the cause of his present situation. Though after nine years on the same field it had become horrifyingly apparent that he was going nowhere. Triple-A was no longer a stepping stone to the Majors, as it was for all the younger players he managed; he had settled in and it had become a source of income, just another way to make a decent living.
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