Outside the Foul Lines - Book III

by Rick Beck

Chapter 8

Separation Anxiety

I waited outside the locker room so we could go to eat, which was our routine after a home game. I could have gone inside but there was too big an opportunity for me to run into Coach Briscoe. Being disappointed in my behavior, I didn't want to risk another blowup while the last one was still cooling down.

What we all knew was we'd blown a game we should have won. We should have come back to beat them, even with them leading in the late innings. We always came back once the pressure was on. Unfortunately, we failed to get another man on base and St. Anthony went home with a win.

This further aggravated an already volatile environment. I'd failed to do what I needed to do. I had an excuse, 'hey, I got hit in the head.' There was no excuse for me to have acted the way I did in front of the team. It was embarrassing even when my guys took my side of the clash. My outburst was a loss of control I couldn't afford.

"What's wrong with that guy?" Jeff asked, as we walked toward the cafeteria.

"He's your basic asshole," Chance blurted.

"No he isn't. He's our coach and we're stuck with him. Going up against him isn't going to get us to the division title," I said.

"He's still an asshole," Chance asserted.

"You can't fight the boss," Andy said, being first in line to fill his tray.

"Do's right, it's Coach Bell's team and Briscoe doesn't give a damn," Wertz said.

"I'm not right. It's not Coach Bell's team any more. It's our team. It's up to us to play the best ball we know how to play so bonehead plays can't torpedo us," I explained.

"Easy for you to say, you aren't playing. We're stuck with whatever Briscoe decides. Hell, he may pass over Bale and pitch someone else against Greenwood. We need Bale in there," Chance calculated, as he piled up food.

"As temperamental as the guy is, he might shut down if he doesn't get the start he's waiting for," Wertz said, handing over the meal voucher as the cashier was still startled by Andy's overloaded tray.

We picked a table off to one side of the half empty cafeteria.

"Passing over him to pitch Boyle against St. Anthony was strategy. That way Bale is ready to go against Greenwood. He hasn't gone six days between starts all season. He's in a groove and upsetting him could be bad news," Andy said, as he spread out his bonanza of food.

"We should have beaten St. Anthony. Now we've got to beat Greenwood. They'll pull even with us in the standings if we don't. We need Bale to keep us a game ahead of them. On their turf, even Bale isn't a sure thing," I said. "Greenwood gets stronger as the season goes on."

"Damn Briscoe," Chance said.

I looked over at Bale. His tray was piled high with food. He didn't seem to be aware that anyone was in the room but him and his food. He wiped his nose routinely, shoveling food in between wipes. He was thin by most standards but he ate like a horse.

Bale was a more moderate size than Andy, but they ate about the same amount of food. I figured the high strung pitcher burned calories with all his nervous ticks and contortions. I remembered a time when he couldn't get the ball over the plate. It's odd how someone like him goes from a zero to a hero without any notice. Now the only undefeated pitcher in the league, and no team wanted to face the fidgety pitcher who threw only strikes.

"He looks ready to me," I said.

"He's great," Jeff said, glancing over at Bale who sat alone at a table in the rear corner of the cafeteria.

We finished eating and headed back to the dorm as Jeff said goodbye to return to the freshman dorm. No one seemed any the worst for wear, except Chance, whose perpetual smile had given way to a scowl. He had been insulted and disrespected in his mind and it was not something he was going to forget. It was all the more reason for me to maintain an even keel. We had to stay focused.

As quick as we got inside the door of our room, Andy grabbed me and it was a mad dash to get our clothes off and into bed. I was in no mood for passion, having been upset by the game and I still hadn't let go of my anger with myself and Coach Briscoe.

I beat him into bed and gave in to the desire that he lit in me. The sight of his body, his erection, and the manly stature he'd acquired while my brain was too wrapped around baseball to notice. Much of our love making was done in the dark and usually after everyone was ready for bed to prevent someone interrupting us, but the acrimony of the day had Andy at a fever pitch to drown his stress by becoming lost in my arms. I'd seen him react the same way before and I would be the last one to ask him, 'what's wrong.'

I ran my hands over his muscles, admiring his chest, now fuzzy with blond fur, and his arms that bulged more each day. Andy had added weight, his ribs no longer showing with his belly all the more lean. No matter where I touched him, his response was to moan as we made every effort to get as much of our skin touching as possible.

We maneuvered to gain access to our more excited members. The door swung open freezing us in place.

"Oops," Chance said, closing the door as quickly as it opened.

"Fuck!" Andy said, hesitating for a second to ponder the discovery of what we'd so successfully kept to ourselves for so long.

Whether he was further stressed by this turn of events or our love was so powerful he couldn't resist finishing what we started, I don't know, but we were rocking and rolling as soon as the door closed. What was done was done and I was in no mood to stop before we got where we were going.

Andy was swollen and needy as we wrapped ourselves around our most overheated parts. I couldn't get enough of him but there was too much to consume all in one meal.

I knew enough to slow my enthusiasm to keep from ending my happy dash too early. Unlike Andy, it took me a few minutes to regroup for the next inning. When Andy cut loose it was merely a prelude to the symphony ahead with movements and flourishes to match my lover's lust. He did like it when we went to extra innings.

My desire to prolong these magnificent moments made us well suited to one another. Confirming our love for one another was never more welcome. I didn't want to think about Andy's looming departure, but when I did, I wanted him more than ever before. Our destinies had to go in separate directions for awhile, but once I was done with school, we had a lifetime to be together.

Gone were the quickies between classes or before dinner. We were now invested in the marathon sessions that often left us with circles under our eyes with little bounce left in our step. Andy's classes were all but done and the few finals he was required to take had already been passed. All that was left was baseball and our free time together.

I never questioned his love for me. The evidence stuck out like a soar thumb every time I touched him. Our bodies fit together as if they'd been designed to fit that way, or perhaps we'd trained them to adjust and respond to each nook and cranny as we rolled around the bed. It was so easy to be with him and so difficult to be away from him when I was. It kept our love alive and exciting.

We sought to prolong what often had been a dash for the finish line. Today we worked to keep ourselves together for as long as time allowed. This was not a time in minute increments that was able to break in on our love. This was time in the larger context of days, weeks, and months, which were in decline and could be measured in a few weeks by now.

We didn't have long left. Time was fleeting. Before long we'd be too far apart to get together. Andy wasn't one who dwelled on the inevitable. We knew what was coming at us. He'd graduate. He would leave to pursue his baseball career. I'd be on my own for one year.

Each moment we spent together meant one less we had. Having love an arms length away for years made the loss of it all that more daunting. I could keep it off my mind most days, but it surfaced more often as the season ran down.

When there was a break in our need to have our bodies tangled up together, the loss of Andy took center stage in the drama that was my life. Even having him standing a few feet away from me left an empty feeling inside, and the need to have him in bed with me immediately was overwhelming.

We were careful not to mention our impending separation. It was dishonest to never talk about it, but there was also a balance in our lives that required we keep our minds on a game that had brought us together and would soon pull us apart. The wonder of our meeting and falling in love came out of a game I only played so I could get my college degree. Go figure.

"What do we do about Chance?" Andy asked as he pulled on his underwear, signaling a different kind of hunger had entered his mind.

"We'll draw straws. One of us will need to shoot him," I quipped.

"You kidding me, he's too good a second baseman to shoot. We'd better talk to him," Andy said.

"We, as in you?"

"No, I meant you. You're far more familiar with how to put words together. Besides, he's in your class and you'll have to deal with him next season. I wouldn't want to risk saying something wrong."

"We supposed to go to dinner together?" I asked.

"Is it dinner time already? No wonder my stomach is growling. We eat with him every day."

"Maybe he went on without us," I said.

"I don't think so. That could have been what he wanted. See what time we were going to eat."

"I suppose. It wasn't what he saw. Why didn't you lock the door anyway?"

"Me? I was busy getting out of my clothes."

"What your arms broken? I got hit in the head, remember? I'm working on half a brain here. Besides, I wasn't wasting any time getting at you."

"Yeah, well, you can explain all that to Chance. I just hope the entire team doesn't know. That isn't going to go over too well."

"Yeah," I said. "Chance is cool."

"We're about to find out how cool," Andy said.

"The truth hurts. Are you ashamed, Andy?"

"Fuck no, but I'm looking for a job. This gets out and a lot of teams will cross me off their list."

"They'd be fools not to want your bat. We'll talk to Chance. It'll be okay."

Andy checked the hall and I followed him out. He walked down to Chance's door and I followed him. We stood together as he knocked.

"Yeah, you ready for chow?"

Chance slipped out into the hall in his socks and wearing only a pair of sweat pants.

"You guysss! I should have known. Why didn't you tell me?"

"It's not a subject you spread around the locker room," I said.

"Oh that's for sure. I wasn't thinking. Let me get a shirt and we'll get Wertz. I told him you were studying and we'd probably be going to dinner a little late."

"Chance," I said as he started back into his room. "Thanks."

"You guysss!" he said, flashing us his broadest smile.

"He's cool," Andy said as we waited.

We went to dinner and Chance told me of an envelope he'd collected for me at the front desk. It had the seal from the Athletic Department's Chancellor on it. It's what he was bringing to me when he walked in on us.

"No one else received one?" I asked.

"Nope! To the attention of John Dooley."

"I've never even met Bishop. What could he want with me?" I wondered out loud.

"It might not be Bishop himself. It's from his office. There's all kinds of business done with athletes."


We all looked at each other and no one had a reason why the envelope came marked urgent.

When we got back to the dorm I went into Chance's room for the envelope. I opened it there not wanting to wait to solve the mystery it represented.

"Mr. John Dooley is to appear in front of the Athletic Chancellor at 9:30 a.m. tomorrow morning. This is not an invitation it is an order from Chancellor Bradley T. Bishop."

I handed it to Chance who read it and then he read it again.

"Fuck! Your ass is fried," he observed.

"Today's game? I didn't do anything but tell it like it was," I said.

"Yeah, but that umpire was one pissed off dude. I think he has something to do with it. You're the captain of the team and I was a lot more vocal than you were. You didn't speak up until he threw me out of the game."

"Briscoe!" I concluded.

"Briscoe," Chance agreed. "He isn't all that fond of you, you know?"

"Tell me about it."

I began thinking of ways I could earn some money over the summer to pay for my senior year. My parents didn't have that kind of cash. If Briscoe wanted me off his team, I was up the creek when it came to my senior year.

"Wait until you talk to the guy," Andy said. "You don't know what it means."

"No, I don't but I do know that I've avoided visiting the Chancellor's office for three seasons and I'd like to have made it four."

"The team will back you. Briscoe's an asshole," Chance reminded me.

"The word urgent has a meaning. We could talk baseball, but that doesn't equate to an urgent in my mind," I said.

"No," Andy said. "It doesn't but don't get too far ahead of yourself. It might not be what you think. A lot went on in that game. The Chancellor knows what losing to St. Anthony means. No one wants the division title and a ticket to the NCAA Championship more than Bishop."

"It's Briscoe," I said.

"It's Briscoe," Andy agreed. "You're the captain of the team. Coach Bell thought the world of you. In one game Briscoe is going to bust you off the team and you weren't even suited up? That's not logical, Do. There's got to be something more to it than Briscoe complaining about you."

"Maybe," I acknowledged.

At nine fifteen the following morning I was seated in the office outside of Chancellor Bishop's office. The secretary smiled, asked my name, and told me the Chancellor would be with me momentarily.

At Nine twenty-five Chancellor Bishop came into the outer office.

"Mr. Dooley, you may come in."

Okay so far. He hadn't called me a jerk or an asshole yet. That definitely had to be a good sign. I followed him in and he went back behind his desk after pointing out where I should sit. He wasn't very verbal.

His office was decorated in dark wood, matching his huge desk. He sat in a leather chair with a very high back on it. I supposed it was to prevent whiplash. He reached into his desk and withdrew some stationary which he delicately arranged in front of him.

My chair was the same colored leather without the high back. It was nice and comfortable and I sensed a theme. I looked for whips, chains, or fixtures on the ceiling that might hold a sling. I could find nothing obvious but of course the ceiling tiles flipped over to conceal the hooks. As my eyes examined the room, he remembered I was there.

"Yesterday! You were present at the game?"

"Yes, sir," I said, suddenly uncomfortable.

"In your mind did anything unusual take place?"

"I'm not prepared to say," I said.

"You mean you don't wish to comment at this time?"

"No, sir, I'll comment if that's what you want, but I don't know what is usual for Coach Briscoe and therefore I can't say if anything unusual took place. From my experience with State baseball the entire game was unusual."

I knew this was a risky tactic, but if we were going to parse words I wanted mine to be precise. Jumping right into a conversation about something I wasn't sure I could explain didn't seem prudent. He'd have to be more specific with his inquiry. He was getting at least two sides to the story and I wanted my side to be as honest as I could make it.

"I see. Did you in any way disrupt the game or insight Coach Briscoe?"

"In my mind I did not. In Coach Briscoe's mind I can't say."

"Can you describe to me where you were and what was your impression of the events that disrupted yesterday's game and brought the umpire over to State's bench?"

"Is this about me and do I need some kind of representation to protect my rights if it is?"

"No, it is not about you at this time. Depending on what you can tell me about the events surrounding the disruption of yesterday's game, then I can assess whether or not my investigation will turn toward you.

"At present I have one irate umpire's complaint about the conduct of State's baseball team. I've got an indignant sanctimonious coach claiming he's being sabotaged, and I've got you, a player who wasn't playing, which thoroughly confuses me about what the hell happened and how it might have been avoided. Do you have any idea how I might proceed to cause the least amount of disruption."

"Well, you can suspend me," I said bluntly, "and that will eliminate one voice of reason among many who may not be so reasonable. All of us are unclear on what Coach Briscoe is trying to accomplish," I said, stopping to await his reply.

"So in your mind the disruption was Coach Briscoe's doing?"

"It doesn't matter what I think. I was sitting on the bench supporting my team. Coach Briscoe had been advised about his choice of shortstops, a position I have some familiarity with. He didn't care to listen. The… disruption started when his choice of shortstops misplayed several balls. These could have been called difficult plays, but a shortstop must make those plays.

"It was instrumental in costing us the game. Coach Briscoe was upset by this because two of his starting infielders had warned him not to play that player at shortstop.

"He played him and when he blew the game up, Coach Briscoe blew up as well. I was right. The other infielder was right. Coach Briscoe was wrong, and he didn't like it. The fact I was on the bench a few feet away from him did nothing to help, but I'd have been playing shortstop if I was able.

"When the other infielder I mentioned returned to the bench, he protested having to play with the unqualified shortstop. At which time Coach Briscoe benched him without cause. That's my opinion. If a coach benched a player every time he shot his mouth off, no one would be left to play the games."

"Let's get to the helmets and the bats?"

"I'm not commenting. My position is clear. I've just given you the reason I feel as I do. Pointing my finger at Briscoe doesn't mean anything. You've got half the team, all the boys on the bench, to ask about the helmets and the bats. They were the ones that had to scatter to avoid being hit by the flying gear. I just sat in awe of my coach not sure of what would come next."

"Let's get to Chance's roll in all this?"

"He had no role. All he said was he couldn't play with Kane at shortstop. As I said, he was promptly tossed out of the game. He objected. Coach Briscoe offered to bench him for the season. Chance was less than pleased by what seemed like irrational behavior. That would be my description. We didn't discuss it after the fact, because the damage was done and there was no point. Again, that's my assessment.

"Chancellor Bishop, Chance is only our best hitter and the kind of infielder I'd want in my infield no matter the circumstances. He's probably one of the easiest going ballplayers I've ever met and he's probably going to turn pro after this season now that Coach Bell has left."

"He told you this?"

"No. I know Chance as well as anyone. Him and about half the juniors on the squad will declare for the draft at the end of the season. I'd be doing the same if I was good enough, but I'm here for the education."

"Finish with Chance. I'm lead to believe that you and Chance precipitated the disturbance."

"Chance was out in the field when the disturbance got the ump's attention. Two outs later Chance came to the bench and was adamant about his inability to play with Kane. We'd gone from a 2-1 lead to trailing 3-2. He was upset."

"He threw his glove?"

"Yes, he threw his glove up against the area behind the bench where the helmets should have been. He expressed his opinion. He was baffled and enraged by Coach Briscoe overreaction. We were watching a key game being fumbled away. There was frustration.

"He was guided away from the bench area immediately. I gave my opinion on what Briscoe said. I was wrong to do so. I regret it, but we went into yesterday's game ready to take our place in the division playoffs. We finished that game going in reverse. I might have over-reacted, but not until Chance was benched."

"Kane was the one misplaying your position?"

"Yes, sir."

"You disagreed with this choice. Why?"

"Coach Bell wanted me to train him at shortstop for the freshman team. I spent several days with him. I told Coach Bell he would never be a good shortstop. I told him why. Coach Bell had him assigned to right field, because Kane is one hell of a hitter and a bonus in any lineup.

"Kane was certain he could play shortstop. When I was injured, he went to Coach Briscoe and told him I had railroaded him with Coach Bell. Coach Briscoe, not being my biggest fan, believed him."

"You don't dislike Kane?"

"I wouldn't go that far," I admitted. "He believes he's way better than he is. He can't play shortstop. Check yesterday's box score for errors, but I suspect you have. There you'll locate the difference in our winning and losing a game that would have cinched the top spot in the division playoffs. Now it'll be a dogfight."

"He hits far better than you. If he'd been able to play shortstop your position was at risk when he came to the first team. That never entered your mind when you gave Coach Bell your opinion?"

"Of course it entered my mind. I couldn't believe Coach Bell would ask me to train my replacement. I did what Coach Bell asked. He was fair and he knew what he was doing. He knew I'd be honest in my effort to give Kane the benefit of what I knew about playing my position."

"Coach Briscoe?"

"We have a history," I explained. "I'm not proud of it but I put it behind me."

"What is your history?"

I gave the Chancellor the information about how Coach Briscoe and I had our falling out. He seemed interested in the distress I felt over Monty's injury. He didn't interrupt me and waited until I had finished."

"If I give you some paper and a pen will you sit out in the outer office and write down everything you've told me in detail? Sign each page at the bottom, use as many pages as it takes. Give it to my secretary when you are done."

"Yes, sir."

"You're not to go on the team bus to Greenwood tomorrow. I don't want you turning out to practice. Do as I ask for the time being and by the time the doctor clears you to play, I'll know if I'm going to let you play. How do you feel about it?"

"I'm the captain of the team. I should be with the team when it plays. I'd like to be there. I'm not the Chancellor and I'll follow your orders. I've got to go back to my dorm and most of the team is close at hand if you're worried about me stirring up trouble," I said.

"I'm not worried about that at all, Mr. Dooley. I trust you are an honorable man. I'm sorry but I've got to make some move to defuse the situation for the moment. I don't believe the disruption was your fault but your presence had some influence on Coach Briscoe's conduct.

"Just go along with me for the time being and we'll try to have you back on the field by the time the doctor clears you to play."

"Yes, sir," I said as I stood up to retrieve the paper and pen he held out for me.

I couldn't read him. He asked questions that didn't reflect where he stood. This could be good. It could also be bad. All I could do was wait to see.

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