Outside the Foul Lines - Book V

by Rick Beck

Chapter 5

Pinch Hit, Do

I'd settled into my roll as infield coach and sometimes coach of Evan Lane. I spent an equal time at each. My infield work was easy and predictable. I played each position in the infield at one time or another, with Brad Pappas and Henry McCormick solid picks for the middle of the infield and Louisville's leading double play combination.

Of course during practice I played at second every chance I got, because Brad was so steady. If I was subbing during practice for Brad, I didn't get the same feel playing with McCormick. I could turn a ground ball as quick as anyone, but in practice it was more a matter of routine and not speed. Once all the elements were in the play, speeding it up was made easier when you added adrenaline.

I still liked setting up at shortstop best of all. When Hack was hitting to the infield and I was at short, he seemed to enjoy testing my range of mobility, even though I was a coach. These were the times when McCormick failed to keep up with me. He was often out of position on a hard infield hit that took the shortstop out of position.

I always thanked Hack for letting me feel like an infielder again. I truly missed playing, although I liked teaching the guys too.

Hack told me one day, "It's my pleasure, John. You're a damn good infielder. We've got to work harder on your hitting."

That was it but it tickled my fancy. Oh, Hack was no peaches and cream guy. He was a hard nosed player and a hard nosed coach. Giving out compliments wasn't his style. When Hack said nothing, you knew you were doing okay, but more often than not he was climbing up someone's ass for dogging it. He wanted 100% all the time and most players weren't capable of that.

Evan Lane was a man of his word. The arrogant left fielder became more compliant. He listened when I spoke but he still had a propensity to stumble over his own feet. It wasn't like he couldn't field; he fielded fine most of the time but he had lapses. If he came straight in on a ball or backed straight back, he was fine. Make him run after the ball, and all bets were off.

I didn't know what caused it beyond the vague distraction theory. I had him watch my feet as Hack had me run after balls. He looked at me and shrugged as if he didn't have a clue why he was watching my feet. I persisted. He watched. It changed nothing.

I paid attention to him during games, when balls were hit towards his positing. When he came up with one of his bonehead plays, I didn't understand and I couldn't explain it. When he did let a ball get past him, Coach Bell gave me one of his "why haven't you solved this problem?" looks.

In discussions I could say nothing for certain, beyond "he gets distracted and trips over his own feet."

"Well what the hell is distracting the boy? He goes along fine and then all of a sudden he's screwing the pooch. I want it to stop, John."

I did too.

These comments were made in a raised voice. Coach Bell viewed my progress with Lane as unsatisfactory. I considered my progress with Lane unsatisfactory. Each day I worked with him, he listened, seemed to understand my words, did nothing out of the ordinary while I worked with him, and then, every few games he'd do it again, which frustrated me, not to mention Coach Bell.

We were on a three game winning streak going into Richmond. It turned into a pitcher's duel. In the fifth inning Brad hit a hot single past second base. With McCormick coming to bat Coach Bell called him out of the on-deck circle.

"McCormick, take a seat. Dooley, come in here," Coach Bell yelled at me.

I jogged in from the first base coaches box as Slip jogged out of the dugout to take my place.

"Okay, John, his pitches are coming up. He's been pitching the right handed hitters down and outside, catching the corner of the plate. His last ten pitches or so have been increasingly further outside. Stand up there and get me a walk. That's all you got to do. Keep the bat on your shoulder, hug the plate to force his hand, and he'll walk you."

"Yes, sir," I said, not having anything to say.

I picked out a light bat and carried it with me, swinging it only once as the umpire was already waiting to see what we were doing.

The first pitch was a ball and then there was a strike right on the corner of the plate. I took some practice swings, moved closer to the plate, and took ball two. After five pitches the count ran to 3-2. I hadn't moved the bat off my shoulder. If I continued to stand there the guy was going to strike me out. I knew I had to swing at anything over the plate. I looked at Coach Bell to see if he was going to signal me to swing away. He didn't give me any signal. I was on my own.

The pitcher seemed cool and determined. I watched him take his sign from the catcher and, after checking first base, he delivered the pitch with no windup. I came around on it fast, getting in front of it. I'd set my feet to tag it down past third base if I could get a hold of it, and that's precisely where it went, rattling around in the corner. Their left fielder had his back turned to the plate, as he tried to fish it out of the corner.

The throw came into 3rd, which made me stop at 2nd, knowing Brad was already too far down the 3rd baseline for a throw to the plate. We were leading 1-0.

I felt magnificent. When I looked at Coach Bell, he was looking down at his lineup card. He was going to pull me, but then who was going to play 2nd base? I was his top utility man and the skill dropped off a lot after me. Our second string fielders were second string for a reason.

Evan Lane came to the plate in his cleanup hitter's role. He looked massive next to their tiny catcher and the bloated umpire. His shoulders were wide, his waist small, and he swung the bat like he meant business. I took a lead and the pitcher barely noticed me. I noticed this fact and went back to 2 nd after he threw up a ball one pitch. With 1 st base open and our big gun at bat, it might be an intentional walk.

I took less of a lead the next time. Once again the pitcher failed to check me back to 2 nd base. He threw the ball up to Lane and the swing was tight and complete, strike one. I took two steps off 2 nd. Hack stood there with a blank look on his face. He clapped and yelled for Lane to give him a big hit. He didn't flash me a sign. He wasn't holding me on base. He saw the pitcher wasn't checking me on 2 nd . I looked at Slip and he was watching Lane.

This time the pitcher went into his windup. His toe was on the pitching rubber and he had to go to the plate. He couldn't throw to 2 nd or he'd balk and I'd automatically get 3 rd base. As the pitch was delivered I was on my way to 3rd.

The catcher stood and faked a throw to 3 rd , but it was too late. I had taken the bag. Lane had stepped back from the plate to put himself in the way of a direct throw down the 3 rd baseline. He knew exactly what to do to protect me. I felt great. I was playihg ball.

"Heads up play, Dooley. You played this game before?" Hack joked, clapping for Lane to give him a big hit.

I was more careful at 3 rd and Hack didn't need to tell me the pitcher was looking right at me now. He seemed more determined as he delivered the next pitch, I started moving toward the plate.

Once more Lane came around with that smooth complete swing that was a slight upper cut on the ball. He'd gotten it all and it sailed up and up, out of the small park. The crowd groaned and it was 3-0. I'd gotten a hit, batted in a run, and scored. I loved baseball.

I waited at home and shook Lane's hand as he crossed the plate. We jogged together to the dugout as the players stood to greet us and shake Lane's hand.

We sat back on the bench and enjoyed our lead. Anderson was pitching and he'd already had two complete games and two of our eleven wins. Our relief pitching was pretty good through the first two relievers, and then it faded some, but it wasn't bad. Odds were Anderson wasn't going to give up a lot of runs.

"John, I thought I told you to work him for a walk," Coach Bell said sarcastically.

"I was running out of pitches, Coach. Had to improvise."

"Damn nice, John. Nice base running. Get your glove warmed up. I'm putting you in at 2nd."

I'd played two games at 2 nd in the later innings of games for a total of 3 innings. While pinch hitting wasn't my specialty, it worked out this time.

I came up again in the 8 th inning and got my walk. We won the game 3-0 with Anderson going all the way for his third win of the season without a loss.

Louisville was a solid team. It wasn't anything like State. I can't explain the difference but the feel of winning at this level gave me a warmth I'd never had before. My place on the team was still ill defined, but I didn't label myself.

I wasn't the late inning fill-in at 2 nd base, or Brad's backup, or the coach at 1 st base. I was all these things and none of it bothered me. I felt good. I felt, very very good.

"I got a double, Andy," I blurted when he called that night.

"I got two homers today," Andy bragged.

"Yeah, but you're supposed to hit homers and I'm not. I got to play nearly half the game at second. Man did it feel good."

"Oh yeah, I saw Chance. He said tell you hello."

"How's he doing?" I quizzed.

"Same as me, waiting to go up. He turned two plays at 2nd base today that were spectacular and we're still trying to get him out. He got three straight hits and walked his last time up. My second homer gave us the win, but Chance is on his way, Do. I haven't seen a better infielder."

"Thanks a lot. I love you too. I once played the infield pretty well."

"You know what I mean. I'm talking pro ball, not kid stuff. He's the real deal."

"Yes, I had no doubt."

"Batting didn't bother you?" Andy asked.

"I never gave it a thought. Coach Bell told me to take a walk. I tried but once the count was 3-2, well, I spanked that puppy down the 3rd base line and drove in Brad. He's our shortstop. I told you about him."

"You sound great, Do. I love you."

"No one's home?"

"No, I waited for them to go out for dinner. It's so nice being able to talk again. I forgot I was pissed off at you."

"I pissed you off?"

"You know you did, Do. You can't just stop calling me. I had you meeting someone else, running around on me, leaving me. You can't do that anymore, Do. It has me thinking about you all the time and I need to be thinking about ball."

"I know, Andy. Things were crazy. They still are a little, but I'm settled into a room of my own now, and we can talk as often as you want."

"You have a room to yourself. How do you rate?"

"Coaches don't sleep with the players," I advised him.

"I better not catch you sleeping with any of the players," Andy blurted firmly.

"I only have eyes for one player, Andy and you're it. How long have we been together?"

"Going on the sixth year, Do. Jesus, we're just kids and we've been together forever."

"You think I'll ever find anyone else I love as much as I love you?" I asked.

"You better not. I got some scouts sniffing around. One talked to me after today's game. Baltimore and Boston are looking at me. Might be willing to trade for the rights to my contract. They've both got great left fielders all ready. I wouldn't get to start for years. I told them I'd think about listening to an offer. My coach wanted to know what they asked me."

"Baltimore and Boston! They're big time, Andy. You're on the way."

"Not to sit on anyone's bench I'm not. I got to play, Do. I've got to keep batting against good pitching every day. I need to play, not sit, if I'm going to keep my timing."

"Do you hit against good pitchers every day?"

"No, there's a lot of dead wood that comes to Lincoln. It is still good for my timing and everything. Do you still love me, Do?"

"You know I do, big guy. Are you naked?"

"How'd you know? Hearing your voice has me harder than my bat."

"Not quite as big," I said, kidding him.

"I'm so hot for you I could cum just hearing your voice. I love you, Do. I miss you. We've got to get closer to each other."

"One thing is for sure, Andy, with that bat you'll always be a home run hitter," I said.

"Yeah, but I'm so horny for you I can hardly stand it. Oh, fuck, someone's at the door. Got to go, Do. Love your ass."


I felt my erection and knew it would take no more than a minute to get off. Andy's voice turned me on, but it was connected to a lot of history. Over the years we'd gone at it nearly every night, and now, we couldn't reach one another. It would be a miracle if we stayed together. One of us was bound to meet someone interesting, someone close, someone totally too sexy to pass on.

Why Evan Lane came to mind at that precise moment, I can't say, but he did. His arrogance and his bravado and his niceness were all bigger than life. He wasn't your average bear and I didn't want to get too close to him.

He was the kind of guy that could seduce an unsuspecting victim in a New York minute, but I wasn't unsuspecting. I knew I got hard every time I got close to him. What's worse, he knew it too. Evan Lane was dangerous and I wasn't about to be put into a compromising situation that would set Andy off. I loved him too much to hurt him.

The pressure went out of my life as I settled into Louisville, once I was able to communicate with Andy on a regular basis. After another error by Lane nearly cost us a game, Coach Bell ordered, "Solve the damn problem and solve it now."

No one had to tell me who he was talking to. Our once cordial meetings were now highlighted by his frustration over his seriously flawed million dollar baby.

Evan Lane got more press than anyone and he'd become a local hero. No one cared if he couldn't catch the ball, as long as he hit homers. He had been on a tear that kept him ahead of the runs he gave up with his fielding. It still wasn't good enough for the big leagues or Coach Bell. It was my job to rectify the situation.

On our day off I tutored him on forgetting about his feet. Taking me at my word, he did, and promptly tripped over them, falling on his right elbow, requiring it to be iced overnight so he'd be ready to play in the next game.

Coach Bell wasn't smiling or feeling as if it was all in the game. I could only do what I knew how to do.

Standing behind the batting cage as Lane took batting practice before the next day's game, I watched to see if Lane was able to take his usual swing. He seemed fine, which was more than I could say for Coach Bell. He called me away from the batting cage to yell at me.

"How the hell did you manage to get him falling down on his elbow?" Coach Bell barked, once he heard the story from Hack.

"He can't keep his feet out of his way, Coach. The ball was hit to his left, which is never good, and he kicked his right ankle with his left foot. He went right down. He's done it before."

"Well, I want something done. Put on your thinking cap and get busy. If heads roll mine will go first but yours will be following me out the door. Come up with something that gets his mind out of his ass, John. I'm depending on you."

I walked back over to the batting cage about the time Lane caught a fat pitch and sent it out into straightaway center field and over the fence. He rubbed his elbow as he stood back from the plate. I cringed. Coach Bell shook his head in exasperation.

"As soon as his arm's ready, get him busy on his feet," Coach Bell told me without raising his voice.

"Yes, sir," I said as he walked away.

The next thing of note that took place came toward the end of the week, when I was staying late for batting practice. Hack had spent some time with me and I'd told the groundskeeper to leave the one pitching machine in place so I could work on my swing.

Keeping my timing down as a hitter was important. I needed to take pitches, and I did. I took batting practice when I wasn't busy with the fielding practices. I was accustomed to the pacing of the pitching machine and had no difficulty coming around to meet each pitch. Some I hit, some I missed, and my hitting was as inconsistent as ever.

"Here, let me show you something ," Evan Lane said as he strode up from behind me.

"You're stiff as a board, Dooley. Relax your back, lean into the plate, keep your eye on the ball, and…a," crack came the sound of the bat driving the ball to the base of the center field fence. He hadn't even put anything into his swing. He merely followed through and drove it for what would have been a home run in most parks.

Lane repeated these booming hits as the machine kept offering pitches. My bat was half the weight of the one he used and the idea he could still hit it that far amazed me.

"Okay, I'll reload it and you take a turn."

He jogged out with a bucket of balls and loaded up the pitching machine. He walked back to where I stood and nodded for me to stand up to the plate. I swung and missed the first two pitches. I wasn't able to focus because Lane was standing so close to me.

"Jesus, Dooley, you hit like a girl. Let me show you."

Lane wrapped his long arms around me, putting his hands on top of my hands. I flinched. Heat ran up to my face like I'd been slapped, hard. Feeling the front of his body pressed against my backside lit me on fire.

"Loosen up. Lean forward. Just let my body control yours."

The next pitch came and it was like being wedged into a tight spot. The bat went around without even getting close to the ball. Our posture was impossible.

"Loosen up. Lean forward. Just relax and let my body dictate what your body does. Pay attention to my body. You're all tightened up."

Pay attention to his body. He was rubbing it all over me. I couldn't pay attention to anything else. His instructions were lost in the contact between us. I was sweating, shaking, and getting the biggest boner I'd ever had, all at the same time.

"Well, you get the idea," he said, backing off once he realized we couldn't hit the ball that way. "You're way tense and you've got to get into your swing. You can't do that standing straight up and down the way you do. I know you want to be ready to bail out, but you got to forget that, Dooley. If the damn thing hits you, it hits you. You just go on with the game. We all get hit."

I was so flustered I couldn't even see the pitches. I backed out and looked at him looking at me.

"What?" he asked, seeing the anger in my eyes.

"You did that on purpose," I said.


"You know what. I don't appreciate it either."

"Do, you are trying to make a better fielder out of me. I just wanted to help you to become a better hitter. Yes, I did that on purpose. Like my two left feet, you need work. I'll try to help you if you let me. That's all."

"You girls finished dancing? Costs a lot of dough to keep this park all lit up. Call it a night and I'll tell Preston to button things up."

Hack always looked the same and he always talked the same. We were his kids and we didn't know jack shit and he was putting up with us, because it was his job.

I don't know what he saw or what he thought of it, because Hack never gave anything away. If he had something to say to you he said it and left it there. You weren't going to hear something Hack had to say about you from someone else. He put everything on the table.

I was still in my uniform but Lane wore a nice looking blue print shirt with jeans and audacious sneakers. I was wearing my uniform to the boarding house and Lane held the door in the wall of the outfield open for me so we could step out into the darkening street.

"My arms better if you want to coach me tomorrow."

"Yeah, I'll be ready for you," I answered.

"I bet you will," Lane said, turning to walk toward his car.

I didn't move as I watched him walk away from me. He looked way younger in street clothes, almost like a big kid. He was confident, sure of himself. I turned away to go across to Mrs. Olsen's. I was starved.

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