Outside the Foul Lines - Book V

by Rick Beck

Chapter 6

Passing Lane

Evan Lane left an impression on everyone. He'd gone above and beyond anything I thought he was capable of doing. As much as he aggravated me, he fascinated me as well. I didn't want to be close to him but I couldn't avoid it if I wanted to stay in Louisville.

Here was a player on the way to the big leagues and he acted more like a high school kid. I'd almost bet that he did it on purpose but there was part of me that said Lane was just a big kid who wasn't trying to be obnoxious. He used his talent to get him as far as he could go and people who didn't place limitations on him gave him carte blanche to do whatever he pleased.

` I didn't have that luxury. I loved Andy too much to allow Evan Lane to get in between us. Even a misconception could give Andy grief. Before it came to that I had to get Lane to calm down and do what I was hired to get him to do. Both of our futures depended on it.

"Oh, hi Andy," I said, as the phone rang shortly after I got into the room.

"What's wrong?" he asked.

"What do you mean?"

"Do, I read you like a book. What's wrong? You not get any hits today?"

"Nah, day off. No game anyway. I've got a problem child I don't know what to do with," I said, figuring there was no time like the present.

"What kind of problem?"

"Remember your fielding before you got your glasses?"

"Yeah, I remember. Someone else need glasses?"

"I wish it were that simple. No, actually he's okay most of the time, but he has lapses. Trips over his own feet. We give the opposition runs we can't afford to give away."

"So you bench him," Andy said, knowing the answer.

"It's not that easy. He does what you do," I said.

"He better not be doing what I do with you."

"Andy, I'm being serious. My job might depend on teaching this guy not to trip over his own feet."

"No one taught the boy how to field?"

"That's exactly the problem. They let him get away with it in high school and college."

"What kind of bozo would let him go without learning to field properly?"

"I told you, he's a big hitter. His bat was all they cared about. Lots of guys have trouble fielding in school."

"Who are we talking about anyway? If he's that big a hitter I'd know him."

"Evan Lane?"

"Evan Lane. He can't field? He's the biggest gun this side of the majors."

"Now you know why he is still on this side of the majors. Coach Bell wants results and Evan Lane is a problem child."

"Arrogant and self-absorbed," Andy quipped.

"How do you know that?"

"Not much doesn't get around the circuit. I've heard about him. I knew he was big power but I didn't know he couldn't field."

"His power makes up for his shortcomings, but you know Coach Bell isn't going to settle for Lane leaving Louisville without being able to field the way he should."

"How is the Coach?"

"Tired of me telling him I can't fix it."

"That bad, babe?"

"It's not good, Andy."

"Well, if you get fired for not being able to work miracles, leave time to come out here and see me. I'm beginning to wonder if we're still going together or not."

"That's not funny," I said.

"You're telling me. I want to see you. Tell Coach Bell you need a few days off."


"We need some time together, Do. I miss you. I don't want to be a thousand miles away from you for the rest of my life."

No, neither of us wanted that. I didn't figure it would be so hard being at Louisville, while he was in Lincoln. I was closer to him now than when I was in Statesville, but at home I could take time to go to see him and with us both having the same schedules now, it would be close to six months before we would see each other again.

Mrs. Olsen brought me up some of her stew and home made bread. It was terrific but I couldn't enjoy it knowing Andy was unhappy with me. I wanted to play ball too and he'd been playing all along. It wasn't fair for me to have to give up ball as soon as I got my ticket punched to get back into ball. I wouldn't let it destroy our relationship but I wasn't ready to walk away yet. I still had a job to do and I wanted to get it done.

Our next game went pretty well. We won again. Lane hit another home run and we out-played a lesser Little Rock club. With two days in Memphis, all I could do was, in general, work with Lane in the field. Half the time he was fine, followed by another lapse or two, without him hurting himself under my instruction.

We split with Memphis, played one game in Nashville and finally beat them after they'd swept us in the previous two games we'd played against them. They were still the only club who had an edge on us in head to head competition. We came home with 3 wins and a loss on the road and we had a five game home stand with two days off.

Lane was in rare form and wanted to kid around while I wanted to work on his fielding. He had become way nicer than I wanted, which made me feel like I was cheating on Andy. I suppose the attraction to a nice Evan Lane was greater than I wanted to admit.

It was on our first day off that I got to work with Lane on his fielding again. It was still an exercise in futility. He was fine and then he did it again. He didn't fall but there was no reason why he didn't. One day he was going to fall and fall wrong, and he was going to break his arm or worse. It was unavoidable in my mind.

While in the kitchen waiting for Mrs. Olsen to dish me out some more of her meatballs and noodles, I remembered something Hack had said. I saw Mrs. Olsen as the answer that might solve the problem.

"Do you dance, Mrs. Olsen?"

"Why yes, I do, John. You going to ask me to go dancing with you. What would your girlfriend say?"

"Not me, Mrs. Olsen. How would you like to help Louisville's best hitter stop tripping over his own feet?"

"Evan Lane? He is tripping over his feet?"

"Yes, he is, and I'm supposed to solve the problem. I'm not going to dance with him, but if you could spend a little time with him and we get him to learn to dance, it might be just the thing he needs."

"Anything for Mr. Bell or you, but I haven't danced since Mr. Olsen passed a dozen years ago. We use to go on Saturday nights and dance at church with our friends."

"Do you have any music? Records? To dance by?"

"I think so. I'll look to see if we have something put away. I'm sure we can come up with something."

It was on the following off day that Lane ended up in my room, dancing with Mrs. Olsen. He was actually bashful and had more left feet than usual. For a first time, it was a start. I couldn't be sure it would work, but at this point I'd try anything. I didn't mention it to Coach Bell and wouldn't mention it to anyone else.

I was the DJ and went through waltzes, jazz, and some big band tunes. There were several rock & roll records and this helped save Mrs. Olsen's feet, as they stayed further a part when she was showing him how to move.

We were well into our second dance session when Mrs. Olsen had had enough.

"Oh, Mr. Lane, I've got to work on my feet all day and if you keep walking on them, I won't get anything done tomorrow."

Mrs. Olsen smiled half-heartedly and left my room. Lane shrugged as if he wasn't sure what he'd done, but his feet were way too big to keep under control. He was a little sheepish at having done damage to his dance instructor. I thought we were onto something.

"I was just starting to feel like I was learning something," Lane said, as he grabbed my arm and started to dance with me.

The music wasn't particularly conducive to dancing and I was no Mrs. Olsen. As he swung me around, I let go of his arm and he sank back on the bed.

Timing being what it is, as I went to turn the record player off, the phone rang.

"Do's Dance club, Lane speaking," he said into the receiver.

"Shit," I said, grabbing the phone out of his hand.

"Ops!" he said, handing me the dead phone. "Andy is?"

"My boyfriend."

"Ops! Ops! I can't keep my feet out of my way, and I've got a big mouth," Lane confessed most of his sins.

"You go. I've got to call him back."

Lane carried the record player back downstairs and I called Andy back. The phone rang and rang but no one picked up. I figured he might have been somewhere else when he called, or he was in the room alone and wasn't picking up because he didn't want to talk to me.

This was something I didn't need. Andy and I were hanging on, waiting for a better time, when we could be in the same town all the time. I wasn't sure baseball was worth losing him. How far was I going to go? What did I want to accomplish? What price was I willing to pay?

I tried Andy several times that night and when someone did pick up, they said, "Andy, he's not here. Anyone know where Andy is? …Sorry, he's not here and I don't know when he'll be back."

It was late and I had to be at the ballpark early for a coaches meeting. If there was anyone suffering from lapses the next day, it was me. I don't know what was discussed in the coaches meeting, after trying to get a hold of Andy a couple more times with no success.

I hadn't marked down his games for that week, so I didn't know if they were at home or away, but his phone did nothing but ring. Our game was an agonizing pitcher's duel. There were few hits and I stood aimlessly lost in the coach's box at first. Without runners I didn't have much to do but my mind was on Andy. My inability to reach him had me worried.

We lost one to nothing and the next day we had a snoozer against Toledo. If I had nothing to do in the box the day before I made up for it. We got 15 hits, 9 runs, and beat them 9-2. There was someone on base all the time but there wasn't any pressure, because we led from the first inning until the game was over, but we always beat Toledo.

Coach Bell had let me use his phone after the game, while he was giving a pep talk to the troops. It was exciting and we were leading our division by three games. Everything was peaches and cream if someone didn't care about Evan Lane's fielding. He'd been fine for two games and I couldn't hope a couple of dance lessons solved the problem.

Being off the next day, Lane and I walked together out to the door in the wall of the outfield that let us out onto the street behind the stadium. He held the door open for me and he was commiserating with me over my inability to contact Andy, since he inadvertently answered the phone a few days before.

"Well, he's got to play ball. It's his job," I said, as Lane apologized again. "He's probably there and doesn't want to talk to me. I don't know how he'll explain that to his roomies."

Lane looked at me curiously as something else had caught his attention. Just as I was becoming aware of him being distracted, there was a flash of humanity that came pummeling into Lane, knocking him up against the wall.

He and Andy fell onto the ground with Lane looking like he'd been hit by lighting or at least a runaway train.

"Andy!" I yelled, as he rolled onto his back to look up at me.

It reminded me of when I was a kid and the two biggest kids couldn't keep stay out of each other's way. It didn't prove their manhood. It only proved they were still butt heads.

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