the first old coach’s name was scrubby carter, and he was a crusty old beer drinking baseball man, and he had seen it all.
after i threw a few pitches to him at sixty feet six inches, he took me into the clubhouse. there was a crummy little office and i waited there while he opened a safe and took out a contract for me to sign.
he started talking , and for a few seconds i thought he was telling me i had a right to remain silent like i was being arrested, but he was actually saying i had a right to find an agent, but that would delay getting my first paycheck from the club.
i did not take any of this very seriously, and the thought of any kind of paycheck sounded good, as well as the thought of more of the real food they had at the camp, so i signed.
after i signed the contract scrubby kept me talking for a while, and then another coach came in and told me to get my things from the dorm and he drove me to the airport and they sent me to the ravens’s main spring training camp in florida.
i didn’t get a chance to say goodbye to joe and never saw him again after that, not even after i was on the front page of every newspaper and the cover of every magazine in the world .
when i got to florida i was introduced to the manager of the ravens, d d rogers.
d d was not an old-fashioned beer drinking baseball man like scrubby carter. he was more of a stats guy. he stayed in better shape than the players, lived on tofu and oolong tea, and went to bed every night with an eight inch thick three ring binder full of statistics.
d d and the pitching coach, lefty ashworth, took me aside and watched me throw. they had a gun on me and i was throwing up to 140 miles an hour staying in the strike zone. i could get up to 150 but usually missed up out of the zone when i threw that hard.
they were impressed, but agreed i had to learn to change speeds, because even at 140 if i threw the same speed every time i would get hit.
lefty and the assistant pitching coaches taught me to throw at different speeds by using different grips - 140, 130, 120, down to 95 which would be my “change-up”. they also taught me to throw a cutter off the fast balls 120 and lower. and a curve ball, which i already sort of remembered from little league. and i was a quick study on the knuckleball, but they said i would only get one called every two or three games.
since i did not know that much about baseball, i agreed that i would always just throw what the catcher called and never shake him off. they liked that.
what they liked even better was that my arm never got tired or sore, so i could pitch every day.
it also turned out that my bat speed was as good as my pitching speed. so i could pretty much hit a home run every time up, and would not have to be d h’ed for. of course once the other teams caught on they would just intentionally walk me every time, but from the ravens’ point of view that was still better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick, or a d h who hit .250 with 19 home runs.
well, if you are a baseball fan which you are probably not, you know what happened next.
the ravens went 151 and 11 in the regular season, and then won the playoffs 3-0, 4-0, and 4-0.
i pitched in 144 of the regular season games and went 138 and 2, with an e r a of 0.007, and 3,757 strikeouts in 1,303 innings. i had shutouts in all 11 playoff games, including two perfect games, with 276 strikeouts.
i got days off from hitting once in a while, to give me a rest from running the bases 4 or 5 times every game. i was walked almost every time, but sometimes on the road when we were way ahead, the other team’s management liked them to pitch to me because the fans liked to see me hit 600 foot home runs. i ended up with 44 home runs, and 47 hits in 50 official at bats, and was intentionally walked 658 times.
all this got the attention of the media, even though not too many people pay that much attention to baseball any more, not even in new york. i was accused by people who were interested enough of being a cyborg or of being on drugs, and the ravens were accused of “destroying baseball” but they, and i, obliged by my submitting to being tested by anyone who wanted to test me.
and even though nobody cares much about baseball any more, there were enough slow news days, and enough magazines needing to be filled out, that i became half way famous.
to me the best part of the whole thing was that i was now famous enough that maybe i could get my novels published.
and that was when things started to get interesting.
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