Tag Archives: College Baseball

Distractive Emotions

This is Part III of the Brian Hawthorne saga.

If you missed out on Part II, click here and go check it out.

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“Hey Hawsy!” yelped Salverro as they got off the bus. “A few of us are gonna head for the bar and celebrate some more. You in?”

“Nah, I think I’ll pass,” answered Hawthorne. “I wanna go hang out with Sarah; I haven’t seen her all week.”

“Alright man. Have fun. See you at practice tomorrow.”

“Peace.”

Hawthorne gave the team a wave and headed off across campus to Sarah’s dorm. It was a perfect spring night. the temperature was comfortable enough for him to make the cross-campus walk in his LSU Baseball t-shirt. The humidity of the Baton Rouge afternoon had long since faded away. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky and it seemed the whole expanse of the universe was visible overhead. Hawthorne paused for just a moment to take it all in.

“Wow, this is what it’s all about,” he said out loud to no one in particular. “We’re SEC Champions, NCAA Tournament-bound and now I get to curl up for the night with the girl I’m probably going to marry someday.”

When he arrived at Sarah’s dorm, Hawthorne called his buddy who lived down the hall to come open the door so he could truly surprise his girlfriend. He headed down the hall for her suite, found the front door propped open, headed into the common room, turned the corner, walked into Sarah’s room…

… and stopped dead in his tracks.

Hawthorne couldn’t believe his own eyes. There was his girlfriend, sound asleep, wrapped in the arms of some guy with a shaved head and bulging biceps. Their clothes were strewn about the room, and what was that on the floor? Hawthorne bent down to pick it up. A condom wrapper. Hawthorne flung it aside as he stood back up.

“Well, at least you’re practicing safe sex, you whore!” Hawthorne shouted as loud as he could, shattering the peace of the night and scaring Sarah and her boy toy wide awake.

“Oh my– Holy– Brian! You’re here earlier than you said you’d be.”

“Yeah, too early for you, I guess,” answered Hawthorne, his words slathered in sarcasm. “You want me to leave and come back at a better time for you?”

“Brian, it’s not what it looks like.”

The rage flickered in his eyes. “Oh really? Well that’s good, because it sure as hell looks like you’re a cheating skank!”

“I don’t really like the tone you’re using right now.”

“And I don’t really like his dick in your mouth while I’m in Alabama!”

A crowd had now gathered. All of Sarah’s roommates had been awakened and were in the common room in a sleepy haze. Half the people on the floor were standing in the hallway outside listening to the carnage.

“Brian, you really need to calm down,” pleaded Sarah as tears started to well in her blue eyes.

“Oh, go fuck yourself,” answered Hawthorne as he turned to walk out the door. After a couple steps he turned and shouted a parting volley over his shoulder: “Or better yet, just have him fuck you again.”

Hawthorne put a hole through the wall in the common room with his right foot on the way out for good measure.

—-

Beep… beep… beep… be– *CRUNCH*

Hawthorne put his fist straight through his alarm clock the next morning.

“Yup, still angry,” Hawthorne grumbled to himself as he climbed out of bed.

But, where had he seen that guy before? So many of the details from last night were jumbled in Hawthorne’s head. He was so stressed, so disheveled and so irritated that his brain was a mostly useless lump of gray jelly for the moment. But there was one thing he was sure of: he knew the dude who was sleeping with his girlfriend. It was all he could think about as he went through his morning routine. As he made breakfast, as he showered, as he got dressed; all he could think about was the man with the shaved head, broad shoulders and ripped upper body. Who was it?

Then, as he began to brush his teeth, it hit him.

“Fuck!” he yelled as he flung the toothbrush across the room. It clattered off the tile wall and clattered around on the floor of the shower. “She’s fucking the fucking Hawk!”

Leon “The Hawk” Hawkins was a junior power forward on the LSU basketball team. Of course Hawthorne recognized him; he had spent all winter watching from the student section as Hawkins led the Tigers to the SEC title and an appearance in March Madness. They had talked to each other at the bar after the SEC Basketball Championship game. Hawthorne had vowed that the Tigers baseball squad would match the feats of the hoops team

“I wonder if she slept with him that night, too,” Hawthorne wondered to himself as he headed out the door for the gym.

Kyle McDermitt was the first teammate Hawthorne saw when he got to the weight room. The junior pitcher had a dark purple ring around his right eye.

“What the hell happened to you?” Hawthorne asked.

“Things got a little out of hand last night,” McDermitt answered with a grin. “We got into a bit of a bar brawl with some tourists from Kentucky.”

“Oh wow, wish I had been there,” said Hawthorne.

“No you don’t,” replied McDermitt. “I’m sure you had more fun with Sarah.”

“Yeah, something like that,” muttered Hawthorne under his breath as he headed off to start his workout.

—-

Catcher Danny Salverro was the unofficial captain of the LSU baseball team, especially of the infield when they were out in the field on defense. Salverro could see everything from his station behind home plate. He could track the ball, he could see where all the fielders were, he could see where the baserunners were, he could position his teammates as if they were so many chess pieces on the checkerboard of well-manicured grass in the field. Salverro would notice when a purple and gold uniform was even one step out of position in left field during a blowout, so he certainly noticed that Hawthorne was perhaps a tad out-of-whack in practice on Monday.

Every time the ball came Hawthorne’s way in the field, things didn’t go quite right. Salverro saw his normally sure-handed third baseman boot the first ball hit his way during infield drills. One error wasn’t cause for alarm in itself, but once the catcher saw Hawthorne throw the next ball away, he started paying more attention as the team moved into its intra-squad scrimmage.

Manager Lenny Menkler liked the Tigers to play at least three innings amongst themselves every day in practice. Especially as the season wore on, he felt it kept everybody having fun and kept their minds in game condition while breaking up the monotony of the everyday drills. After all, as Menkler often reminded his club, what better way to practice baseball than actually playing it and being forced to react to game situations?

Hawthorne normally enjoyed these intra-squad scrimmages. He loved to ratchet things up to game intensity on a daily basis. He loved the adrenaline rush he got from competing, even if only against his teammates. He also felt it would help prepare him if he got a shot at professional ball, where he would be expected to play almost every day for months at a time. But today it was simply three innings of hell for the senior third baseman. Nothing he could say to himself could focus his mind on the scrimmage and away from the events of the night before.

Salverro watched as his third baseman let a routine ground ball go straight between his legs. He watched as Hawthorne flat-out dropped a relay throw from left field. He watched as the normally mentally-sharp senior failed to charge towards home plate on a sacrifice bunt. He even watched as Hawthorne threw the ball into right field when his squad was throwing the ball “around the horn” after a strikeout. He saw Hawthorne fire his glove against the wall of the dugout after the scrimmage was finished.

“Hey Hawsy,” said Salverro as he approached the third baseman in the corner of the dugout. “Is everything alright?”

Hawthorne’s head was spinning so much at the moment that he didn’t even know how to respond. On the one hand, he wanted to sit down, talk about everything and see if he could put it all in perspective. On the other hand, he wanted to be alone with his thoughts and didn’t want to be any kind of a burden on the team with the NCAA Tournament right around the corner. So what was he to do?

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Once again, it’s your decision. Two options this time around. Hawthorne can either spill everything to Salverro or keep plugging away on his own. Vote here, vote via IM, vote whatever way you please. Then check back next week-ish to see what happens.

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Charging Hard

Note from the author: so I’ve begun my latest creative writing project. As per usual, who knows how long it will last. Years, months, a week, or maybe it ends right here (but I like to think I’m better than that). The plan is to get some participation from the readership (i.e. whoever stumbles in here every now and then). Every “episode” (or chapter, or column, or situation, or what-have-you) will end with a sort of decision box for one of the characters (who are going to come in and out of the storyline pretty much whenever I feel like it). Then, it’s up to you folks to decide what happens next. Leave comments here, drop me your vote via an IM, whatever you want. Whenever I feel like writing the next part (I’m definitely not running with any set schedule since it’s just for fun), I’ll tally up the votes and whatever was decided on will be the starting point for the next posting. Sounds like fun, doesn’t it? Away we go…

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Thump-thump.

Brian Hawthorne could feel his heart beating in the left side of his chest. He swore he could actually hear it pounding in his head and it felt as if his stomach had crawled its way up into his throat. This couldn’t be happening. Not to his team. Not to the Tigers. Not to him. Not in his senior season. They had fought too hard as underdogs all year. The decisive game of the SEC Tournament had seemed so wrapped up.

Brian’s Louisiana State team had jumped to a 6-0 lead in the first three innings. Hawthorne himself had cranked a two-run home run into the left field bleachers in the top of the second. The Tigers pitchers had worked into jams all night long, but had kept coming out unscathed. This was a team of destiny. The last team to qualify for the conference tournament, they were about to upset everybody and punch their ticket to the NCAA tournament. Tonight’s victory over the top-ranked, host Alabama squad was simply going to be the exclamation point.

But then it fell apart.

One unearned run in the fifth. A two-run home run in the seventh. A run in the eighth. And just now, a two-run, two-out, two-strike triple to tie the game 6-6 in the bottom of the ninth. Suddenly it had all evaporated. It all led up to the scene Hawthorne saw in front of him from his position at third base. The potential winning run, the run that could end the Tigers season was standing at third base. LSU manager Lenny Menkler was on his way to the mound to make yet another pitching change, his fourth in three innings. This time, his walk had no swagger to it. He had no answers. He couldn’t find anybody who could get an out and it showed as he laboriously made his way to the hill.

Waiting for him there was sophomore pitcher Hal Prosser, who could do no more than stare up at the stars. His eyes watered over as he handed the ball over to his skipper. He trudged off the left side of the mound and made his way to the dugout, which was no more than a watery blue blur in his eyes by this point. This couldn’t be happening.

Thump-thump.

The Tigers were tight right now, and all of Alabama knew it. They had felt all week long the Tigers had to crumble under the pressure eventually, but for the first time all week they could see it with their own eyes. Also for the first time all week, the crowd caught Hawthorne’s eye from third base while the new pitcher (junior left-hander Kyle McDermitt) took his warm-up tosses. The stands in Tuscaloosa were an overwhelming sea of crimson. The fans of the Crimson Tide had seemingly multiplied as the game went on and Alabama rallied. They all had seats but at the moment, nobody was using them. The sea of crimson was roaring, but not with the gentle crashing sounds of waves from a normal sea. The Tide fans were riding anybody within earshot who was wearing a Tigers uniform. The din was unlike anything Hawthorne had ever heard before, or at least unlike any crowd he had ever noticed. And they were in his head. Bigtime.

Thump-thump.

One tiny corner of the stands deep down the right field line was the only part of the stands which was not adorned in that damned crimson red, and it couldn’t be any farther from Hawthorne at third base. Though, to be truthful, the section of LSU fans could have been right next to him and it wouldn’t have mattered at the moment. They were despondent. Heads hung, arms draped over railings, backs slumped against the hard, plastic seats. The Tigers fans could feel the season slipping away. Like Menkler, they had no answers and it showed. Hawthorne swallowed hard, trying to force down that lump in his throat as McDermitt fired his final warm-up pitch.

Thump-thump.

The right fielder!… Number six!… Harrrrrrooooooolllllllldd Jeeeefffffffffersooooooooon!

The announcement boomed over the public address system as an already raucous crowd whipped itself into a frenzy for the man who needed no introduction. Jefferson, a senior who had been born and raised right here in Tuscaloosa, was the consensus SEC Player of the Year and had been fending off major league scouts with a stick ever since his junior year of high school. Perhaps the best left-handed bat in the nation, Jefferson was a physical specimen: six-foot-two-inches, 200 pounds of sheer muscle. He had all five tools, but all the Crimson Tide wanted him to do now was what he had been doing all year; hit the ball.

Thump-thump.

Hawthorne turned around and faced left field. “Two down,” he uttered meekly, the words barely having enough force to escape his mouth. He held his right hand to the air, index and pinkie fingers extended. He got the same signal back from his left fielder, but he already knew. Everybody knew. There had been two outs for the last three batters, but that third out continued to prove elusive.

As Hawthorne was about to turn back to the infield, the lights of the scoreboard caught his eye. Specifically, he found himself reading the line which displayed Jefferson’s season stats. A .365 batting average, 21 home runs, 76 runs batted in. Jefferson had been on a hot streak for what seemed like the entire season. For the first time all week, Hawthorne thought to himself, “This guy’s going to beat us. We’re going to lose.” For the first time in his career, the stadium lights suddenly seemed oppressively hot bearing down on him.

Thump-thump.

McDermitt rocked and fired the first pitch to Jefferson. Fastball, in at the knees. Strike one.

“Alright Kyle,” Hawthorne yelled from third as he pounded the pocket of his glove with his right fist. “Here we go kid!”

Thump-thump.

Again McDermitt threw to the plate. Slider off the plate low and away. One ball, one strike.

“Looked good,” crowed Hawthorne as he kicked the dirt with his spikes. “Keep working, two-four.”

Thump-thump.

Working from the stretch, McDermitt took a long look at the runner at third, but went to the plate yet again. The 1-1 slider fooled Jefferson and he checked his swing. However, the bat still caught a piece of the ball.

Ping.

“Shit!” muttered Hawthorne as he broke in from third towards the ball. The potential winning run on third base broke with him, down the third base line toward the plate. Clump after clump of sod flipped through the air behind him as Hawthorne raced in for the ball, which was dribbling ever so slowly towards him on the infield grass. The SEC tournament, the season, Hawthorne’s career; it had all come down to this play. The potential winning run was on his way to the plate. Jefferson had his head lowered and was busting as hard as he could down the line towards first. Hawthorne bent down and bare-handed the ball…

Thump-thump.

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What will Hawthorne do next? Does he throw off his right foot and against his body to try to get Jefferson on the force out at first base? Or does he go with his momentum and toss home to the catcher for a tag play and potential collision at the plate? The decision is up to you. Leave your votes as comments here, or drop me an IM, or get in touch with me whichever way you know how. Whenever I’m ready to write the next part of the story, I’ll tally up the votes, find out what you have decided Hawthorne’s decision should be and go from there.

Let me know what you think.

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Filed under Baseball, Creative Writing, Fiction, Reader Participation, Sports