Life on the Bottom Rung
Caution: This Sex Story contains strong sexual content, including Ma/Fa, Romantic, Heterosexual, Slow,
Desc: Sex Story: Chapter 1 - Strokers beware: This story is practically a sex-free zone. It could have been written by Nicholas Sparks. Maybe it was. It's all romance, mixed up with a little baseball. Consider yourselves warned.
When the Orioles didn't invite me to their major league camp this year for Spring Training, I could see the handwriting on the wall and knew that it was either spend another year trying to hang on in Triple-A, or give it up and try to make an honest living somewhere.
I'm what's known in the baseball trade as a "utility infielder." I was a "good glove man," with "good hands," and since I never made trouble for anybody I ever played for, it was said of me that I had "good clubhouse presence." All these things kept me working -- or should I say playing -- from the time I got out of college until -- well, until now, when it looks very much like it's over.
My name's Paul Warren. I'll be 36 years old in two more months, and all I've ever done is play ball. I wasn't anything much -- some of the other things they said about me were that I had "no pop," which didn't mean I was an orphan -- it was baseballese for a guy who doesn't hit the ball long, or hard. I've got 19 major league home runs -- spread over pieces of seven seasons I spent in The Show.
The other pieces of those seven years, and all of seven other years I've spent chasing baseballs, were in the minors -- everything from the Rookie leagues, when I was just out of Ohio State, to the Rochester Red Wings -- the Orioles' top minor league club back when I was trying to make it to Baltimore.
So I never made it big, but I did make it, and thanks to the Major League Players Association, they paid me big bucks, by my standards, even when my salary was hovering somewhere just over the League Minimum. I didn't spend my time in college being a jerk, so I came out with a real education and some smarts.
Most of the money I made, I didn't waste. So now, with the playing days coming to an end, I am not hurting for spare change. I dropped some of it four years ago in my divorce settlement, but Alicia hadn't been after my last dime, so the settlement was generous but not outrageous.
Still -- a 14-year-old B.A. degree in Business Administration isn't exactly a ticket to the front office of the Microsoft Corporation. And the name I made for myself in baseball isn't quite on a par with Sammy Sosa or Barry Bonds.
Maybe I should have shot up some steroids, although something tells me it wouldn't have made that big a difference in my case. But the point is, I haven't got the kind of magic name-recognition that would get me a cushy civilian job somewhere, shaking hands with high rollers on a golf course somewhere.
So, about the time I've convinced myself not to report to the Bird's Minor League Camp as the oldest bush leaguer in captivity, along comes the Club's Farm Director and offers me a job! It's in the minor leagues, all right -- even lower than I'd have expected to go as a player. But this job is as a manager. They're offering me the Bluefield Baby Birds, in the Appalachian League.
If I want it, I can be a big fish in a very small pond. I ask Harry Devins, the Farm Director, for a little time to think about it.
Now, if you don't follow baseball, you won't know a lot about "Class A" ball. Class A is the bottom of the barrel, as far as pro baseball goes. Not only that, there are two different gradations of Class A -- the "High A" leagues where the best prospects, or the second-year minor league players, are likely to go, and the "Rookie Leagues" where garden-variety new kids are sent to try to learn their trade.
The Rookie Leagues are the bottom rung on a long ladder to The Show. Some of the kids who play there are talented, and will make it someday. A lot of them won't. Hell, I had started in a Rookie League, and I made it all the way. I mean, I am not expecting election to the Hall of Fame anytime soon, but I was up there, for awhile.
I'm gonna get a pension, someday, from Major League Baseball.
Meanwhile, the more I thought about it, the more I was happy as a clam to get the offer. I chased down Harry that same day and told him "yes," I'd take the job. I offered to be a player-manager, if they wanted one, but Harry said no, they wanted to see what the kids could do. "We know what you can do, Paul," he said, smiling. "And it ain't quite enough -- anymore."
It was kind of him to add that "anymore" part, because the truth is, I was always just one of the fringe guys. What I could do, in reality, had never been quite "enough."
I used to try "giving back" to the community, for my good fortune as a pro athlete. One time, I went to the Children's Hospital to visit the kids there. 'Thought I'd give 'em a little thrill. But I only went the one time: Those kids didn't know me from Adam!
So I was off to Florida for the Minor League Spring Training camp -- not to meet my players, most of whom where still playing for colleges or high schools somewhere. I was there to learn how to be a manager in the Orioles' system, and to see how the brass wanted things done. Few, if any of the young men working out at the Spring Training camp would be coming to Bluefield. They'd be playing in leagues that started play in April. The Appalachian League didn't get going until mid-June, and played for only three months. The kids I got would show up a few days before the season started, with questions for me about where to find an apartment in Bluefield, West Virginia, or it's neighboring town of Bluefield, Virginia.
I was to be the boss of the Baby Birds. I was taking a huge pay cut, but, hey -- if I showed the brass something, someday maybe I'd make it all the way back to Baltimore -- as a manager!
In the big leagues, everybody pretty much knows, going into a new season, who's got the troops and who doesn't. Sportswriters make their annual predictions of the final standings, and although a lot of those guys know about as much about the game as your Aunt Myrtle, their predictions are usually pretty close to reality.
But in the bush leagues, it's different. Starting a season, you can't really tell what you've got, or where you're going to be, relative to the competition. Almost everybody in the League is a New Kid, fresh out of college or maybe signed right out of high school. Somebody, somewhere, thinks each of these boys can play baseball.
Well, we'll see.
When June finally came, the kids started arriving, alone or in groups of two or three, and I had only a few days to figure out who was going to start and who was going to pitch, and so on. And I had some pretty specific instructions from my own bosses, about who they wanted me to play every day. I also had a nice new laptop computer and some careful instructions about how to use it, from hotels and motels all over the League, to keep sending in running reports on e-mail about the progress of the kids playing for me.
I was a happy man. Some of these kids looked like maybe they could play the game. One of them had received a signing bonus that totaled up to more than I'd been paid during the seven years of major league ball I'd played -- combined!