CURVE BALL

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Chapter Forty-Six

Jack stared into his locker. How could this be happening again? Hadn’t he suffered enough? He lost his father. He lost Boston and the World Series. He exiled himself to Japan and hoped for a fresh start. Nothing against the Japanese but the food stank; ball games were like playing college ball, and God the damn loneliness. He didn’t speak the language or know the culture. There was no family to write. A minute or so ago he believed his luck had changed--- now this. Damn that bitch Linzie. How did she know he’d be in Chicago, at that bar? Sucker must have been written all over him. Now Castelini was back or someone associated with him. He punched the wooden locker door. The blow stung his right hand. “Shit.” He shook his sore wrist while he swore at himself.

“You always start out by hitting something?” The pitching coach asked.

Jack had been so involved he hadn’t heard the coach call his name.

“Rakow you better watch what you’re doing. Fuck up your hand and you might as well catch the next bus home.

Jack forced a smile. “Sorry about that. I eh…” He rubbed his hand. “Great entrance, huh?”

The coach took off his Dodger’s cap and rubbed his head. “Whatever that was about; a girl, your momma, money, you put that uniform on, baseball is the only thing on your mind. Got it?”

Jack nodded and picked up his cap and glove. “We’re straight, coach. I’ll do whatever is asked. I just want one more chance.”

“Yeah kid, that’s what everyone in this room wants. You got the chance. What you do with it is up to you. We signed you for only one reason---to beat the Yanks. The muckidy mucks in the front office thought you did well against them. I think numbers only go so far. You’re track record for keeping your head in the game aint pretty. Prove yourself and you may have a job next spring. Otherwise…signora.”

He let the words sink in. “Well, at least I know where I stand. I appreciate it. This is my third time at the big dance. Nothing will stand in my way. You give me the ball and I’ll do the best I can. No excuses.”

The coach eyed him for a second or two. “Glad we’re on the same page. Don’t go punching any thing hard unless there’s a Yankee uniform on it.”

“Gottcha coach.”

“Now get your ass out there.”

He shut his locker and walked through the clubhouse. A tunnel led to the dugout. His cleats echoed on the cement. When he got there several players were on the steps watching and waiting their turn on the diamond. It was a sight that always excited him. Sunlight made the grass brilliantly green against the brown dirt of the infield. He stepped on the field and took in the site. The cool air made for a great day to play ball. The sounds of a ball hitting a wood bat echoed through the empty stadium. This was his heaven.

“Hey Rakow, throw me a ball,” a player yelled.

He went over and grabbed one. “Sure thing.”

“Welcome to Yankee Stadium.”

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