Thursday, August 8, 2019

A fastball in Saltillo. Part II.

Fans getting a peek inside the old Estadio de Beisbol Francisco I. Maduro, before its 1999 renovation.

Against the Piratas de Campeche, Nadeau started off like he had against the Olmecas. He put their first three batters down in something like six pitches or seven.

A squib back to the mound, a foul pop that Buentello corralled, his mitt at hip-level like he was feeling for raindrops at the start of a storm, and Nunez, the Piratas strongest bat, Nadeau struck out with a roundhouse curve that seemed to loop around third-base and drop across the plate, freezing the batter.

We were unfortunate in our half of the frame. “Brutus” Cesar leaped on the first pitch, a high, tight fastball and lined a double down the rightfield line. Adame walked on four pitches and we had two on with none down.

Garibay took the opening pitch, then swung too hard on the next. He squibbed the ball in front of home. The Piratas’ catcher had only one play and nailed Garibay at first while Cesar took third and Adame went down to second. With one down, Rojas struck out on four pitches and then it was my turn up.

“Take a pitch,” Hector told me. “He is wild up.”

And I did, letting a ball zing by my chin. The next pitch was up and out, in my power and I stuck it for a homerun, 320-feet down the rightfield line, but foul. I dug in and pitch three came in in roughly the same place.

With two out Cesar and Adame went with the pitch. I rushed the pitch like a fat man at a buffet and got just under it. I hit a high pop way into the cumulus and their first sacker caught it in his hip pocket. I had blown it and we were done with no runs.

Nadeau and their arm kept blazing away. At the end of five, we were still at goose eggs.

In the sixth, Andre got wild. He walked their first guy, then threw a wild pitch past Buentello. Their runner went to second, so Andre walked their next batter to set up a possible double-play.

The next thing I knew, I was back on the infield dirt flat on my ass. Their guy had hit one so hard the line-drive struck me in the chest before I heard the sound of the bat on the ball. I hadn’t even had the chance to get my glove up. The ball hit me dead in the chest but somehow I held onto it.

Diablo, our shortstop, quick like Balanchine, grabbed the ball off my chest and doubled their guy off second. Then Adame pivoted and nailed their runner off first on a sharp throw to Salome Rojas at first. It was our first triple-play of the season, our last and our most-unusual.

I was still down on the dirt and Nadeau came running over to me. He got down in a crouch and put his face near mine. “Jorge,” he said, “say it: What’s it to you, Andre Nadoo?”

I lay there for a minute or more. The team was gathering around me, including our back-up
shortstop, Jesus "El Doctor" Verduzco, who spent his off-season as a medical student at Tecnológico de Monterrey.

“Give him some room,” Verduzco said.

“What’s it to you?” I muttered, my mouth dry with infield dust. “What’s it to you, Andre Nadoo?”

The team laughed at that and I soon sat up, then a moment after that I was standing and walking off, slowly, on my own power.

“The wind, he just had the wind knocked out of him,” Verduzco said. 

“Un ciclón," Hector clarified.

“What’s it to you?” I joked and I took my place on the bench, sitting out the rest of the game and breathing deep like I had been in a mine disaster.

We won this one too but it took us to the very end of the ball game to do it.

Diablo had got something going in the bottom of the ninth with a nearly perfect bunt. Andre was up next and stroked one into the tricky corner in right. It bounced around off the wooden wall and stopped dead in the outfield dirt. Their outfielder bobbled the ball just a bit and Diablo saw his mistake. Rather than pulling up at third, Diablo put his head down and charged home, beating the long throw from their relay man by inches. That was it, Andre had won another game. He was now two and oh.

Once again, there was beer and ass-slapping in the clubhouse, some of the boys shaking up bottles of cervezas frias and spraying it around like we had won a championship rather than just a game against the Piratas de Campeche, one of the few teams in the league that had a record even worse than ours.

As I was exiting from the shower Hector came over to me.

“Again, he is gone.”

We walked over to Nadeau’s locker. His uniform was rolled up on the floor in a dirty clump in front of his cubby, his spikes a-kilter on top. There was nothing else. His cubby had no belongings inside, not a single photo, no comb, nothing, not even his old army fatigue jacket.

“What do we do with him,” Hector said. “He can pitch the ball. But he is not on this team. He talks to no one. He shows up never. He doesn’t even talk in English to you.”

“Maybe he is like me, but only worse,” I answered. “I do not hang out with the boys. I do not go out for cervezas or play cards or carouse in Saltillo or on the road. I am also a loner.”

“You are my son. You live with me and Teresa with Karmen. You show up to the ballpark on-time. You have a catch with Abreu, who you don’t even like, or Andrade, who no one likes. You chatter on the field and you enjoy when we win.

"You like being alone. I see that and I understand. The world is too much with you. But Nadeau. He is hiding."

"Hiding?" I asked.

"Hiding something," Hector said.

“I will go out and look for him?”

“No,” said Hector. “He must find us.”

Here ends Part II.

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