The First Game (cont - 4)

There were no phones in the bullpen so when the manager wanted to change pitchers he would step out from the dugout and motion to the bullpen coach. Sometimes he would have a player run to the bullpen area to tell the bullpen coach who was to warm up. Manny stepped out of the dugout, waved to the bullpen coach, placed both hands to the edge of his eyes and stretched them out. This was his signal to warm up Jason, the Chinaman, as he called him.

The bullpen coach gave the thumbs up he understood and in Spanish yelled to Jason. “Time to warm up kid.” When he got no reaction he remembered the kid did not speak any Spanish or English so he focused his eyes on John and said to him in English, “Time for your boy to warm up. He will be pitching next inning.” John was wearing a uniform that did not fit him very snugly, hanging loose over his skinny frame. He had lost a lot of weight since his arrival, throwing up any solid foods he tried to eat. He survived mainly on liquids and fruits. As the days went by he became thinner and the uniform draped looser over his body.

To sit in the bullpen with the other pitchers he was given the title assistant bullpen coach. He had to wear a uniform two sizes too big. The short sleeved jersey hung below his elbows. If not for the wrinkles on his face and the white hair he could have been mistaken for the bat boy.

John reacted as if he had been hit with a cold bucket of Gatorade. He was tired and his eyes were getting heavy with sleep. The game was dragging on. He never knew what the plan had been for Jason. After they had played 15 games he just assumed they were just exposing him to the game and they had no intention of pitching him. The biggest challenge to watching these games had been to keep his eyes open. While he enjoyed baseball, it was to watch the occasional game. This playing every day, hopping on the bus to travel an hour to Santo Domingo or a couple hours to Santiago was very tiring on him. Yet he insisted he must persevere for Jason’s sake. He felt comfortable with how they treated Jason, especially Pablo. He was convinced Jason would be okay after he left. That time was coming soon. The pain in his stomach was telling him so.

He jumped from his seat on the bench and in Chinese barked towards Jason in Mandarin “Jason. The coach wants you to warm up. He says you are pitching next inning”. After that, John didn’t really know what to do with himself. He turned left, then thought about it and turned right, but he didn’t know what he would be doing going in that direction. He was a nervous wreck. Finally he just decided to collapse back on the bench, wiping his eyes with his hands to jar loose the cobwebs of sleep.

The catcher had already put on his gear and was squatting behind home plate. John watched as Jason calmly pulled his body up from the bench and strode to the bullpen mound, stretching his right arm and rotating his hips. It was as if he was reliving his three throws for a dollar feat at the pitching machine. There was no indication on his face this was the first time he would be asked to face a real batter. The catcher threw him the ball and it landed in the pocket of Jason’s newly restrung glove.

John decided to stand behind Jason to watch him throw. Now that his eyes were awake he couldn’t just sit. He also had no real knowledge of pitching to give Jason any advice. He stood silently watching as the ball made a loud contact with the glove. Little did he know Jason’s life would never be the same once he threw his first warmup pitch in front of fans, players and scouts.

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