It’s the President’s Office (cont - 2)

Larvell’s office phone rang. He pressed the speaker button. “A Misty Xeng from Senator Helm’s office is on the line,” Jackie announced.

Misty Xeng always seemed to be the bearer of good news when she called. He had no idea why she would be calling him now. Perhaps it was tickets for a game this time. If that is all she wanted she deserved them. “Put her through.” Larvell could feel his mood shift. Gloom and doom was replaced by hope and salvation.

“Hi Mr. Blanks. This is Misty Xeng, from Senator Helm’s office. We’ve spoken on a couple occasions.” Her voice was bouncy. Fresh.

“Yes Misty. It is always good to hear from you. I appreciate all you did in helping bring back Jason Woo.”

“That was not a problem. Most of the credit for his return should be given to the embassy. We were only the contact for them. Jason Woo is a figure more important than you can imagine.”

Larvell wondered why the embassy had not contacted Rigo. He had a contact over there and they could have contacted him. That would be a question he would save for when he spoke with Rigo. His first order of business was Misty. “What can I help you with?”

“I thought I would just give you a heads up. I’m sure you have heard the news about the visit of Premier Li Jiabao in September.”

“A little. I don’t pay a lot of attention to what is printed outside the sports pages but I get bits and pieces. He’s the Chinese leader coming to the U.S. for talks?”

“You got it. It appears he has mentioned he would like to see Jason Woo pitch during his visit in September. He has never seen a baseball game and Jason is quite the sensation in China. As you can imagine, this has created a lot of discussion back and forth among the various offices, including the President about where Premier Jiabao should see Jason pitch. Would a minor league park be acceptable for such a large delegation? Would it be better to hold the game at the major league park? The Secret Service has weighed in and said providing security at a minor league park would be virtually impossible, unless the number of people in his delegation is limited or they would have to severely restrict the number of fans who enter the park. There will be over one hundred people in his delegation traveling with him and all of them will want to see Jason Woo pitch. Add those numbers to the President’s delegation and you already have a pretty large crowd. Everyone agrees that limiting the Chinese delegation is a poor diplomatic choice since it is bound to insult someone. Severely restricting the fans would just get people mad at us for catering to the whims of China. So there are not a lot of viable choices except having the game played at Camden Yards.”

“That would require him to pitch for the Orioles. Or move a minor league game to Camden.”

“There has also been some concern with having Premier Jiabao, the leader of China see a minor league game. Some say it would not be good diplomatic protocol for a leader of his standing. It would be akin to providing him a Volkswagen to travel around town. Having the game in a major league park with major league players would be the ideal situation. The major league park would also allow the Secret Service one of the luxury boxes to cram the large delegation in and provide the security necessary. They would also be watching major league players as opposed to the second tier players. You don’t happen to have any plans of promoting Jason to the major leagues by September do you?”

Larvell had to wonder whether Jiabao would be witnessing major leaguers play by watching the Orioles. Misty was obviously not a fan of the team. At least one side would be composed of major leaguers. He almost said to her “have you seen our team play yet,” but provided a safer, more diplomatic comment. “That is not in the immediate plans. Jason’s future will depend on his progress in the minor leagues. It is a little bit too early in his career to project whether he will be ready for a major league appearance in September. Getting such a late start to this season did not help his cause any.” He sounded like a broken record. He hated to take that stock answer from the shelf of his brain and give it to Misty. It was getting worn and tired.

“I’m afraid having minor leaguers play in a major league park would not be the solution that our President would like. He wants to give Premier Jiabao the best the United States has to offer and that would be Jason Woo pitching against a major league team. Looking at your schedule you would be playing the Yankees when he is in town. I know I have said a mouthful, but do you get the gist of the problem…Well, your problem.”

“I think so. You are asking me to promote Jason Woo in September so the leader of China can watch him pitch against major league players?”

“Actually I’m not. I’m just giving you a head’s up that you may be getting a call from the President’s office asking you to promote Jason Woo in September so the Chinese premier can watch him pitch against major leaguers.”

“The President of the United States will be calling me?” Larvell was a bit floored by that comment.

“That is correct. Our President. Well, maybe not the president himself, but one of his staffers. Welcome to the big leagues Mr. Blanks. What you want to do with that request is your call, but there are diplomatic issues at stake. Don’t think that us finding Jason Woo and bringing him back to the States was to benefit the Baltimore Orioles. He has energized the Chinese community and just as ping pong improved relations between China and the United State back in the Nixon years, we hope Jason Woo will help improve our fragile relations with China today. Like I said earlier, he is more important than you realize.”

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