Camden Debut (cont - 7)

There was Zach, Zeke’s nephew, mouth gaped wide open, large soda embraced in both hands. His dad was sitting next to him, disinterested, eyes focused on his phone as he was checking his messages. Prior to Kevin’s arrival this pudgy, pint sized kid had his mouth attached to a straw sucking up the sugary syrup inside a large cup he could barely get his hands around, a motor engine filling up his need for fuel. When he saw Kevin approach his eyes got big and his mouth removed itself from the straw. He shook the arm of his father in wild excitement. “Dad. Dad. The Warrior. Uncle Zeke is bringing the Warrior here.” His dad looked up with feigning interest before returning his focus back to the phone.

Zach stared at Kevin as if he was some sort of super hero. Kevin wished he had learned some super hero tricks he could perform to match those expectations. A flight around the stadium would be impressive. He couldn’t remember if his video character had that ability.

Zach didn’t look at all like what Kevin expected from a Zeke Thompson relative, but then his father had a shade of obesity wrapped around his bones. The brother of Zeke wore glasses and had no muscle definition. The only similarity with Zeke was his first name began with a “Z” – Zealous. His son had the same round shape of his dad, carved from the multiple hours he sat in a chair all day playing video games with large sodas by his side. If you described Zach he would be called pudgy and round. Perhaps he will grow out of that fat as he gets older and begins to sprout, but looking at his father this did not seem promising. He also wore an Oriole uniform jersey which conflicted with the Yankee garb his father wore. Zeke couldn’t be too happy about that. The father seemed quite bored to be at the game, more interested in what news was being distributed through his phone than the actions taking place at the ballpark.

Zeke had a smile on his face from watching his nephew’s excitement as Kevin approached. The kid scrambled through his bag looking for something hidden in the crevices. As he bent down towards the bag Kevin could see the back of his uniform jersey. It read “Warrior” and matched his number, which was “22”. He had been seeing a lot of Oriole uniform jerseys with either “Woo” or the “Warrior” name on the back. When Zach found what he was looking for he proudly displayed it to Kevin. “Warrior! Can you sign this?” His open smile showed off his crooked teeth and bubbling enthusiasm. He was bouncing up and down in his seat. His father had finally put his phone away as Zeke introduced him to Kevin. They both shook hands.

“My kid talks a lot about you,” the father commented over the shouts of his son bouncing up and down in the seat next to him clamoring for him to sign a baseball card. Kevin’s approach to the sidelines created a minor wave of fans rushing to the same area to shout forautographs.

Kevin reached for the object the nephew was begging Kevin to sign. It was one of his old minor league baseball cards from three years ago. He had been signing a lot of minor league baseball cards lately, but they were more recent ones. He ignored the shrieks from the other fans begging for his autograph. “I haven’t seen one of these in a while”. Kevin wondered how much this baseball card might be worth. Minor league baseball cards usually did not fetch a high price.

As he was signing Zach said, “I can’t believe my uncle knows the Warrior. You’re in trouble now,” he said to Zeke. “With the Warrior playing for the Orioles you have no chance.”

Zeke smiled. “Not even if I’m pitching?”

“Well, if you don’t give up any runs the best you can hope for is a tie. Nobody scores against the Warrior. Not when Woo is pitching.”

“There are no ties in baseball.”

Kevin returned the card to the kid. He did not have the heart to tell the kid he was not in the starting lineup today. Let that piece of reality filter in later. “There are ties in Japan. At least I saw a game there once and it ended in a tie. I appreciate the confidence you have in me Zach, but your uncle is a pretty good pitcher. One of the best.”

“Wait till I show this to my friends. This is awesome.”

“I like your jersey.”

“Yeah. It’s pretty cool. My uncle got it for me at the sports shop here. It’d be better if you played for the Yankees though.”

The crowd surging towards the seats got louder. Their begging became more desperate. Even Yankee fans who had noticed Zeke with the Warrior were shoving to get in the scrum. The longer they stayed the more difficult to ignore their pleas. They were like a flock of sea gulls flying above a land fill. “Your uncle’s a good man. And a pretty good pitcher. He’ll make it tough for the Orioles.”

“Yeah. I know. But he has his work cut out for him.” Kevin wondered if Zach had looked at the standings lately to notice the Yankees were in first place almost 50 games ahead of the last place Orioles. The kid has been living too long in his video fantasy world to recognize reality and that would soon be caving in after the game today.

“The Warrior’s got to get ready for the game. Anything else you want to say to him before he goes?” Zeke had taken notice of the large crowds gathering near them to ask for autographs.

A blank expression appeared on his face for only a short while before it burst out into a sparkle of enthusiasm. “Could you come to my school one day? You know, speak to my class. It would be so cool if you could do that.”

Zeke smiled and took a glance over at Kevin. “The Warrior’s a very busy man.”

Kevin didn’t know what to say. He looked over at Zeke to catch his wavering smile, then the father Zeolous, who also did his best to form a smile. “When the season’s over I’ll talk to your uncle. Perhaps we can work something out. If your uncle tells me you’re getting good grades in school then we’ll see about making a visit.”

“Awesome.” Zach took a big slurp from his straw, sucking in the sugary syrup to increase his hyper ventilation. When he stopped he admired his newly signed Kevin Beamer minor league baseball card.

As they turned to go back to the field Zeke said to Kevin. “Kids. Sometimes you just don’t know how to motivate them. As you can see, he’s a bit hefty. None of us can get him to get any exercise and his school grades are abysmal. You’ll experience all of those joys soon.”

“You let me know when he gets those grades up and I can see about visiting his school. That is if my fifteen minutes of fame which have extended to an hour have not expired and he still wants me to visit.”

“I appreciate it.”

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