Camden Debut (cont - 8)

They broke off in different directions, Zeke trotting towards the third base dugout and Kevin walking towards the first base dugout. Kevin jogged down the steps, grabbed his bag that housed his catcher’s equipment. As he was putting on his shin guards more to try them on than with any expectation of using them in a game he heard the dugout phone ring. One of the coaches picked up the phone. “Taco, its Moose. He needs to talk to you. Pronto.”

The Orioles manager was Frank Nestor. All of the coaches called him Taco. Kevin had yet to learn why. He assumed it had something to do with the Mexican heritage he inherited from his mother and his fondness for Mexican food. This was his first year as the Orioles manager. He was a short guy, who like Kevin spent much of his career as a catcher. Short squatty guys have a proclivity for that. He must have used every curse word in his vocabulary when talking on the phone. His face turned red with rage as he slammed the phone down on the receiver.

“Bones,” he said to the coach who had originally picked up the phone. Kevin assumed he got his nickname because he was wiry and thin. “Put Kevin Beamer in at catcher replacing Sal. Put Lee in the DH slot.”

“Got it Taco,” said the thin framed Bones. This was Kevin’s first day in the major leagues and he was still drinking everything in. He didn’t know any of the players, only heard of their names from reading the papers and watching the baseball highlights on television. He had never caught any of the pitchers on the team either. Everything was moving so fast for him. Now to hear Moose had called to insist his name be put in the lineup. The manager did not seem too happy with this turn of events. That made Kevin uncomfortable.

The manager walked up to Kevin. He had a scowl on his face. “Warrior, we’ve had a lineup change. You’re going to be catching today. Put your game face on.”

Kevin tried to contain his excitement. “Not a problem.” He felt the words came out a bit awkward.

The stadium was filling up. The electricity from the excitement of those entering the stadium was bouncing off the brick warehouse hovering over Eutaw Street, the volume of the crowd getting louder as the seats turned orange. It was hard for Kevin to determine if this buzz had any impact on the players. After all, this was Kevin’s first major league game. It had an impact on him. The giant pterodactyls had returned to his stomach, absent since spring training and they were flapping their massive wings, turning his insides into jelly.

Jason was doing some running in the outfield. He did his best to keep his stare away from the crowd gathering around the fence watching him jog, pleading with him to sign autographs to hats, programs and jerseys. Cameras and cell phones were flashing as people were jostling over each other to take a picture of Jason as he went through his warm-up routine. He was given the number 18, the same uniform number he wore in his spring training game and for all his minor league games. Many of the fans taking his picture were wearing an Oriole jersey with the name “Woo” on the back of the jersey and the number 18.

Terry Battier came over to Kevin. ‘It looks like you’re in the lineup. Congratulations.” He put a long, right arm around Kevin’s shoulder. There was strength and sincerity in the grasp. “Nervous?”

“Absolutely.” Kevin tried to contain the pterodactyls in his stomach, thinking thoughts of Jasmine. Funny, those pterodactyls never seemed to bother him in a minor league game. It wasn’t so bad when he saw his name was not in the lineup. Now those giant wings were flapping, making a mess of his insides once he learned he would be playing the game.

“Just treat everything like a minor league game. Do the same thing you did in spring training. After the first pitch everything will settle down. In fifteen minutes I’d like to see you and Jason to talk over the hitters. Then we’ll walk over to the bullpen together for the warm-up.”

The Yankee lineup was almost the same as the one they had for spring training, so the review from Terry was almost a refresher course. The biggest change was their first baseman, Armando Santiago, a rookie tearing the league apart with 40 homeruns. He had replaced Rudy McGee in the lineup. They lost some speed but gained some power. This lineup was filled with power.

Josh Bravo LF – 22 homeruns
Victor Murray 2B – 33 homeruns
Armando Santiago 1B – 40 homeruns
Bobby Boehringer RF – 28 homeruns
Alexis Moreno DH – 30 homeruns
C.J. Veras 2B – 21 homeruns
Yasmani Maduro 3B – 20 homeruns
Marshal Mahoney C – 3 homeruns
Antonio Suzuki SS - 8 homeruns

Only the last two hitters in their lineup provided any relief from the power. “Just go out there like you did in spring training. It’s the same game, only a different stage. We’re now oh and whatever against the Yankees this year so you can’t do any worse than what we have done so far. Now let’s go get our warm-ups in so we can kick some Spankee ass.”

That last statement was meant to light a fire under their ass to get them motivated, but nothing broke Jason from his calm approach. Kevin was amped. Jason was serene. The only fire you could see from Jason was in his eyes. That is where Kevin could tell Jason was focused. He had that look today.

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