Camden Debut (cont - 9)

Larvell watched Linda Murphy go through her narrative on the television monitor from the owner’s box, the words flowing out through her lips fast and smooth. He was always wary of what the national news reported, so he had a habit of keeping one eye on the field and the other on the television monitor mounted in the corner of the room to hear what was being said. He didn’t like surprises, inching closer to the television monitor to hear the volume, trying to weed out the high resonance of noise in the owner’s box from all the chatter. He wanted to turn up the volume to hear the television better but that would be rude.

“This will be an interesting matchup. The Orioles have yet to beat the Yankees this year losing all 14 times they have faced them. However, this could be a little different matchup today. Jason Woo has started 24 games for the various minor league clubs in the Orioles farm system and his team has won all 24 of those starts. The catcher for the Orioles today is Kevin Beamer, who has caught Jason in 23 of those 24 minor league games. The fans affectionately refer to him as the Warrior because of his gritty type of personality. He hates to lose. While his minor league teams have won all 24 games Jason has started he has only been credited with 15 of those wins because of restrictions the team had placed on his pitch count earlier in the season. Another interesting stat to note is Jason has also not given up a run in his last 60 innings of work. That is the equivalent of six plus games. No one in the history of the minor or major leagues has had a shutout streak extend that far. One of those streaks has to end, either the Oriole losing streak against the Yankees or the winning and shutout streak for Jason Woo. We will find out which streak is broken in a couple hour’s time, after this game is complete. It should be an exciting matchup and you can feel the electricity from the crowd. They are eager for this game to begin. Back to you Phil.”

The network was really milking this game for all it was worth. It looked like a mismatch on paper. The Yankees were in first place, 50 games ahead of the Orioles. The Yankees were on top in all the team accomplishments, while the Orioles were at the bottom. Instead of focusing on the team accomplishments they were trying to make it a New York Yankees versus Jason Woo/Kevin Beamer rumble to build up the excitement and lesson the disparity of the two teams. The old breed versus the new. It was like a World Series atmosphere inside the stadium. Larvell only hoped they would be competitive and it would not fall flat after a first inning Yankee rout.

Larvell had noticed all the Woo and Warrior jerseys inside the stadium. The jerseys were selling like gold. According to Jeremy, the “Warrior” jerseys were all sold out and the “Woo” jerseys were down to their last couple thousand. There would be no winter sale for these jerseys.

Premier Li Jiabao began his walk to the pitcher’s mound. He waved as polite cheers rang out with a mixture of boos. He awkwardly stood alone on the mound, continuing to wave to the crowd, ready to throw out the first pitch. He had his Oriole jersey on with the number 18 and “Woo” on the back. The Orioles honored him with throwing out the first pitch and he requested it would be an honor if the Warrior could catch the first pitch. That did not seem to be a problem if Kevin was not in the game. Now with Li Jiabao on the mound Kevin was warming up Jason Woo in the centerfield bullpen area. There was a bit of a delay as he waited on the mound for a catcher to appear behind the plate. Larvell received a call from Moose.

“He expected to throw his first pitch to Kevin Beamer. That didn’t seem to be a problem until you put Kevin in the starting lineup. Now Kevin’s out in the bullpen area warming up Jason.”

“Bring him in from the bullpen area. All he has to do is catch one pitch and run back to the bullpen. Let someone else catch Jason for a while.”

“Baseball players can be superstitious. They like to fall into a routine. Break that routine and you break that comfort level. Jason may not want to warm up with another catcher.”

“Jason’s a big boy. He’ll warm up with another catcher to allow Kevin to receive the first pitch from his leader. We don’t want to create an international incident here.”

Moose swallowed. It was not a swallow of agreement but of acceptance.

Larvell shut his phone in anger. He watched the bullpen area. He could almost hear the bullpen phone ring from beyond the centerfield gate. The bullpen coach walked over to the phone. Larvell could see the bullpen coach holler something over to Kevin. Kevin stood up and looked over at the pitcher’s mound. The bullpen gates opened up. As Kevin began his jog out of the gate the stadium broke into a huge cheer. It was a cheer that brought tears to Larvell’s eyes as he watched this career minor leaguer trot over to the home plate area. Chants of “Warrior. Warrior. Warrior…” began ringing through the stadium, all the fans with their right arm raised and three fingers sticking out from their hand in the form of a “W”. It was the first time today his anger had been displaced by joy. He glanced over at Rigo. Rigo had his right arm raised with three fingers sticking out to form the “W”.

The announcer fanned the crowd’s enthusiasm by blasting out from the microphone “Catching the first pitch for Premier Li Jiabao is the catcher for the Baltimore Orioles”, and his voice got louder as the crowds cheer swarmed the stadium “the Warrior, Kevin Beamer.”

The din of the crowd’s roar could match the engines at the races of the Indianapolis 500. The stadium was not full yet but the roar of the crowd inside was still deafening to the ears, the cheer sticks pounding. It seemed like everyone at the stadium was chanting “Warrior. Warrior. Warrior….” Somewhere in the stadium, despite all the security there were musical instruments playing in the background. Drums were pounding. Horns were blaring. Larvell felt like he was at a stadium in the Caribbean with all the excitement generated inside. It was a long time since Larvell had seen this much enthusiasm at Camden Yards.

He took a glance around the room to find the Asian woman he thought to be Kevin’s wife. He found her, wiping tears from her eyes as she watched the fans fill the stadium with their adoration of her husband. Larvell could only imagine the feelings pulsing inside her.

After a couple awkward minutes with Premier Li Jiabao standing alone on the mound waving to the crowd he heard the roar too. He turned around to spy Kevin jogging in from the bullpen area fully adorned in his catcher’s armor. Kevin certainly looked like a warrior as he reached the pitcher’s mound. The Premier made a slight bow towards Kevin. Kevin stopped his jog and bowed back.

The announcer’s voice rang out “Throwing out the first pitch to the Warrior”, he paused in expectation of the crowd applause. There was none. “Is the Premier of China Li Jiabao.” Some polite cheers for the Premier sprinkled through the stadium, far short of the applause for the Warrior. The cheers were mixed with a smattering of boos. Larvell thought it was in poor taste to be booing a foreign dignitary, but even the President gets booed at public events so Li Jiabao is probably used to it.

Kevin finished his jog to the home plate area, took his crouch behind the dish. Li Jiabao peered in at his catcher, nodding his head in agreement at a signal Kevin did not give. Not even the Premier of China would shake off a sign from the Warrior. The Premier went into a windup, kicked up his knee high in the air with his arms raised high in a mimic of Jason’s wind up and threw the ball to the home plate area.

There were a mixture of boos and cheers as his throw bounced three times before it reached the plate. Kevin had to fall to his knees, blocking the ball from going to the back stop with his chest protector. The Premiere laughed and shook his head in embarrassment. Kevin retrieved the ball, jogged over to the mound and handed it to the Premier.

Photographers were crowding the mound and the two paused, their hands grasped tightly together as they posed frozen for the photos, the giant orange and black Oriole bird mascot standing behind them as the myriad of photos were taken. The Premier gave Kevin a pen and he signed the ball. The two bowed again and Kevin jogged back toward the bullpen area. The Premiere walked back to the first base dugout politely waving to the crowd, who jostled about behind the first base dugout area in their attempts to take pictures of the China leader. They may boo him but this did not prevent them from attempting to capture his photo inside their phone.

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