The Pushovers of Galactic Baseball Fame
By Larry Hodges
Baseball. It’s my life.
Grandparent Two once said that baseball started out in some world with bipeds, where the best players played in front of huge, screaming crowds. Why would anyone want to watch the best players? It’s like rubbing in your face that you’re inferior. I think Grandparent made that up.
Today we’re up against the Sirius Suckers, and it’s my turn at bat. I clutch the bat in four tentacles and take a few practice swings. I’ve trained my whole life for this. Parent One said if you want to be good at something, you must be single-minded about it, so while the other kids were tossing balls around and growing neuron connections, I spent years trying not to move or do anything that might develop tentacle-eye coordination. Our fans love that I have the skill of a blind snapanzee, and I need to stay that way. I get paid for being a klutz. I play center field for the Polaris Pushovers, and once almost caught a ball.
Now I glare at the purple-eyed pitcher, and she glares back. I take a deep breath and stare at the ball balanced on the tee in front of me. It’s bottom of the ninth, two outs, and as usual, nobody’s scored, though we came close in the fourth when the Suckers committed five errors on one play but our guy tripped six times and was out at the plate by half a snoogal, bless his two hearts.
Our fans cheer, not wanting me to do anything skillful that might show them up. I’m good at that, though I tapped a foul in the third. I’m going to put all my weight into my swing, like in the sixth when I accidentally let go of the bat and sent it over the left field fence. Now I’m using an unfamiliar bat, which should help me mess up.
I swing high and whiff and fall flat on my eyequills. The opposing fans scream about my body odor, but not showering is one of my trademarks. Strike one.
I step out of the batter’s box and call a snack time-out, and out comes the trainer. He stuffs a spoonful of live grubbies into my beak. I’ve never fed myself–learning to navigate a spoon means developing coordination, which could translate into baseball and ruin my career. I swallow the grubbies and step back into the batter’s box. The newfound energy should make my swing a bit more wild, since that last swing was actually kinda close.
I stare at the ball, still perched on the tee like a black hole wrapped in skafelly skin that’s determined not to budge, and it’s probably right, but we gotta play the game. I swing even harder. This time I swing too low and smack the tee, and the ball wobbles. Ow!!! That stings. But I’m a pro so I’m used to that. The opposing fans jeer how stupid I am, and I have the IQ tests to prove it. Strike two.
We’re down to our final strike and we’ve done nothing well, thank goodness. Our fans are on their tentacle tips and the opposing fans chitter they want a hitter not an underwear snipper. I stare at the ball and try to smack it, but swing two feet over it. But I stumble, and just before I fall on my skoofal the bat somehow hits the ball. It’s a screaming grounder that’s slowly making its way to the shocked pitcher, who hasn’t touched a ball all season.
I vaguely remember what to do in this situation and pull all twelve tentacles into a tight ball and roll toward first base. The pitcher trips over the ball—she’s a pro. I roll into first, and I’m on to second in a glaringly stupid baserolling mistake—there’s no chance I make it to second on time, and I’ve never made it to second base before. The pitcher, after fumbling the ball three times, finally kicks the ball really hard with a tentacle and the ball’s rolling faster than me and beats me by five snoogals, but the Sirius Sucker at second watches the ball roll between his suckers, and his fans nod and cheer him and the pitcher, knowing they could have made those plays.
I continue to third, slipping only twice, as the three outfielders collided and fall down with concussions, a real problem for us professional athletes. One groggily swats the ball toward home as I round third. Some are booing displeasure at my heroics, but it was an accident, honest, and the play isn’t over. I could still mess up.
The catcher trips over home plate but the ball rolls into his beak and he clomps down on it like he’s hungry, but at least he doesn’t swallow it, since he’s a pro. They got me beat, but I roll on cuz like I said, I’m a pro too. The catcher flings himself down and his head smacks into mine, and somehow he holds onto the ball but loses three incisors. I’m out.
“Safe!” screams the mistaken umpire, who like all umpires can’t see straight. She’s a pro too, can’t blame her mess-up since it’s the first time she ever called a play at the plate. And we win!!!
Our fans race onto the field, flashing red and feeling inferior, and tear off three of my tentacles before I make it to the safety of the clubhouse. It won’t hurt my game. But I’ll be released for sure. My agent is going bonkers—on the one tentacle, I’m a free agent and I’m so bad, I might get big bucks, but on the other, I just made a whole crowd of fans feel bad about themselves, a really rotten and unprofessional thing to do. It’ll knock my market value down. But the talent scouts, they’ve seen me play, and if they can convince ownership that I’m still a klutz, then big money, here I come!!!
Larry Hodges, from Germantown, MD, is an active member of Science Fiction Writers of America with over 110 short story sales and four novels, including “Campaign 2100: Game of Scorpions,” which covers the election for President of Earth in the year 2100, and “When Parallel Lines Meet,” which he co-wrote with Mike Resnick and Lezli Robyn. He’s a member of Codexwriters, and a graduate of the Odyssey and the Taos Toolbox Writers Workshops. In the world of non-fiction, he has 17 books and over 2000 published articles in over 170 different publications. He’s also a member of the USA Table Tennis Hall of Fame, and claims to be the best table tennis player in Science Fiction Writers of America, and the best science fiction writer in USA Table Tennis! Visit him at larryhodges.com.