Confessions of Minor League Batperson…Part Two
(You can read part one here.)As the first game of the doubleheader got underway, Manager Tommie Aaron decided that he would teach each batperson the third base coach’s signals—just in case he needed us to pinch hit. “If I touch the bill of my cap first, it means take,” he demonstrated, “but if I touch my belt buckle first, it’s hit and run. The thigh means steal and the chest means bunt. But…if I touch my bare arm at any time, the sign’s off.” He went through a series of gestures. “What sign am I giving you?”
“Bunt!” “No.” “But you touched your belt buckle.” “That’s not bunt—it’s hit and run. Besides, I did not touch my belt buckle first.” “Take!”
“No. Take is if I touch the bill of my cap. I never touched the bill of my cap. Now watch again.” He went through the motions again, this time no less confusing.
“I know—it’s steal!”
“How can you steal—you’re not even on base yet!” Manager Aaron demanded. “Watch again.” This time, he went through the motions in an agonizing slow motion, then rubbed his arm for a long time.
“Does your arm hurt?”
“Does my arm hurt?” the manager exploded. “Does my arm hurt? If I touch my bare arm, what does that mean?”
“Oh, it’s a signal! Hit?”
“Hit? When did I teach you that sign?”
“Nope. How can you ever pinch hit if you can’t remember the signals?”
“Maybe you could just hold up a sign?”
Suffice to say, neither batperson would pinch hit.
Batperson’s work is never done.
Luckily—for us and Manager Aaron—the top of the first was over and it was time for us to go to work. Since Jenny was going to have to be running back and forth to home plate to pick up the bats, I volunteered to assume responsibility for the heavy lead warm-up bat as well as for the helmets.
Brian Asselstine, sharing my number, was up first. “Don’t disgrace my number,” I warned as he handed the heavy bat to me before heading to the batter’s box. He promptly hit a double, and it was exciting to see my number standing on second base. The next batter popped out, threw his bat aside, and stalked back toward the dugout. I held out my hand for his helmet as he passed by, but instead of handing it to me, he bounced it in the dirt at my feet.
Acting as if I’d expected him to throw it in the dirt in the first place, I gingerly picked up the muddy helmet, wiped it with a towel, and set it up on the dugout roof along with the others. “He didn’t mean it personally,” one player sitting on the steps nearby commented. “He was just mad because he popped out.”
The third batter took strike three, stomped back to the dugout, flung his bat away in disgust, and was all set to pitch his helmet into left field when he caught sight of me and forcing a rather sickly smile, held it out toward me. “You can throw it if you want,” I offered.
“No, it’s okay Take it.”
“Are you sure you don’t want to throw it?”
“Take it,” he hissed. Sensing a temper about to explode, I quickly placed the helmet up on the roof. Jenny, meanwhile, was getting a workout running to retrieve the bats. Some of the players even began to toss the bats towards the dugout instead of just dropping them at the plate. Toward the end of the first game, we had the batperson duties under control, and the players even began to accept us as a normal part of the routine. Occasionally, however, someone would forget we were around and utter a particularly earthy comment.
“Hush up!” Tommie Aaron would snap.
“Yeah, where were you brought up?” a player would agree.
Even though we weren’t allowed to go into the clubhouse between games, Manager Aaron made sure his rookies from Greenwood were supplied with hot dogs and Cokes, just like regulars on the team.
The Big Chance!
Before game two, Tommie Aaron wandered into the dugout and handed me the line-up card. “Take this out for me, will you?”
My Big Chance. Sent to a meeting at home plate. I’d get to hear what really goes on in those home plate conferences. Behind the scenes at the ballpark. I met the two umpires and a slightly confused representative of the other team.
“You’re the other batgirl, huh?” the home plate umpire asked.
“Batperson.” Oops, could correcting an umpire result in getting tossed from the game? Could a batperson be sent to the showers?
“Batperson? Haha, that’s funny.”
“Here’s the line-up,” I said, changing the subject and handing over the slip of paper.
“Very good. Do you know the ground rules?”
Ground rules? Tommie didn’t say anything about ground rules. “If the ball goes over the fence, it’s a home run,” I ventured, “and Tommie said he’ll take care of the rest.” I quickly finished and retreated to the relative security of the home team dugout. We busied ourselves lining up the helmets and looking for the heavy bat—which had been hidden in with the rest of the bats by one practical joker.
Evidently deciding that since it was the second game, and since we were almost regular batpersons, the players began to treat us as one of the guys, leaving bats and helmets strewn all over the infield, causing us to run all the way to first and half-way to third. Some decided we made a better hat rack than a batperson and dumped the helmets on our heads on their way into the dugout. Isn’t it great to be part of the team?
The Post-Game Conference
After the game, they even took the time to say “Thank you, ma’am,” before rushing into the clubhouse for beer and a post-game celebration, leaving the batpersons to attend to the more mundane chores of packing up the bats and helmets.
We did attend a post-game conference with Manager Aaron, who invited us back for an encore the following season. “Sure,” we accepted the offer, “unless, of course, we get called up to the majors before then.”
“Aw, you can’t go to the Big Leagues unless you know the signals,” Tommie warned, flashing a series of signs.
“Hit!” “Hit and run!” “Take.” “Steal?” “Swing?… Don’t swing… No sign at all?”
Well, maybe there’s a course we can take at the local Y? And there’s always the Winter Leagues… and Spring Training.
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Robyn M. Ryan Chicago born, honorary Atlanta native, Parisienne at heart. Proud 60’s Flower Child. “Fearless” barrier-breaker for female sports journalists and minor league “batpersons.” While at UGA, scored PR internship with Atlanta Flames NHL team, during its first season. Interviewed future MLB and NHL Hall of Fame members, published in a variety of print media. Wife, mom, PR professional, and finally, 35 years later, published author. Two Westie grand-dogs pretty much run the household.