Sunday, March 20, 2011

Jason Bay, 2011 Scouting Report

Advice followed Jason Bay like a swarm of butterflies that first seems benevolent, well-meaning, an auger of good things, but soon revealed themselves to be a constant presence, a perpetual nuisance, a thing that remained there with him, even when he watched TV, which he did (the Adam West Batman series). He was a man advised.

"Elbows forward, hands back!" said Howard Johnson.
"Eyes to the skies, rhubarb pies!" offered Ike Davis.
"Usually," said Angel Pagan, "I think of the ball as a snack, and I ask myself, do I want this snack? Yes? Not now? Perhaps something more savory?"
"GNARRR!" cried David Wright. It was actually really good advice, but he was so in the zone, he couldn't put it into words. (He had just come out of Wright Time.)

He went to the doctor and the doctor said, son, you gotta stop getting all that advice, and Jay Bay said what do you think I should do, and the doctor stood there cold and remote, on an other planet within himself, because all possible responses he could think of were themselves advice, and he believed he had found the uncurable malady. He was thrilled in a sort of cognescenti glee way, but Bay was all the more morose. He got really into making soup, and said stuff like, "Hmmm... there are three clouds and... oh! a fourth one. Do you guys think that big mass counts as a cloud, or only if you can see a distinct one against the mass?"

But the question remained: what happened last year? Sure there were injuries, but they were 99% half mental anyway, and that's not to diminish the physical trauma and recovery, but there's this whole mental component that goes with it where sometimes you feel like a bird, and sometimes you feel like the sidewalk, but you can't locate yourself as the one who walks down the street. It's like when you have a certain amount of certain coffee and all of a sudden it's like: boom. which way is this elevator going?

There was a simple reason for it all. It has to do with Bay's approach as a hitter and how that changed in New York. I'm not a professional scout, but I'm pretty sure I have this one figured. Before Bay came to New York, he had a very specific hitting ritual. He would tap his ankle, then toe on his left foot with the bat, then the same on the right, then walk up to the batter's box, take a good look at the pitcher while holding his bat out at an angle, then
all of a sudden he wouldn't even see the game anymore, he would be getting a tour from an old butler of a huge manor, and it felt like those dreams where you have found a secret special place and it's going to mean so much about life going forward and you feel the tingle and the warmth, and each and every time he came to the plate he learned something new about the manor. A candlestick gifted by a very important Scandanavian, a model train track that bent in golden ratio-derived segments, a door that no one has opened in one hundred and forty years down the hall...
invariably, the dream would be interrupted by either the crack of his own bat, or the crowd expressing disappointment, except not quite the crowd, that is, the crowd, at least some of them with proper rooting interests, attention, or the willingness to fake these things, would express disappointment, but that is not what Bay would hear precisely. He would hear a smaller group, one that wouldn't fill half the stadium, not even one level, or even one section. The crowd he imagined contained few people, and they weren't exactly in a stadium, it was an outdoor environment, but without the colossal man-made structure, and even standing there where one doesn't expect such large crowds, it was a meager one by these undefined standards, and in fact crowd is not at all the right word, for when Jason Bay struck out, he invariably imagined a chubby boy standing in a field with no one around him, wearing a striped shirt and staring straight ahead with reeds of wheat and fall leaves falling, leaving their home, their mother tree for the reabsorption and the boy is seeing that but he is also knowing, even when he is not actively knowing that the world he lives in makes his moments here in the field, one arm extended outward at 3'oclock in every dimension, purposeful, but for a purpose unknown, and for a moment the breeze stops and the boy, nowhere near any kind of game, says "Aw dang! He struck out!"

Except last year, that wasn't really happening. Not the way it's supposed to anyway. The manor was just a beach house with seven rooms, and it was nice of course but there really was no comparison to the manor, and the kid wasn't in the field anymore. He was waiting on line to buy a scepter of brussels sprouts, and the various characters on the line changed, but the kid was always third. Instead of the sudden realization, tinged with innocence, he spoke, "aw, he struck out," quietly wide-eyed to no one in particular, innocuous enough to not really be noticed by most of the people around him, except for the baggers who snicker snacked.

Advice plagues Jason Bay like a color he was trying to avoid seeing, but as he stepped up to the plate one brassy sun day at Spring Training, the game faded from his experience of that moment, and he was hiking on a trail. They (they?) reached a clearing.

"Give me the binoculars."
"Okay," said Jason, passing them while looking straight out into the pleasant abyss.
"I see it!"
"Where Sidd? Show me!"
Sidd showed him. At first a finch flew in front of the binoculars, making Jason momentarily believe a bird the size of an elephant was descending on them, but then he saw it. The manor, high up on a ledge. Distant, but visible. Jason Bay smiled.

"How's Bay looking?" a lizard-like reporter asked a scout made of shadows and stone.

"He's almost back," said the scout. "Crack of the bat sounds real good."

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