As they make the walk into the Red Sox clubhouse to be introduced to the equipment manager Richie, it amuses Lily to notice that the locker rooms in the last two parks were nicer than this one. “I wonder if anyone in the other two systems realizes that they have nicer digs then they do here,” she says rather slyly to Chris, but it is of course overheard by everyone.
“It’s about tradition Lily. They just want to be here,” then Jack pauses for a minute, and starts again, “Well most of them anyway, there have been a few that I have wondered about,” and with that last piece of knowledge Jack started cracking himself up. One of Jack’s greatest traits is that he is his own best friend, as well as anyone else who will let him. That interesting aside from earlier when we talked about the stone faced Jay Franklin seeming ordinary, because pitchers don’t like to be bothered, well not Jack. Jack is quite the contrary actually, and if someone doesn’t bother him during a game he is pitching, then he will bother others. He’s been known to dance in the dugout quite often, sometimes on his way to the mound. As seriously as he takes every ball hurled from his hand, every moment otherwise is just a beautiful piece of life to be enjoyed.
Richie hands them their uniforms, with their new numbers on them, as the Red Sox are one of the old teams that don’t believe in putting names on the home jerseys, which they don’t need to, for Boston fans know everyone’s numbers, and then walks the two of them to a cubicle set up in the corner. “Welcome to your new office Ms. Franklin, and Mr. Franklin, you go right here,” which of course fell on deaf ears as Jay sat down in front of a different locker and started staring at the door. “Lookit that Mr. Foster, he sat right in front of your locker, the kid really is going to take your place,”
“You know what Richie, just go pencil him in, since he’ll be here and I won’t next year, be better that the locker I’ve spent over twenty years in doesn’t go to an asshole,” and he looks at Lily and belly laughs.
“That’s really nice of you Jack, but he does this every time, once his name is on the locker he always goes to the one that has his name on it. It’s just the way he is. What he saw was your initials of J F on it and assumed it was his,” she looked at Jay who hasn’t moved and hasn’t made a noise, just stares into the mesh of Jack’s locker totally un-animated.
Well good then, they don’t even have to change the plate then, HEY Richie!” Jack yells out as he starts heading out toward where Richie had scampered off to.
“Well Jay Jay, I think you made yourself a new best friend with that wonderful charm of yours, and he listens about as well as you do. His ability to tear apart everything I said and organize it into exactly what he wanted to hear makes him exactly like ..” Lily was on quite a tear of talking to herself, with her brother playing the part of her imaginary friend until her imaginary friend stood up and started walking the same direction that Jack did. “Great I can’t even hold your attention anymore, and you were my best audience,” Lily continued as she started putting away her things.
“Well you already have the mentality of a catcher, Yogi Berra used to talk to himself and people would just assume he was talking to them,” came a voice from behind her, which she turned around and was staring right into the face of the best catcher she ever watched, who coincidentally is her new manager, “How quickly can you learn these signs?” he then adds as he hands her a small pamphlet sized pad of paper.
“I can’t believe I am standing in front of you, you’re Tug McGrew, I grew up watching you, and I have to say that I think I learned to catch by watching you on TV. Oh God can I have your autograph?” Lily simply blurts out like a little girl.
“Well although it is nice to finally learn my name, I won’t be signing any autographs until you learn these signs, you only have about six hours before the game, but you’re lucky it is a late afternoon game today ..” but he was cut really short by a rather frantic Lily.
“Hold on a minute, Jay can’t pitch tonight he was just …” but it was Lily’s turn to be cut short.
“You’re not catching Jay, he doesn’t pitch until Friday, if the team Doctor says that his recovery time is up to snuff. You’re catching for Jack today, and before you start, let me just tell you that he will pitch a temper tantrum worse than anything you have ever seen, if you try to get out of it. If you can’t get the signs I can tell him to simplify, but YOU ARE catching for him today!” which was followed by a wink, and as always the sacred wink is law to Lily.
“Fine, but why in the name of God does he want that so bad?” Lily asks a little abruptly, but she feels owed at the moment thanks to the abrupt nature of everything that has been her last two weeks.
“Jack could get his three hundredth win tonight, and his four thousandth strike out. It was very important to him that Tonkins did not catch any games that might be on his hall of fame footage. Sorry Lily, but you were sped up here for a reason, and that is Jack Foster. It’s not an insult mind you, but he wants you there for his mile stone, and more importantly not Tonkins,” and with that, Tug motions at her to take the book of signs from him, which she finally does.
Lily spends the next several hours looking over all of the signals, while doing her best to totally ignore Jack who is arranging Jay’s locker for him while he stares into it. “What do you think, do you like this Jay?” which of course was met with no emotion or even the turning of a head, “Well I think that it looks good, and I had them bring over your bat from Pawtucket, so I will put it over here, we have inter-league in a few weeks, so you’ll need it,” and Jack continues to fumble around in what used to be his locker but now belongs to Jay, “Hey you want this picture?” Jack asks as his autographed Ted Williams picture that hung in the back of his locker, which coincidentally Jay WAS staring at is removed from its hook and handed to Jay who then looks down at it in his lap.
“Don’t you have some neurotic, pre game ritual you are supposed to be getting into by now Jack,” Lily says out loud without even taking her nose from the book. “I mean even Jay stares at something for a few hours before a game.”
“Actually I am doing it. I stay whicked busy so that I don’t start throwing up all over the place. I would have thought that that would have gone away by now but it never does. Nolan Ryan told me it never would and I spent my entire career trying to be the most unique pitcher in the game just so that it might go away some day, and I guess I am running out of time to see if it ever does,” Jack takes a long look at Lily at this point and says, “What is with you and that stupid book anyway? Shouldn’t you be eating some spaghetti or something? Most catchers like to carb up before a game, and you are sitting here looking at those stupid signals. What gives?”
“Someone put me on the spot again and I have to learn all of these stupid codes before I go out and catch tonight,” Lily says with a bit of a frump in her voice, so that when Jack asks “Why?” she gets a little flustered, “Because I was told to!” she spits out at him.
“Why don’t you just use the signals that you used with Jay tonight, I memorized those in about fifteen minutes, and you can wait until tomorrow night when you catch for Barceló tomorrow night, because he doesn’t want to use six signals, or at least that’s what it sounded like, I mean I know he said something about my Madre, which means mother right?” Jack looked back at the shocked Lily and then added, “Catchers like you and Tug never get guys like me and Jay. If we are on, then we could tell the batters out exact pitches and really make fools out of them, just tonight it is our little secret ok?” and of course she can’t say no, he gave the wink … to be continued