Gus was tired. It was the ninth inning, after all. Almost home free. He’d been sitting in a bucket the entire game and until 15 minutes ago, he was pretty sure he wouldn’t even get close to being used. But then his bucket was pulled up into the dugout and he knew his time could be near.
No big deal, Gus thought. The Mariners were ahead by 5 runs. They’ll probably just take it easy, coast to victory, and he could go home to Martha and the boys. Just thinking of the look on their faces when he’d get home, well, that was all he needed to get through putting his hide on the line for another game. Billy and Sid were 4 and 6 years old and they were a handful, but it was all worth it to hear how proud they were of their old man for being a real Major League baseball.
Two outs. Gus was at the top of the pile now, but he felt some relief. Even if he got used, he figured he still had a good chance of returning to the pile. Either he’d end up at the Team Store or they’d just toss him, which meant he could make it back to his family easily enough.
But suddenly, a ball boy’s hand got hold of Gus and he was on his way to the umpire. He looked over and next to him was his old buddy from college, Sammy.
“Sammy!” Gus yelled. “How the hell are ya? Been years!”
“Holy shit, Gus the Bus!” Sammy yelled back. “I’ll be damned. How are you, brother?”
“I’m good, man, just ready to–”
And suddenly Sammy was tossed to the catcher and then to the mound. Dang, Gus thought. He really wanted to find out what Sammy had been up to all these years.
Gus’s thoughts were interrupted by the crack of the bat and sounds of a likely foul ball, going by the crowd’s reaction. He knew his time might be short, and it was.
Before he knew it he was in the catcher’s glove. Then off to pitcher Brad Boxberger. Well, heck, Gus thought. This might be it. Who’s up to bat anyways?
Oh. Oh no, Gus cried in fear. Oh God please, no. Not Nelson Cruz. No one told me it was the heart of the order. Anyone but Cruz, he’s a madman! He’s a god damn terror! Oooooh shi-
Gus was flying. Not just looping through the air, but tearing through time and space at 116 miles per hour in the climate controlled dome at Tropicana Field. There was no sound. He felt nothing. The violent, uppercut swing of Nelson Cruz had permanently destroyed all his nerve endings. He was free. He was beautiful.