EXT. THE ARIZONA DESERT - DUSK
Two strapping young campers are making their way from the Pacific Northwest to Peoria, Arizona. When they arrive in the southwestern city, the boys will endure a five-week training session in preparation for their greatest challenge yet: the 2019 MLB season. The duo’s arduous journey is nearing its end. Having just passed through the town of Surprise, the pair of gentlemen are roughly nine miles from reaching their ultimate destination. Always the cheerful spirits, our protagonists maintain a high morale despite trekking the entire American west coast on foot. The reason for their grueling trail? The men’s employer, the Seattle Mariners, are trying to teach them how to walk better. Undeterred by the sweltering heat and ballooning blisters on his feet, the sun kisses the skin of affable, burly Ryon, whose smile remains shiny and glistening after days of travel.
With just a bat and a can-do attitude, Ryon has swatted away dangerous wildlife and charmed every drifter along the way. He is joined by Dee, his trusty, skinnier, equally-affable companion.
Unbeknownst to either traveler, the forthcoming stretch of their voyage is littered with their teammates, instructed by the team’s headmasters to throw a series of challenges at Ryon and Dee.
RYON: Hey Dee, what’s your favorite part about being a baseball player? Mine’s all the free bubblegum.
DEE: I like being in the clubhouse with all my friends and giving everyone high fives and hugs when they play well. That makes me feel good.
RYON (giggling): Yeah, that part is fun. I sure do love being outside, too. That’s why I was so happy when Mr. Dipoto said we could walk to Spring Training. Cars and planes make me nervous, too. I’d be lying if I said they didn’t give me the spooks, even though I know I’ll probably be fine. Someone told me that’s called eczema.
DEE: I think you mean anxie—
Both walkers stop dead in their tracks as they hear a loud rustling from a nearby cactus. Each player holds their bat in a ready position, prepared to take their hacks against whatever beast awaits.
RYON: Who’s that hiding over there?
DEE: Square up! We’re not afraid of you.
Their gaze lands on a particularly tall cactus, being used as a shield to protect a castoff king in search of redemption.
RYON (visibly excited): FÉLIX!!!
Ryon and Dee run over to greet Félix Hernández.
FÉLIX: Hermanos, you found me. I’m here with your first challenge.
DEE: Challenge? You mean there’s more to this than just a 1,300-mile walk?
Félix unfurls an old K-card with elaborate instructions scratched on the back. He also reaches into his knapsack and pulls out a pouch of 50 baseballs.
FÉLIX (reading from the card): Your challenge, should you choose to accept it, is to stand 60 feet away from me while I alternate throwing pitches to each of you. All you have to do is not swing at any of them, and you pass. Got it?
DEE (noticeably sweating): Got it.
After another brief explanation, both hitters assume their stances while Félix sets up a makeshift mound. Showing some rejuvenated velocity and an extra bite on his changeup, Félix impresses Ryon and Dee, who want nothing more than to remove the bats from their shoulders. Displaying incredible restraint, neither batter offers at any of the 25 pitches they see.
FÉLIX: Pretty good, you passed the test! Let’s keep heading toward Peoria.
The trio continues toward the Cactus League headquarters as the sun sets over the horizon.
EXT. AN OLD WESTERN GHOST TOWN - NIGHTFALL
DEE (yawning): Hey, it’s getting kind of late, we should probably try to find somewhere to sleep.
FÉLIX: Where have you been sleeping the past few nights?
Cut to a montage of Ryon and Dee jumping into bunk beds at the Quack Shack, Ryon’s old collegiate house at the University of Oregon, sneaking into the Oakland Coliseum to craft a bed of damp paper towels and thin payroll sheets, and sharing Ryon’s childhood bed at the Healy home in Encino, California.
RYON: Lots of cool places!
DEE (pointing into the distance): I think I see a hotel over there, should we check it out?
All three men saunter up to a wooden, fraying inn with a flickering lantern dangling above the front door. Dee jumps up and uses his bat to remove the dirt from a beaten sign. The dust clears to reveal the words SWARZAK’S SHAKY RELIEF. Ryon, Dee, and Félix look at each other, shrug collectively, and decide to knock on the door. They hear a man of indiscernible age approach the door gingerly, clearly lugging around a body that has undergone several injuries. The door creaks open to reveal the innkeeper.
FÉLIX: ¡No me gusta!
Ryon and Félix stumble away from the terrifying figure and make their escape. Dee has already ran away at a much faster, graceful pace. They finally catch up to their speediest partner, and start to devise a new plan.
RYON: That guy was scary!
FÉLIX: Yeah, I don’t know if we should trust him when it’s so late like this.
Félix looks directly into the camera.
DEE: Guys, guys, guys. We’ll be fine. Let’s just head down the road until we find someone who can help.
Ryon, Dee, and Félix mosey through the arid land, crisscrossing rattlesnakes, coyotes, and the occasional similarly-dressed 22-year-old who appears to be headed to the same location.
RYON (cuddling a coyote): These sand puppies sure are cute, but I don’t think they can help us. We need a grownup.
That last sentence conjures a sturdy, powerful being from the cosmos.
RYON, DEE, and FÉLIX (in unison): Kyle!
KYLE: Hey fellas, someone said you needed a grownup?
DEE: Yeah, we just need somewhere safe to sleep tonight. Any ideas?
KYLE: Of course, why don’t you just head on down the road to Ol’ Man Bruce’s place? He’ll fix you up somethin’ nice and give ya a place to rest your heads.
FÉLIX: Sounds good, thanks bro.
KYLE: Well shoot, anything to help the team.
The faint noise of a baby’s cry echoes in the distance.
KYLE: Well, I gotta go. Safe travels, boys.
Kyle disappears to tend to his family, while Ryon, Dee, and Félix continue their path in hopes of finding Ol’ Man Bruce.
EXT. THE OUTER DOORSTEP OF A WOODEN SHANTY - MIDNIGHT
Ryon, Dee, and Félix approach the doorstep of an intact-but-declining housing structure. It appears much older than it actually is. Dee raps his knuckles against the door, which flies open with a leftward swing to reveal the fabled Ol’ Man Bruce.
OL’ MAN BRUCE: What can I do ya for?
RYON: We’re looking for a place to slumber for the night.
A wry smirk creeps across Ol’ Man Bruce’s face.
OL’ MAN BRUCE: Ah yes, I was expecting you. I can offer you a room for the night, but I fear I won’t be in this home much longer.
FÉLIX: What do you mean?
Ol’ Man Bruce retrieves a Mariners’ Spring Training jersey with a loose leaf piece of paper fixed to the back. The words READ THIS
IF WHEN IN NEED OF NEW HOME are printed in bold across the top. Ol’ Man Bruce reads from the text.
OL’ MAN BRUCE: Jay, if you’re reading this, it’s because we’ve found a new home for you. As much as we loved having you, we’ve found a new place that can use your skills more practically. This new dwelling is several miles yonder, where hope springs eternal in the absence of punishing astros from the heavens and youthful athletics from the east bay. Below is a map to your new home. Your challenge will be completed upon finding the spot and fetching a bountiful return. Begin your odyssey there in the morning. Yours truly, Jerry Dipoto.
DEE (earnestly): That’s tough, man. I’ll really cherish our time together.
OL’ MAN BRUCE: Thank you. Please, come inside and get some rest. As instructed, we will embark at sunrise.
Ryon, Dee, and Félix nod solemnly and trade tender hugs with Ol’ Man Bruce before climbing the stairs toward their one-night bedroom. As they ascend, stifled tears cascade down Ryon’s face as he reflects on how much Ol’ Man Bruce meant to him in their four minutes spent together.
INT. A SPACIOUS, DILAPIDATED BEDROOM - DAWN
Ryon, Dee, and Félix awaken in Ol’ Man Bruce’s upstairs attic and wipe the sleep from their eyes. All three get dressed, kindly make their beds, and head outside to meet Ol’ Man Bruce, who has procured four horses for the trip.
OL’ MAN BRUCE (tossing saddles): The time has come for me to depart. Mount up, and let’s find out where I’ll be living next.
The quartet rides south, the sun steadily rising above their heads as they traverse the Sonoran. In the distance, a sinewy shadow looms. As the riders approach, they recognize the unmistakable silhouette. It belongs to a wise, sage elder with knowledge of the land and unmatched skills. He is standing in his trademark stance, eyeing Ryon, Dee, Félix, and Ol’ Man Bruce with a determined serenity.
OL’ MAN BRUCE: Ah, just as I suspected. The letter I received foretold the appearance of the Great Ichiro. He will surely know the way.
The travelers dismount from their horses to greet Ichiro, who offers a reverent handshake for each of them. Ol’ Man Bruce shows him the letter and map outlining their next steps. Ichiro promptly throws the map 300 feet in the opposite direction, explaining that this journey must come from within.
DEE (muttering): How did he throw that so far?
Without speaking, Ichiro jumps into the air, landing in a split-legged straddle across one of the horses. He beckons for Félix to join him, with the implicit understanding that this will be their last ride together. Ryon, Dee, and Ol’ Man Bruce board the remaining horses and gallop onward. After several minutes of riding, guided only by Ichiro’s internal compass, they discover and unload at Ol’ Man Bruce’s new abode, labeled SAN FRANCISCO. A tightly-wound scroll sits in an $18 beer glass out front. Félix holds it to the light and reads the message.
FÉLIX: In exchange for Ol’ Man Bruce and the horses you brought, San Francisco agrees to give you the water and food needed to complete your expedition. Also, you will receive three young lackeys to help you in future advancements. They are waiting for you in Peoria.
RYON (still on his horse, gripping its neck, stroking its mane and refusing to let go): Y-You mean I have to leave my horse? B-But we’re best pals. What will they do without me?
DEE: The horse will be fine. We gotta go, man. This is a good trade.
RYON (clutching the horse even tighter): Well I don’t think so. And guess what? I’m not getting off. You guys can leave, but I’m not going anywhere without Horsey.
Dee, Félix, Ol’ Man Bruce, and Ichiro huddle together to discuss their next procedure. Some short deliberation, and the levelheadedness of Ichiro, spawns the joint decision to give San Francisco all of the the group’s remaining money so Ryon can keep his beloved steed. They exchange goodbyes with Ol’ Man Bruce and continue their final leg of the mission on foot, with Horsey and an overjoyed Ryon trotting behind.
EXT. THE OUTSKIRTS OF PEORIA - MIDDAY
The majestic archways of the Peoria Sports Complex peer over the sand dunes, signaling the near completion of this action-packed jaunt. Just as the sight of their destination adds an extra pep to the gang’s step, they spy an unassuming, cherubic lad, eager to join the fun.
A wave of vengeful intimidation washes over Félix, though the senses the talent and good-natured ways of this new Mariner. The latest straggler humbly encroaches upon the formation and asks if he may tag along to Peoria. Before he can finish his plea, Ichiro interjects.
ICHIRO (to the group): I’ve seen this guy before, his name is Yusei, and his services will be extremely useful to us. He’s fucking good.
Nobody offers any rebuttal. Ryon, Dee, Félix, Ichiro, Yusei, and Horsey inch closer and closer to the final checkpoint. Smelling the expertly-cut grass, the sounds of nearby bats hitting freshly-minted baseballs washes over them. The team’s eyes widen. Horsey lets out a magnificent neigh into the vast desert landscape. Thinking Horsey was celebrating their near-arrival, the men hoot and holler with glee, until realizing that Horsey’s noise was warning them of slinky intruders from the rear. The Mariners turn and see a two-headed, double-sided reliever, presenting the closing and supreme challenge.
LEFT-HANDED RELIEVER: Sup?
RIGHT-HANDED RELIEVER (burps): Bet you want to hear your challenge or whatever, huh?
YUSEI: Sure do.
FÉLIX (trying to counteract the two-headed reliever’s ferocious pose):
LEFT-HANDED RELIEVER: Dope, it’s really quite simple. All you have to do to unlock the gates to the facility and begin Spring Training...is tell us what our names are.
A nervous energy falls over the troop. They’ve overcome countless obstacles, survived difficult challenges, and acquired a rogue horse to reach this point. Surely this menial task can’t be their undoing, yet the reliever is so anonymous, so plain looking, that it could be any number of Mikes, Brians, Chris’s, or some combination in between. Just as the weary travelers are about to admit defeat, Ryon steps forward, emanating a confidence unseen in the first baseman thus far. He takes another look at his double-barreled adversary.
RYON: The lefty is Zac Rosscup. I know because he’s struck me out twice, and his name rhymes with Jack Awesome, which is my superhero name.
Dee, Félix, Ichiro, Yusei, and Horsey stare at Ryon with awestruck admiration.
RYON: The righty is Cory Gearrin. I know because he’s also struck me out twice, and his hair reminds me of Horsey.
The two-headed reliever splits into two separate entities, assuming its final form. A glowing path illuminates the ground—getting brighter with each step forward—leading the Mariners and their new horse to Spring Training. An older, slightly awkward man stands waiting for them at the threshold of their springtime oasis, looking unsure how to properly greet this ragtag outfit.
SCOTT SERVAIS: Congratulations, boys. You made it. Let’s play ball.