FICTION: Rainout

Only three players are awake to see the storm roll in during breakfast.  The rest of the team wakes up right on time for a late lunch, hears the rain pounding at their windows and reaches bleary-eyed for the telephone to order out for pizza.

The team bus leaves the hotel for the stadium at promptly 2:45 p.m., packed with players slumping down in their seats and gazing miserably out rain-spattered windows.  They pile out at the ballpark and tug equipment bags onto aching shoulders, their collared shirts soaked by the driving rain.

The clubhouse is dank and leaky, more than usual.

The back end of the bullpen grabs the table in the lounge, the closer dealing out the cards.  The regulars on the bench sit broodingly at their lockers, earpieces in, music playing.  The starting pitcher paces the clubhouse, unsure what to do with himself.  “No way, right?” he asks the back-up catcher, who shrugs his response.

The shortstop and third baseman knock on the door to the manager’s office.  “We looked at the field,” says the shortstop.  “It’s a swamp.”

“Get outta here,” glares the hitting coach, grumbling under his breath about kids always looking for a reason not to play.  The manager, dark bags under his eyes, nearly smiles.

The clubbie pokes his head in.  “Game’s on.”

The hitting coach folds his arms.  “Your field’s a swamp.  Call it already.”

The clubbie shrugs helplessly and backs out.

The pitching coach laughs.

The manager scratches out a starting lineup.  It is the same lineup as always.  He's too tired to think of something different.

The rain pours down, pooling on the warning track.

The starting pitcher wanders down the tunnel, hands shoved into his jacket pockets.  He finds the dugout flooded.

The hitters reluctantly change into attire for the indoor batting cage while the pitchers reluctantly head outside into the rain to stretch with the strength and conditioning coach.

The manager does not merely remain behind his desk as the hours tick on.  He inspects the field.  He talks with the opposing manager.  He talks with the groundskeeper.  There is no sign that the rain will abate, and yet the game has not been cancelled.

“We believe the rain will clear up come eight o’clock,” says the general manager genially, though his optimism derives more from his box office receipts than the radar.  The home team has several thousand tickets sold.  No need to cancel the game before those fans get a chance to visit the souvenir shop and concession stands.

The manager stews.

An hour passes past the scheduled game time.  Several of the younger players have changed into their uniforms.  The veterans know better.

The word is at last relayed down from above:  rained out.  The bus drives back to the hotel, no pep, everyone as weary as if they had played 14 innings.  They will tomorrow.  Not a one is looking forward to it.

As sure as grass is green and mud is brown, everyone wants a rainout, no one wants a doubleheader.


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