One Good Day

The siren call of the baseball diamond still lures hopefuls looking for a shot at the Bigs.

A major-league catcher's pop-to-pop is under 2 seconds, usually around 1.9, even 1.8. The first guy's throw is 2.2, then 2 flat, then 1.95. Sealy looks at his card, nods for Thompson to tuck it in the "keeper" pile. Good arm.

The next catcher is nervous and overeager and launches his pick-off throw over the second basemen's head, and the ball bounds into center field. "That's alright," Sealy yells. "Air it out, baby. Show me somethin'."

"Where's he from?" he asks in a low voice.


"Sterling? Where's that?"

"Northeast part of the state. Good pheasant hunting up there."

"Is there?" Sealy says. "Keep his name."

Batting is next, and one of the first hitters up waits on a pitch. "I don't throw balls," Sealy says, not really joking. "Nuthin' but strikes. If there's a ball in the cage it's 'cause you missed it, understand?"

A slim, rangy boy steps up to the plate and begins pounding balls deep into the outfield, the bat sweeping around his torso smooth and level and beautiful. Sealy, who watches the batter's swing and connection rather than the ball's trajectory, tosses a couple more pitches, then stops.

"How old are you?" he asks.


Sealy grins widely and looks over at his assistant standing next to the batting cage. "Seventeen!"

Then, "Where to you go to school?"


His card is separated from the pile. ("I'm looking for the young guys," Sealy says later. "Sixteen, seventeen, eighteen years old, guys who I can keep an eye on as they go through high school, to see how they develop. Like this kid; I wouldn't have found him if I didn't have this tryout. Now I know that next year my ass is going to be in Grandview watching him play.")

Last up are the pitchers; "We're always looking for arms," Sealy says. First, though, he tells the rest of the players to go home.

"Thank you for coming," he tells them. "Good effort. Real good effort. I saw some good things today, and we'll be callin' some of you. If we don't, though, you should still keep comin'. Keep comin' to these tryout camps. Young guys, especially. That's how I got discovered. Really. It only takes one set of eyes on you. You got a chance, grab it. I know a lot of you drove a long way to get here, so ya'll travel safe home."

As it starts to sprinkle and the early afternoon summer thunder sounds off in the distance, Sealy stations himself behind home plate. He squats on a drywall bucket and aims a radar gun toward the mound. "Okay," he yells. "Give me your best bullets." The first throw is 88 miles per hour. Sealy raises his eyebrows -- perhaps a Moment?

A few minutes later another pitcher prepares to uncork his very best stuff for the scout. Sealy, who as a former catcher has a soft spot for the young men who crouch behind the plate, ribs the beefy kid who has stepped in front of him to catch the pitcher's tryout throws.

"Van Kooten, you're an animal," he growls in a low voice. "You know that? You're an animal."

The catcher doesn't turn around. "I try to be."

"How old are you?"


"You graduate?"


"You married?"


"Got a girlfriend?"

"Oh, yeah."

"You say that with confidence, Van Kooten. Like you really got a girlfriend. What's her name?"


Sealy smiles as he points his radar gun, aiming for a Moment. "Yeah. Baseball. I like that."

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