all photos by Samara Pearlstein
The All Star break had ended. The Tigers filed back into the Detroit clubhouse for the first time in days. Jim Leyland sighed contentedly and lit up a cigarette, setting off the smoke detector, which everyone ignored through force of habit. Everything was just as he had left it: the pack of smokes on his desk, the scouting reports piled up in the corner, the Jason Grilli dartboard, the pack of smokes on top of the filing cabinet, the Ozzie Guillen voodoo doll, the framed photo of Andy Van Slyke in his goofy old school Pirates uniform, the pack of smokes taped to the underside of his spinny chair…
“Mr. Leyland!” Magglio Ordonez shouted. “Mr. Leyland! Mr. Leyland! Have you seen my bat anywhere? I can’t find it.”
Leyland was pretty sure that he had remembered to store the bats properly and securely before everyone left for the break. Or, at least, he had watched closely while the clubhouse attendants stored the bats. He had even insisted that all the Tigers give their bats a kiss before they left, so that the bats wouldn’t get lonely and surly after being ignored for four days.
But now… walking out of his office and into the clubhouse proper, he didn’t see any bats at all. He asked all the hitters to take a look: no bats. He checked everyone’s lockers. All the equipment storage closets. The batting cages. He sent Josh Anderson running upstairs to check Mr. Dombrowski’s office (just in case). He even looked in the showers. No bats. Not even a fungo!
Deeply concerned, Leyland stroked his mustache in thought. There was only one thing left to do. He grabbed his cell phone and dramatically punched the address book entry labelled
By the time Paws got to the ballpark, Leyland had managed to work himself into a frenzy. He had looked in every corner, under every scrap of rug. He had screamed at the entire team, telling them that this was “absolute horses**t”, and now Rick Porcello was curled up in the corner sobbing uncontrollably while Justin Verlander patted him awkwardly on the back. Leyland felt a little bad. But only a little.
HAY GUYZ WATS GOIN ON IN THIS LOCKRRUM? Paws asked.
Leyland filled him in on the bat-less situation. The matter was crucial! The Tigers had to be in New York in a few hours, and then there were series with Seattle and the loathsome Wrong Sox to get through. They couldn’t show up on the field without any bats! How embarrassing! What horses**t!
WHERED U LAST SEE UR BATS? Paws asked. All the hitters scrunched up their faces in thought. They were obviously unaccustomed to the strain of thinking, with the exception of Curtis Granderson, who promptly replied that he had last seen his bat right before he got to the ballpark, in his apartment, as he put it into his equipment bag. Granderson had been at the All Star Game and so had had his bat with him for the entire break.
K, LETS TAKE A LUK, Paws said. They all crowded around while Paws slowly unzipped Granderson’s bag. He carefully sorted through all the gear once, then again. Then, very slowly, he took everything in the bag out, bit by bit, and laid it out on the floor.
There were lots and lots of blue socks in Granderson’s bag. There was an oversize check made out to a Detroit charity for children. There were a bunch of those stupid titanium necklace things. But there was no bat at all.
“Maybe he forgot and didn’t really pack his bat,” Brandon Lyon suggested.
DONT B DUM, Paws shot back. UR TALKN BOUT CURTIS GRANDRSN, HE IS PURFEKT. IF HE SEZ HE PACKD IT, HE PACKD IT. He stroked the white fluff on the end of his chin in a gesture curiously reminiscent of Leyland’s mustache-stroking motion. I THINK WAT WE GOT GOIN ON HURR IS UR STANDRD HITTIN VORTEX.
Everyone blinked. “Wait,” Leyland said. “A Hitting Vortex? What kinda horses**t is that?” In the corner, Porcello put his hands over his ears and started rocking back and forth.
Paws held up his front paws. IS VURY MYSTERUS. BASICLY IS A VORTEX WHERE UR BATS GO. LIEK A BLAK HOL IN SPACE, ONLY IS UR BATS AN NOT IN SPACE. NOBUDDY NOS HOW IT FORM, NOBODDY NO WHERE IT COME FRUM. NOBUDDY NOS HOW 2 MAEK IT GO AWAYZ. HARD 4 SCIENCE 2 UNNERSTND.
“Gosh golly gee Mr. Paws,” Dusty Ryan said, his eyes huge with rookieness, while Gerald Laird mimed vomiting behind him, “what’re we supposed to do, then? If even Science doesn’t know where our bats got to, how’re we supposed to play a game? Can we bring in new bats?”
NO!!! Paws shouted, causing everyone to jump. IS NOT HOW IT WURKZ! U BRING IN NEW BATS, THEY GONNA GO INNA VORTEX 2. SOON U GOT NO BATS INNA HOLE WURLD. UR MAKIN THE VORTEX, IT GOEZ WHERE U GO.
“You really do know everything,” Ryan said in a hushed, awed voice. Laird mimed passing out in his own mime vomit.
“The infant catcher’s got the right idea, though,” Leyland said. “We gotta do something. We can’t just go out there and… not hit.”
“Well, actually–” Adam Everett started, but Miguel Cabrera tackled him quickly and smothered him with a first baseman’s glove. Leyland nodded in approval.
Paws shrugged. U GOTTA. NUTHIN U CAN DO. U JUS GOTTA WAIT, IF UR LUCKEE SUMDAY THE VORTEX GO AWAYZ ON ITS OWN. SRY.
“This is such horses**t,” Leyland muttered.
Edwin Jackson nudged Verlander, who was poking Porcello every so often to make sure he hadn’t gone catatonic or anything. “Dude,” he said. “This is gonna suck so hard.”
“Dude,” Verlander sighed. “Word.”