Under the Microscope

New Team 2

If there was any silver lining to my performance against Senart, it was that François had been busy elsewhere and hadn’t witnessed the debacle. But he heard about it.

At subsequent practices, he began watching me like a hawk.

“Lower, Kladstrup!” Francois is to my right.

During bullpen sessions, he was never far away, barely concealing the fact he was unimpressed. I wasn’t either.

Our state-of-the-art bullpen

At home, I viewed some video Petie had taken at Senart and was shocked by what I saw. I looked like an old man. “That’s it,” I told Petie. “No way François is going to keep me around. You know how he feels about my age, and after the last game, I mean, how can anyone worth a damn give up ten runs in an inning and not record a single out?”

“Don’t be too hard on yourself, Klad. “Put whatever feelings you have about François aside and see what happens.”

Three days after Senart, François approached me at practice. Here it comes, I thought. I braced myself.

“You know we have a game Saturday,” he said.

I nodded.

“Be ready to pitch.”

I couldn’t believe it but didn’t say anything. I just nodded again.

At home that evening, I told Petie what happened. “Do you think he’s testing me, hoping I fail so he can get rid of me?”

“Don’t pre-write the script,” she said. “That’s what you always said when you were a journalist. Just go out and do the best you can.

The game was against the Bandits of Nogent Val-de-Marne, not the best team in the league but not the worst either. I got through the first inning unscathed, retiring the side in order.

When everything went right

I sailed through the next two as well, giving up a lone single. As I came off the mound, I glanced at François in the dugout. It was barely noticeable but was that a nod of approval?

In the fourth inning, we took a 4–0 lead. Suddenly I felt on top of the world. Everything was working: my fastball, curve, change-up. Whatever doubts and insecurities I had earlier were no gone. I was convinced I’d turned a corner.

That’s when everything fell apart. To this day, I can’t explain it but everything went right out the window. Walks, hits, but worst of all my composure. “Slow down!” Petie hollered. “You’re rushing!” Instead of pausing between pitches and going into my wind-up, I was just winging the ball to the catcher as if it were some kind of hot potato, something I couldn’t wait to get rid of.

When everything went wrong

François called time and hurried to the mound. “What are you doing?” he asked incredulously. “It’s like you don’t even care. Get your act together, let’s go!”

But it was too late. Two batters later, with the score 8–4 in favor of the Bandits, François signaled for another pitcher.

The next day, I was notified that I’d been demoted to the Patriots’ second team.

— Don

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