Hardball Theatre: Right Field
BASED ON A TRUE STORY
A Play in One Act by Keith Good
(Lights up on right field of a baseball stadium. Beautiful grass rolls to the outfield wall behind and to the stands to stage left. The crowd ebbs and flows, murmuring in waves. A FAN sits in the stands just past the foul line.)
(A RIGHT FIELDER lopes to position. He takes large, hopping steps, stretching his legs. His position is just at the edge of the spotlight, illuminated but just only. He circles around his mark, a dog on a scent, before digging in.)
(Once in position, he sets about stretching. Windmills, hammies, neck rolls. It all seems terribly theatrical, overbig. He takes off his hat, checks the curl of its brim, snugs it back in place.
FAN: You suck!
(The FIELDER flinches slightly, doesn’t turn but looks sidelong into the stands. Sigh. He slams the palm of his mitt, checks the laces around its webbing. More stretching. Beat. The FIELDER’s face goes sour. A pained look. He kicks out his leg a bit, does some side to side leg stretching. Still… annoyance. The FIELDER looks around, sly.)
(A moment of consideration. Then the FIELDER jams a hand down his pants. Instant relief. He jangles a bit, unsticking himself from his thigh.)
FAN: Three shakes and you’re playing with it, perv!
(FIELDER yanks the hand from his pants, embarrassed. Checks the laces on his mitt, scratches his nose, sniffs.)
P.A.: Now batting, the first baseman, number fifteen… Hometown Heeeerrooooo!
(Crowd erupts. FIELDER shrinks a bit. He sets his feet, hard stare ahead to home plate. He bounces on the balls of his toes, ready, waiting.)
FAN: Hey Fielder!
(Nothing. The FIELDER didn’t get here by letting pukes steal his focus.)
FAN: You still suck!
(Far off we hear the slap of a first pitch fastball finding its home in the catcher’s mitt)
(Fielder resets, punches his mitt.)
FIELDER: Tough call, tough call.
FAN: The tough call was starting a 36-year-old shitballer.
(FIELDER flinches his head ever so slightly to the FAN in the stands.)
FAN: Hey! There he is! Now we’re getting somewhere!
(Pause. FIELDER re-sets with a slight grimace. Longer pause. FIELDER relaxes.)
FIELDER: (Quiet, to himself) Jesus, man, just pitch your garbage fastball. Stop fucking with the rosin bag and throw already.
(Another pitch. Another ball.)
FAN: Why don’t you pitch, Fielder? Your arm can only manage sixty feet anyway, right?
(The lights change. A moment of temporary brightness washes over the stage. When the lights return to normal FIELDER PRIME stands in the spotlight, just upstage from FIELDER. PRIME is bigger, more muscular, with more bounce in his step. His uniform is brighter, his stirrups are neater. Both FIELDER and PRIME set their feet.)
(Another pitch. Another ball. FIELDER relaxes. PRIME, however, makes a break across the stage. FIELDER watches, dreamy-eyed, as PRIME makes a phenomenal catch without breaking stride, without breaking a sweat. PRIME is cool as the other side of the pillow. PRIME launches the ball back to the infield, gets it to the pitcher on the fly, and jogs back to his mark in the spotlight. Before setting for the next pitch, though, PRIME turns, ever so slightly, to the FAN in the stands.)
PRIME: Too bad about your Hometown Hero getting robbed of a double.
FAN: Yeah, I’d laugh too if my pitcher was lobbing potatoes across the plate. Its either that or commit seppuku with my own spikes out of despair.
(FIELDER goes back to fixing his glove, waiting for the next pitch. PRIME glowers to the FAN.)
FAN: Hey! Hey! What’s a “Phillie?”
(FIELDER and PRIME set. After a moment, they exhale and relax. Ball three.)
FIELDER: (under his breath) Throw a damn strike, Phil.
FAN: I’m so in your head, dude!
PRIME: (Shouted) Just missed the corner with that one Phil! Keep it up, you’ll hit the next one!
FAN: C’mon, man, I know you can hear me. What’s a Phillie? You’re wearing it across your chest and you don’t even know what it means? Cause—and correct me here if I’m wrong—a Philly is a horse whose only job is to get humped by stud horses!
(PRIME turns and points directly to the FAN)
PRIME: What’s a Phillie? What’s a Phillie? A Phillie is the six-foot-four, two-hundred twenty pound ball of muscle that’s gonna jump this fence in a single bound, tear your arm from its socket and beat you within an inch of your pathetic, beer-swilling life while your ladyfriend there watches, her loins aflame with a desire like she’s never felt in her life. That’s a Phillie, bro.
FIELDER: (Mumbled) …I’ll sleep with your ladyfriend…
FAN: What? What was that? Are you talking to me now? Are we besties? Oh man! I’m so pumped to have a new best friend! What’s your phone number, bro? I’ll text you the next time we go clubbing! What about your Twitter? I’ll DM you my address!
(PRIME turns to FIELDER.)
PRIME: Seriously? You know better than to talk shit to hecklers. Shut your mouth and speak with your play.
(FIELDER shrinks a bit. His feet not set, PRIME still turned to face FIELDER with his back to the plate, we hear the crack of a sharply batted ball. PRIME turns in a flash, sprints toward where FAN sits, glove ready. FIELDER startles and then sets off, a step behind PRIME. Both FIELDER and PRIME looking up to the sky, they run to the wall separating the stands from foul territory. By the movement of their heads, we can see the arc of the ball. PRIME makes a leap up the wall, glove arm straining to its limit. FIELDER shakes his head and steps back.)
(The ball falls in foul territory. The FAN reaches up his arm, just a bit higher than PRIME, and snags the foul ball. PRIME lands back to turf, sees the ball in the FAN’s hand. With a grimace, PRIME jogs back to his spot. He gets to his spot before FIELDER hits his.)
(The FAN holds the foul ball aloft.)
FAN: Hey! Hey! Check it out! I caught it! I have a higher fielding percentage than you do, Fielder! How about this… What if I toss this ball to you, that way you can feel what it’s like to catch a fly ball off a big league bat!
(PRIME doesn’t flinch. FIELDER shakes his head. The FAN turns to the other fans around him, showing off the foul ball in his hand. From the plate, we hear the crack of ball to bat again. This time it comes nowhere near.)
PRIME: He won’t foul off the next one, Phil! Keep it up!
FIELDER: He won’t foul off the next one, Phil! Keep it up!
(In the stands, the FAN has now pulled out his phone. He looks to its screen with a drawn, glum look on his face.)
FAN: Uh-oh, buddy…
(FIELDER’s gaze darts to the FAN.)
FAN: Just came through my Twitter feed. Tough break for you, man. “WorldWide Sports reports the Phillies are set to call up their top Outfield Prospect from AAA in time for their weekend series.” Doesn’t say anything about who’s getting demoted back to the minors to make room , but it doesn’t take an All-Star GM to figure it out. A negative-WAR, noodle-armed, Sub-Mendoza roster filler like you has to be on the short list. You sure as hell aren’t exiled out here in right field because you’re the best on the team. Hope you like ramen noodles, budget motels and bus travel, bro.
FAN: Fieeelderrrrr… Fieeeellllldeeerrrrrr…
(We can see FIELDER’s jaw grinding. His muscles tense. He looks up to the FAN, eyes the empty seats around him, then back to the outfield grass around him.)
PRIME: Hey, why don’t you shut up, already! Which one of us grinds every day at a soul-sucking 9-5? Which one of us has the cojones and talent to follow his dreams all the way to the top of his field? Which one of us is on the grass of a Major League ballfield and which one of us is two-fisting 9-dollar light beers on a Wednesday afternoon, desperate for distraction from a crappy life? Huh? Huh?
(FIELDER watches as PRIME runs over to the stands, throws his glove down to the warning track dirt. The FAN shrinks back as PRIME approaches, shielding his face.)
FAN: Please, man. C’mon, it was just a joke. It was just good fun. Please? I swear I won’t say another word, dude. Just don’t hurt me, please don’t hurt me!
(As the FAN is cowering, we hear the far-off crack of ball to bat. The sound is drowned out in part by the FAN’s sniveling)
PRIME: I’m only going to say this one time, pissant, so listen and listen well. It could mean the difference between life and death.
(While PRIME is speaking, the FAN looks up.)
PRIME: It’s only out of the kindness of my heart that I don’t press my thumb into your pencil neck and snap you in half. I get it that its funny to shout shit at the fielder, I get it that you’re drunk, but I don’t drop by the asshole factory and fuck up your shit. We’re not talking…
FAN: Ball! Dude!
(PRIME turns over his shoulder, looks up. His eyes grow wide.)
PRIME: Ball! Coming in hot! Snap out of it!
(FIELDER jolts awake. He follows the line of the FAN and PRIME’s gaze to where a fly ball is quickly approaching.)
(He sets off at a dead sprint across the stage, down and toward center field. With a cry he lays out flat, glove arm stretched out to its limit.)
(The fly ball bounces an inch in front of FIELDER’s glove and rolls. The FIELDER scrambles to his feet and dives after the ball. He misses. It bounces from the front of his glove as he tries to pick it up and rolls further away.)
(Finally, the FIELDER secures the ball. He turns and rockets it to third base.)
PRIME: A standup triple? Oh come on, man.
FAN: That was painful to watch.
PRIME: (nods to FAN) I’m with him. I can’t be the ego of some dude that can’t even nab a can of corn.
(PRIME, head shaking, disappears.)
FIELDER: That was me, guys. No worry, no worry, we’ll get the next one. No problem!
(FIELDER, head down, back bowed, slouches back to his spot in Right Field. He stretches, checks the laces on his glove. He punches his glove. The FAN watches with rapt glee the whole time, smiling but mouth shut.)
(Face straight ahead, the FIELDER’s eyes keep darting over to the FAN. The FIELDER’s every muscle is tense. The silence grows, weighs down on the FIELDER. He’s waiting for it, girding himself against what he knows must be coming. Yet the silence endures, stretches for a long moment, until…)
FAN: What’s a Phillie?!
(FIELDER deflates at the sound, exhales.)
FAN: This is gonna be one hell of a fun game, huh?
(Fade to black)
*Picture in Header by Kelvin Anderson. Used under Creative Commons License.