The Beltran And The Sea

Carlos Beltran was and outfielder who hit from both sides of the plate with a Marucci maple bat and he had gone fifteen years now without taking a ring. This was not for lack of effort. In the first six years he been in Kansas City where he learned to regard their logo, a crown, with a certain sense of irony. But after six years he traveled to Houston then New York then St. Louis and he proved his worth every October. But each year he would come home with his fingers bare.

In his first years in baseball he was really very fast. He stole bases and went stood out in centerfield. He was so fast that he flattened Mike Cameron with just his running speed. But now he was an old outfielder. His knees were crooked and his arm ached when he pulled it back for a throw. Everything about him was old except the crack of his bat which was the same tenor as a thunderclap and was bold and undefeated.

“Carlos,” Miller said to him as they climbed the stairs of the dugout. “I could go out there with you. We’ve won some games.” Beltran had taught Miller about baseball and the boy loved him.

Beltran looked at him with confident eyes. “If you were my player, I’d take you,” he said. “But you are Matheny’s and there are match ups.”

“He hasn’t much faith.”

“I know,” Beltran said. “But haven’t we?”

They sat on the bench and many of the other players made fun of Beltran. Others looked at him and were sad. The successful players of Boston and St. Louis already won their rings and displayed them in glass cases with wooden plaques and now only looked to add to their glory.

“Carlos,” Miller said. “Can I get your batting gloves for you? If I cannot play with you, I would like to help in some way.”

“You brought us here,” Beltran said. “You are already a man.”

“This is your sixth post season series in St. Louis. Do you think that is a lucky number?”

“Six is a serious number,” Beltran said. “How would you like to see me bring in a ring dressed out with six hundred diamonds? Think perhaps I can?”

“Keep your bat warm, old man,” Miller said. “Remember we are in October.”

Keep my bat warm, Beltran thought. He hoisted the maple stick on his shoulder and, swinging it back and forth with a certain menace, he stepped onto the field. There were other players at other positions stretching and sprinting on the grass and Beltran could hear the roar of the crowd cheering for them but not for him. Beltran stopped in in the on deck circle and waited.

Beltran watched as Matt Carpenter faced the pitcher. Lester was left-handed but Beltran was ready.

This is the World Series. Beltran’s at-bat will be only one at-bat in all the at-bats that will ever be. But what will happen in all the other at-bats to come will depend on what Beltran does in this at-bat. It had been that way all year. All of baseball is that way.

He had no mysticism about baseball though he had played it for so many years.  Most players had superstitions. Beltran had facts. He did not wear a phiten necklace because of its magnetic properties but because its color gave his eyes a certain comforting warmth. He did not eat an entire chicken before each game for luck but to be strong in October for the truly important home runs. He did not tap his bat to hear its sound as a ritual. It was a science. The sound of a good bat is different than the sound of a bad bat. Beltran did not use a bad bat.

Carpenter fouled a pitch back towards the on deck circle. The ball rolled towards Beltran. He knelt down and picked it up.

“Baseball,” he said. “I love and respect you very much. But I will kill you dead before this day ends.”

Beltran  would have liked to come to the plate with a man aboard but the next pitch retired Carpenter. It was a cutter out over the plate and Carpenter should have taken hold of it for a drive but this was baseball. Baseball is a game of skill and a game of luck. The wind always blows harder in your face than at your back. Beltran knew that better than anyone. But he did not dwell on that.

After fifteen seasons without a ring Beltran knew he was not a lucky player. It was good to be lucky. Ryan Theriot was lucky. Pete Kozma was lucky. It was better to be exact. Every at-bat is a new at-bat. When the luck came Beltran ‘s way he would be ready for it.

Beltran stepped to the plate for the first time in a World Series game. He would not be defeated.

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Matt Carpenter Still Not Sick of Listening to Smash Mouth’s “All Star” On Repeat

Reports from within the St. Louis Cardinals clubhouse indicate that, despite multiple listening sessions throughout the last ten days, second baseman Matt Carpenter still can’t get enough of “All Star” by Smash Mouth.

The twenty seven year-old Carpenter heard the song for the first time in several years last Sunday, the day after he was announced as a reserve representative for the National League in the All-Star Game.

“I don’t know who put it on,” left fielder Matt Holliday said.  “Now, no one will admit to it.  I can tell you one thing, though: it was supposed to be ironic.  This wasn’t supposed to happen.  But Matt…  He just took it and ran with it.”

According to sources in the clubhouse at the time, Carpenter initially reacted with embarrassment.  He put his head down and went straight to his locker.  By the time Smash Mouth frontman Steve Harwell reached the end of the chorus, the Cardinals second baseman was swaying with the beat.

“It was like flipping a ****ing switch,” backup backup catcher Rob Johnson said.  “One minute, he’s acting like he’s not even there.  The next, he’s swinging his hips like he’s tryin’ to **** his locker.  Real enthusiastic like.  Powerful thrusts.”

When the song ended, Carpenter yelled for his teammates to play it again.  They humored him, but refused his demands for a three-peat.

“I thought he was joking,” Lance Lynn explained.  “I can barely listen to that song once without wanting to murder something.  I see blood.  I literally see blood, and then I get this ringing in my ears that I haven’t gotten since I gave up wearing the beard.”

When his teammates wouldn’t continue to play the song anymore, Matt Carpenter downloaded the 1999 pop hit to his iPhone.  Ever since, he has been coming into the clubhouse early and putting it on repeat over the speakers.

What started as a harmless joke has turned into a plague on the team, according to veterans and rookies alike.  “We got to the ballpark at the same time today,” Carlos Beltran muttered.  “I could have stopped him.  I just watched as he plugged in his phone.  I should have done something.  All I could do was watch.”

“Sounds about right,” added Adam Wainwright.

By conservative estimates, Carpenter has now listened to the song at least sixty times over the last two weeks.

“The ice we skate is getting pretty thin,” said Daniel Descalso, his eyes glassy with a thousand-yard stare typically seen only in war veterans and heroin junkies.  “The water’s getting warm so you might as well swim. My world’s on fire. How… about…yours…?”

While the entire team is thrilled with Carpenter’s all-star appearance, they are at a loss for what to do about his new found habit.  But his manager was quick to justify his behavior:

“When you think about it, it makes sense,” said Mike Matheny.  “He was 14 when that song came out.  Everything’s great when you’re 14.  I read the best part of the Bible when I was 14.  Do you want to hear it? It’s about Jesus.

When asked about his addiction to “All Star”, Matt Carpenter confirmed that the allegations were true, but tried to qualify them.

“Sure, I’ve been rocking the ‘All Star’, but I’ve been listening to a lot of Smash Mouth lately,” Carpenter said defensively.  “Anything wrong with that?  ‘Can’t Get Enough of You Baby’, ‘Waste’, ‘Walkin’ On the Sun’…  Really, all of Fush Yu Mang.  Ace stuff.”

“They’re a really underrated band,” he added.  “The Imagine Dragons of their time.”