Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Crack of the Bat: Part I

Okay, so Elisa has asked us to open up a vein and spill blood for this blogfest, the one promoting the launch of her book, The Golden Sky. She said something about sharing a story of loss I think it was. If that’s what she wants then let’s go.

I may have already mentioned in a previous post that I am currently in Japan. My loss hasn’t happened yet, but it is imminent, like a boulder teetering on the edge of a cliff. I am in the land of the rising sun for this reason exactly. I get ahead of myself though. Let’s go back to a different time, to a different place, where a young Japanese man eats breakfast with his family.


“Shigekazu, when is your first minor league baseball game?” his mother asked and ladled a second helping of Ojiya, rice soup, into his bowl. The other three kids eyed the helping with hunger. It had always been the same. Their oldest brother, and the most successful among them, received special privileges.

“Tomorrow, Oka-san.” Shigekazu told his mother with respect. He slurped the soup, not giving the disproportionate size of his bowl a second thought.

“Will your sponsor from Yamaha Piano be there?” she continued.

“Yes, Oka-san.”

“What is your stipend again?” she rhetorically asked and eyed the other children.

“Issen yen per month.”

“Wonderful, just wonderful,” she crooned. The family finished breakfast in silence and Shigekazu headed out for the junior college.


A roar of local support funneled down onto the diamond, circled around the bases and emboldened the pitcher on the mound. Shigekazu rubbed the ball with his hands and contemplated the pitch he would throw. The batter dug his back foot in at the plate. His bat swung lazily in the strike zone, his eyes probing his adversary for any sign of predictive body language.

Shigekazu held the ball behind his back and eyed the batter. The catcher signaled for a slow ball, but Shigekazu shrugged it off. The pitcher already knew what he wanted to throw. He wouldn’t strike out the league’s best batter with guile; he would do it with flaming speed. The catcher called for a slider, and the recommendation was shrugged off again. The third base coach groaned. This kid on the mound had a mind of his own. The catcher flashed his fingers for a fast ball and Shigekazu nodded.

The human cannon went into the wind up like a coiling snake. His chorded arm twisted at an irregular angle behind his back and then catapulted forward. The ball launched from the fingers gripping the curling seam like blasting caps. The batter grinned, he had anticipated the pitch.  The bat came around and contacted the ball like a sledgehammer. The Shinto gods wailed as the energy drove the ball away from the bat and directly at the mound.

There was no time to react, Shigekazu still rocked forward in his follow through as the ball struck him in the face, on the nose. Blood splashed to the ground and the pitcher flew back as though his life had been ripped from his body. The coach ran to the mound with a bucket and propped up his star player. Blood filled the vessel from Shigekazu’s nose. His mother wailed in the stands in grief. Her son’s career as a baseball player was over. He would need a blood transfusion because of the accident. Health policies in Japan were not what they should have been during this time and he contracted Hepatitis C from the contaminated blood he received.


Come back tomorrow for the continued story.


  1. Edge of the seat. What a story! Tomorrow can't come fast enough. Or will it be later today since you're in the future already? No matter, it'll be the future soon.

  2. You've captured my attention, Shane. Looking forward to tomorrow!

  3. WOW! I didn't know this story. So that's what happened!

  4. OK, Shane--you got my attention! So what happens next??


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