Changeup, Chapter 18

2400 people showed up for the open tryouts.

The press showed up in such great numbers that Joe spent much of his time answering reporters' questions.

"Why did you fire Dempsey?"

"Why are you holding open tryouts?"

"Did you know your AAA farm team shortstop, Frank Hampton, is upset he didn't get called up?"

Joe had sat on the roof of the third base dugout to watch the tryouts. He'd been trying to stay out of the coaching staff's way as they weeded out the hopefuls, but his poorly chosen spot was quickly seen. He finally turned to face the reporters.

"These tryouts are open. I don't see Frank Hampton here. Guess he didn't want it that bad. As for Dempsey - he cheated, so he's gone. Every one of our players will be required to sign an addendum to their contract agreeing not to cheat in any way. If they're caught doing so, their contract will be voided. As for the tryouts - I've just been given a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Why not pass that opportunity along?"

Joe hopped off the dugout into the field and walked away from the reporters. He wandered down the left field line, thinking.

He startled a bit when the left field fence popped open. He looked up and saw an older man, carrying a bucket.

"Sorry", Joe said. He stepped to the side to let the man go through.

"No problem. You must be Joe." The man stuck out a wrinkled hand. "I'm Lou."

Joe shook Lou's hand, which was surprisingly strong.

"Good to meet you, Lou. What do you do here?"

"Little of this, little of that. Right now's I'm raiding the bullpen for some more balls. We're using everything we can find today."

Lou touched the tip of his hat and stepped around Joe as he headed back toward the field. He stopped, and then turned back slightly.

"Gotta hand it to you, Son. Ain't never done it like this before."

Joe nodded. "I've never done it before at all!"