By Dr. Rug
Sit back, relax, and let your mind float away…
I’m here today to tell you a tale of love and heartbreak; loyalty, betrayal, and deception; underdogs, heroes, and charismatic villains; and above all else, a man who dreamed big… a man who dreamed of glory, adulation, and success… a man who knew that love was worth fighting for and dreamed that he would win that fight…
To start off this tale, drift back with me to a frozen, dark night in Yellowknife during the legendary cold spell in November of 2012. Our hero, the dreamer, was himself stuck in a cold, dark funk that had nothing to do with the weather outside. He was immersed in an internal battle, trying to come up with a way to win back the heart of his lady love. Less than 6 months ago life had been great, he’d had a beautiful lady on his arm, spring was in the air, and success was within reach. Now, 160 agonizing days later, he’d tasted bitter failure, come up on the losing end in countless battles, and his beautiful angel was enraptured with another man. As he sat there, wasting the days away at the bottom of yet another bottle of Smirnoff Ice, he thought back to the infamous day when his life had begun to derail.
June 15, 2012.
It had all started so innocently with his lady friend offering to support him from the beer gardens as he took up his rightful place atop the Sub-Arctic line-up card as the best lead-off hitter in the league entering another tournament that he would undoubtedly be the star of. For months he’d been regaling her and winning her heart with tales of how no one could compare to his strength from the 1 slot. He’d boasted of his power and bragged of his tape-measure shots not knowing just how much this would come back to haunt him. He was legendary in her eyes, the best of the best. Upon arriving at the ballpark that evening he noticed that his usual counterpart on the Diamondbacks was nowhere to be found. He laughed to himself at the assumed cowardice and joked with his teammates on who the replacement sacrificial lamb might be today. He thought to himself that not only was the sun shining, but the Gods were also shining down on him. The first slight falter in his step occurred after the pregame coaches meeting when he read the opposition line-up and saw that they’d moved their usual #2 hitter up to the lead-off spot.
“What are they doing? They must be stupid.” He thought of the unconventional line-up. “If anything, he’s a number 3 hitter – why would they bat him lead-off?”
Shrugging off this insane move, he assured himself that it would be of no consequence and that he would best their #2 just as he’d bested all others.
With the D-backs as the visitors, they took to the sticks first, and as our protagonist positioned himself in the outfield ready to track down any ball hit in the air, he gave a little wink to his love in the stands. Little did he notice that she wasn’t even watching him but was instead intrigued with the lead-off batter and how all the other ladies seemed to swoon over him as he stood in the on-deck circle. Our hero did, however, notice when this lead-off man took the 2-0 offering and crushed it to dead center. Over his head. Over the centerfield fence. Out of the ball park. Chalking it up to beginners luck, he still was oblivious to the oncoming danger.
Seven long innings later, the game mercifully ended and his Sub-Arctic squad retreated to the beer gardens, having been embarrassed. Nowhere was the embarrassment more prevalent than in the lead-off spot. The new lead-off hitter for the Diamondbacks had crushed everything in sight, finishing the game with 3 home runs (which, incidentally, ended up being three times as many as our hero hit all season long). Late into the wee hours of the night, after spending several hours trying to drink the memories away, our hero lay awake, pestered not only by his own humiliation, but also by his girl’s unending stream of questions…
“Who was that lead-off hitter on the other team?”
“Was he for real or did I just dream that?”
“How come you can’t hit it that far?”
“When are the Diamondbacks playing again tomorrow?”
“Do you think he stuffed his cup or was that all natural?”
All too late, he realized the danger he was in. Unfortunately, he’d already stepped over the edge; the long torturous slide to rock bottom had begun and there was nothing he could do to stop it.
The rest of the summer was one unending, prolonged humiliation…
- His lady showing up at 5 in the morning and claiming she’d been “out with friends.”
- She would “misplace” her slo-pitch jersey only to have the D-Backs star drop it off to her at the next game – claiming that he’d coincidentally found it in the bleachers the day before.
- Her phone would go off at all hours of the night with texts from some unknown number with a B.C. area code.
- She even showed up one Monday morning after being away all weekend with a #38 tattooed in a heart on her ankle.
His underperforming Sub-Arctic squad did nothing to alleviate any of the pain as time and again they fell to the mighty Diamondbacks and tournament after tournament he had to watch his nemesis battle in the finals long after he’d been eliminated. Naturally, his girlfriend insisted on joining him in the beer gardens during these tournaments, stating that it was merely her “love of the game” that was her reason for being there (although her girlish giggles and batted eyelashes when the Diamondbacks were playing told a different story).
Eventually the summer of torment came to an end with the arrival of autumn and the temporary respite it brought when his archenemy left town for the winter. But instead of cheering him up, the memory of the summer lingered on in the let-down looks he received from his girlfriend and the talk of her “going south for school”. His life had disintegrated into a constant hell of dissatisfaction and disappointment.
Fortunately, fall also brought with it the changing of the sports calendar. Out was fastball, in was football and with it, some victories. A couple months of riding his teammates’ coattails led our hero to the point where this tale began… the cold November night, and the epiphany that changed his life.
As he sat there, watching his regurgitated lemon-flavoured vodka beverage swirl down the toilet like his life was swirling down the drain, all these thoughts and memories played in his mind’s eye when suddenly…
The truth hit him.
He realized that it wasn’t his fault that his life had fallen apart…
It wasn’t his fault that his team had failed time and again…
It wasn’t his fault that his lady had left him for this mythical man…
It wasn’t his fault that he was sitting naked in his bathtub on a Saturday night drinking a 4-pack of Smirnoff Ice…
It was his teammates!!!!
As the previous night’s football game had clearly demonstrated:
Better Teammates = Greater Success = More Wins = Glory = Adulation = Reuniting with his Lost Love.
It was such a simple formula; the key to his return to glory was obvious. All he needed to do was ditch his squad of has-beens, and form a new squad of might-bes. However, he soon realized that it wouldn’t be quite as easy as it appeared at first glance. This mission would consist of a delicate balance. He’d have to choose new teammates that were good enough to help him achieve his glory, but that weren’t so good that they’d overshadow him. He needed just the right balance of “good enough to crack the starting line-up” along with a healthy dose of “not good enough to be a star”. Now that he had a plan, it was time to put it into action. He quickly dropped to one knee, chugged the final Ice from his 4-pack, and headed out to the Monkey Tree to start stroking egos and recruiting the best of the worst.
First things first: he had to get out of his current contract, which he thought would be extremely difficult for a player of his caliber. Surprisingly, it wasn’t. Management almost seemed indifferent when he told them he wanted out.
Next, he needed pitching. After carefully studying the stats and applying his own version of sabermetrics he settled on some necessary qualifications:
- ERA somewhere in the 8-10 range.
- WHIP had to be over 2.
- Win/Loss record, somewhere hovering around mediocrity. Ideally, 1 game under .500.
- And, if it was possible, more BBs than Ks (although he was willing to overlook this for the right candidate).
After a few nights of recruiting at the Tree he still had no players and no one even close to meeting his criteria. It was time to change tactics. The following Thursday he hit up the Raven and within minutes he’d signed three pitchers that met his standards to boldly lead this team into battle and help him vanquish his foes. An import from Inuvik with a big bat – and a bigger ego. A converted hockey goalie who had been compared with Rick “Wild Thing” Vaughn (before he got glasses). And a Rollie Fingers look-a-like who was greasier than Burger Bob after a weekend in the snack shack.
Finally, in order to round out his line-up with complementary role players he made like the Grinch in Who-ville at Christmas, and started stealing from other, more established franchises:
- From his former team he picked up a member of the grounds crew and the water boy to bat third and clean-up for him.
- From the league champions he took the #7 hitter and worst defensive player in the league.
- From his nemesis’ team, he scored himself a duo that had accumulated a combined 20 Ks versus only 14 hits in last year’s regular season (a truly magnificent accomplishment).
- From the previous year’s expansion squad he stole the epitome of an overzealous slo-pitch player.
- And his coup de grace, the cherry on his sundae, from the Raven dance floor he signed himself a duck hunting musician with no previous fastball experience to round out the team.
These players were his very own Bad News Bears and if any group could make him look spectacular, these were the guys. The final touch was to find himself a symbol that would strike fear into the heart of enemies everywhere and win over the love of his former flame. For that, he picked the fiercest creature he’d ever faced:
This all brings us up to the current day and the rest of the epic story that remains yet untold…
Will the evil nemesis ride off into the sunset with the lady?
Or will our hero succeed?
Will love conquer all?
Can dreams really come true?
Find out all the answers for yourself starting tonight as the expansion Orioles take the field for the very first step in Primetime’s road to redemption.
***Dr. Rug’s Note: Certain facts in this tale may have been embellished or even completely fabricated for the purpose of better story-telling. I apologize for any inconvenience this may cause. ***