I changed my name to Lionman Lincoln when I was twelve years-old. “Lionman,” because I was 6’3, 225 pure muscle and had a full beard by the time I started middle school. “Lincoln,” because I saw myself as a natural-born leader like Abraham Lincoln and I too thought slavery was a travesty.
I carried these principles with me to college athletics, specifically the baseball diamond. I was the NCAA’s first six-star pitching recruit in baseball history. I only threw two pitches–a hundred mile-per-hour knuckleball, and a changeup that literally stopped midair, waited for the batter to swing, and then continued on its road to Strikesville into the catcher’s mitt. I had a lot of real estate in Strikesville. I was thinking about running for mayor (in Strikesville). I hadn’t given up a hit since t-ball.
But then the Lemon Pepper Chicken Taco Darkness Fiasco went down and shit got mad whack real quick. We were undefeated two weeks into the season and I had already locked up the College America Baseball Player of the Year award with a 12-0 record, a -1.11 ERA, and 122 Ks. Two is a streak, but twelve is a dynasty, bro. We decided to do something special for the annual Spring Break trip. Coach Miller Lowlife usually took the team down to Cancun for a week, alternating between hang gliding trips, and strip club trips. But being that we were one win away already from going down as the greatest team in Florida University at Central Kendall’s history, we were like, nah, bruh, let’s spend a week in Cancun hang-gliding to strip clubs. And Coach Miller Lowlife was like, chyeah, that’s tight.
Shit was lit.
The Cancun air was just different from a hang glider. Sweet smell of gasoline and reality tv show perfume. Just me and the fellas cruising over a sea of sunsmoked chicks in their traffic light-colored bikinis glistening like light off the Caribbean waves.
We were straight chillin until Dingo Fuzz whipped out a box of takeout from his Speedo pocket and started straight chowing down on Lemon Pepper Chicken Tacos. And we were like, no, Dingo, no! That curiously affordable meal smells like deep-fried basement mold. But he was like, nah, bruh, all there is to eat in Cancun is booty and that’s not substantial for me, brah. And we were like, word, word. We were there for our fellow Chinchilla.
But the smell of the lemon mixed with the pepper, mixed with the chicken, mixed with the taco shell, made my eyes squint so tight that I thought I was gonna shoot lasers from them, ya dig? And I looked around at the brodies, and they all looked like someone had just unzipped their eyelids. And Coach Lowlife was like, we’re going down like my ex-wife on a Tuesday afternoon. And we all poured one out from our forties and started our nosedive into some hot chicks volleyball game on the beach. Swear we nuked the sand like the Challenger, brah. The team hang glider blew up like a scene from a Michael Bay classic. Shit was whack, bruh, real whack. Our baseball season was forever changed.
We lost a lot of good Chinchillas out there. Over half the team. The Cancun doctoros had to surgically remove the lemon pepper chicken taco from Coach Lowlife’s head. They told him he’d live the rest of his life with a strip of chicken strapped to his frontal lobe. At least that’s what I think they said in Spanish.
I survived (obvi), but I paid a price, man. God stashed both my arms in Heaven’s garage. I was salty, bro. I knew I could still pitch by spitting the ball out of my mouth (that’s what a spitball is, in case you noobs were wondering), but I didn’t have the same control or velocity that I was blessed with as a traditional arm-pitcher. Plus we’d lost Beano Singer, Skinny Fatz, Mushroom Kyle, Bebo Magnets, and Chalkboard Chico all in the crash (RIP, my Chinchilla dawgs)–all our top boppers. I could barely stand throwing less than straight gas on the mound, but if we lost a game while I was pitching then I was pretty sure my dick would shrivel up like a sundried tomato without the flavor and die, bro, swear.
We didn’t have a full team and the Wilmington State Waterboarders were coming to town in three days, led by DelinQuentin Klobermaster, who averaged three homeruns per nine innings.
I was straight smoking crystal weed in the dugout with my gadflies before practice one day. Gang shit, ya bish. And Coach Lowlife comes up to us and says that we’d be holding an impromptu open-tryout to rebuild the team and field a full roster for our next slugfest against the ‘Boarders.
At first I was like, nah, Coach, you’re blowing my high. And he was like, nah, Lincoln, go run a post. And I was like, nah, Coach, let me bring my bong. And he was like, bet, Lincoln, smoke a fat one for me.
So I ran, bro, bong hanging from my chest pocket, milky white smoke trailing behind me. I’d ordered a couple bionic arms online after the accident, but they sent me two right arms instead of a left and a right, and I had to send them back to the vendor and order another pair. I was checking the mail a couple times a day. But I was ready to go when Coach called my name. Only real ones know you don’t need arms to pitch. I’d just have to flash a little more of my baseball IQ, ya dig, hit the corners, change speeds, the whole nine. As I ran my post, I tried to remember all of the ‘Boarders weaknesses. The scouting reports on my opponents. Marlon Soup was afraid of spiders. Johnny Joan Rivers was a virgin. DelinQuentin Klobermaster’s grandmother hated him. I could exploit these weaknesses on the mound.
But I couldn’t control who we had out in the field, or who would be taking their swings in the batter’s box. Half of Dingo Fuzz’s face was burned off in the accident with the hot sauce. He walked around like Two Face from Batman after that spring break trip. But he was still one helluva bunter, and he was pretty much a lock to hit for the cycle every night (all bunt hits). The rest of the lineup was a total scratchy head emoji though, if ya know what I mean. That’s where the walk-ons came in.
When walk-ons finally showed up to practice for their tryout, the line wrapped around the campus. You woulda thought they were auditioning for American Idol or somethin. Shit was bonkers, bro. Everybody and their friggin professor at the school was trying out for the team! I’m talking line from horizon to horizon. Line like stitches across a the wide plane of a baseball. Undergrads, grads, alumni, staff, faculty, husbands, wives, babies, pets, plants, personal trainers, therapists, drug dealers–you name it.
The tryout itself was a total shitshow. Dudes were fielding grounders in Gucci suits. Dogs were taking popflies in the outfield. An environmental studies adjunct was taking samples of the field chalk up the third-base line. A cactus was catching for a toddler in the bullpen. The Chinchilla school mascot (who not under any circumstances was allowed to remove their costume and reveal their true identity to the Florida University at Central Kendall population) was taking batting practice from one of the maintenance guys who was on a smoke break from cleaning the school library toilets (best place to shit on campus, forreal). It was soon my turn to spit strikes to the Dean’s tabby cat Bosco. We had the kinetic disharmony of a battlefield. A collage of grunts and thwacks and pings and cleated feet chewing dirt. If that tryout was a song, it was a dubstep song, full of noise and people who were probably zooted out of their domes and the music really didn’t have enough guitar solos for me, bro. I had no idea what kind of team we’d have against the ‘Boarders, and I wasn’t looking all too forward to finding out.
We flocked to the lineup card after Coach Lowlife pinned it to the chain-link fence separating our dugout from the diamond.
Chinchilla Starting Lineup:
Dingo Fuzz 3B
Bruiser, the Chihuahua CF
Coach Lowlife DH
The ghost of Mushroom Kyle LF
Chilly Willy (the Florida University at Central Kendall’s official school mascot in full costume) 1B
Phil Woodby (would-be recording artist) C
An asexual sex doll 2B
A Republican on a motorcycle SS
A potted fern RF
Lionman Lincoln P
I knew my dudes Dingo and Mushroom Kyle would hold down the offense, but the rest of the lineup was lowkey sketch to be honest. Woodby had a nice voice and Bruiser had some decent wheels, at least. The Republican at least made a thoughtful suggestion of changing the name of our team from the Chinchillas to the White People. I don’t know, brah, I told him as he flexed the bald eagle tattoo on his bicep, I don’t think the Florida University at Central Kendall White People rolls off the tongue the way Chinchillas does. Chinchillas rolls off the tongue like a French kiss. I’ve never kissed a real chinchilla before. At least the Republican was thinking.
We watched the ‘Boarders take the field first while we sat in our dugout. The ‘Boarders, man, props. Those guys were real men. Even their equipment had facial hair. Their baseballs had grown mustaches and their bats had grown beards. Their helmets even had full-on mullets. Shit was bananas, bro.
Meanwhile, I decided to huddle the squad up to go over the squad goals for the squad mission (ya following me still?). Savage Mode activated, ya dig? We were all taking turns pumping each other up.
I don’t know who I am anymore, Dingo said holding the deadburnt side of his face in his hand.
“………..,” said the potted fern.
Goooo team! Chill Willy said, then did the splits.
Your potty is a blunderland, Phil Woodby sang.
The energy was wild, bro. Bro, swear I could feel it in my arms, hands, on some phantom limbs shit. I don’t know what it’s like for the unconfident people out there, but all I needed was a split second to remind myself that I was Lionman Lincoln, the Michael Jordan of baseball.
I took the damn mound like a lion takes its prey. Wilmington State should’ve changed their name from the Waterboarders to the Cardboarders ’cause those dudes were stiffs, man, forreal. I couldn’t wait to mow ’em down.
Balls in! Phil Woodby sang as if he had reached the climax of a gospel song. Coming down!
The kid had pipes, I had to give it to him.
The asexual sex doll caught Woodby’s throw to second in her O-shaped mouth and fell on top of the base, slapping the tag on the imaginary baserunner.
Play bwall! said the umpire, my father, Tomothy Walton Finesser IV.
I held the gameball in my mouth like a tiddie.
The ‘Boarders leadoff hitter was a kid named Greeny Sun. His arms were scrawny and long like bows. The kid had a face tat on his forehead of that Leonardo DiCaprio drawing where the naked guy is doing jumping jacks. I wasn’t really rockin with the design, but I’d never been a fan of art anyway.
Sun was one of those ADHD hitters who couldn’t hold still at the plate. He was bouncing his bat off his back shoulder and drawing circles with the tip of his front foot. He was chewing gum inside one cheek, and seeds inside the other.
I could hear muffled, incomprehensible singing from Phil Woodby behind his catcher’s mask. He had to have been calling for a spitball on the outside corner. I stepped into my windup, rocked my head back, and hocked the baseball from my mouth as hard as I could.
The ball landed about half way between the mound and home, before rolling the rest of the way towards the plate. Sun gave me a wink before lowering his bat and golfing the ball out of the dirt, blooping the ball just over Dingo’s head and into left field. It was the first hit I’d given up since t-ball.
You’d think I would’ve given up right there. Threw my cap on the ground and kicked a cloud of dirt. Flicked off the ump and tore my jersey in half (because I was muscular enough to do so).
But then I saw Chill Willy, holding Sun on first. I saw that look in his big eyes. A look of desire. Desire for winning. And that cheeky smile. He was always smiling. He was smiling like my hero George Washington must’ve been smiling when he signed the Declaration of Independence. If he could smile, I could smile.
A bloop single? No sweat. My Chinchillas needed me. I had a game to win.
Yo, in the seventh inning it got fooking lit.
We were in a daze til then though. DelinQuentin lined up a deuce of geyser balls that landed somewhere in the uncharted territory of the outfield. It was lowkey a lot to ask of a houseplant, a dog, and a ghost to catch flyballs. I was chipping in, in the outfield after spitting out my pitches. Thank the Man Above that we had the Republican though, because he could track a ball down like I’d never seen before. Though he didn’t have much formal baseball experience, he did have an admirable history of drunkcrashing his daughter’s softball games to hit on her coach and drink cocaine-seasoned protein shakes in the port-a-potty.
We were down 5-2 in the bottom of the seventh, with two down and two on. Chilly Willy was Milly Rocking in his lead off third. Phil Woodby was singing in the first baseman’s ear, uninterested in taking a less intimate lead further off the bag.
The asexual sex doll was at the dish. But it was a dish left cold.
My pube-breath father rang them up on a generous called third strike that almost landed in the dirt.
I don’t know why you look so surprised, my father said to the asexual sex doll, who was making the same O-face. You gonna walk back to the dugout now, or you just gonna lay there?
Fuck you lookin’ at like that? my father asked, shadowing over the asexual sex doll.
Stand up, my father said.
My father grabbed the asexual sex doll by the throat, and by then both benches cleared to come breakup the fight.
Don’t you ever give me that look in your life again! You know where I’m from? You know what I could do to you? my father screamed, shaking the doll by its throat.
Both teams set our differences aside and rushed to the aid of the asexual sex doll. The asexual sex doll never bothered nobody. All the asexual sex doll did its whole life was wear the same red shirt and blue pants that couldn’t be taken off, and held their mouth agape in circle-shaped wonder at the world in front of them. My father was a real piece of work, let me tell ya. It looked like I’d have to teach him another lesson by driving to his house after the game and stealing all the pineapples (damn, it’s the only way he’ll listen).
I’ll eat you alive, bitch! my father said as he was being dragged away from the field.
In the midst of breaking up the altercation, I thought about how the brodies came to the asexual sex doll’s rescue like that together. Heartwarming gang shit, ya bish. Shout out to the ‘Boarders too, man, they helped keep the peace. Yeah, sure, the score was 5-2 at the time, but both teams were winning in that moment, ya feel me?
Who said we needed an ump? Especially my square ass dad. He could go get a head start on watching cartoon porn naked eating Mom’s leftover chop suey out of a plastic container. Bro, my father is not it, bro.
Once things cooled down, the game was back on. Top of the eighth. Boogie Mullens up to bat. The kid couldn’t hit a car in rush-hour traffic. When I threw him a spitball, you bet he was gonna swallow it.
Bottom of the ninth. 5-3. Top of the order coming to bat. I’d kept my Chinchillas in the game, despite their whack ass fielding. We must’ve had twelve errors and still only gave up five runs. If we lost then I’d just say fuck it and go pro. The Red Sox offered me a three hundred million dollar contract before I lost my arms in the Fiasco, but they were still offering me two hundred and seventy-five million dollars without my arms. They knew Lionman was the best to ever play the game. Crocs guaranteed me a lifetime shoe deal as soon as I debuted in the League. Crocs are fire, bro, comfort-level unbelievable.
First up was Dingo.
I’ve learned that life is boring and meaningless, coincidental at best, Dingo told Lumpy Chuck, the ‘Boarders’ closer.
Lumpy Chuck yawned, raised his arms over his head, lifted his bent knee in the air, held it there, held it longer, then followed his motion through, floating a lollipop to the plate.
I am ugly, therefore I am nothing, Dingo said before first-pitch bunting, lining a base hit to right field. The ball had so much spin on it that it immediately popped out of the right fielder’s glove on impact. The dude basically said, here ya go, Fuzz, it’s second base. Our leadoff hitter with a leadoff bunt double. Couldn’t have been a better way to put the squeeze on ’em.
Next up was Bruiser, the Chihuahua. Lumpy Chuck threw four balls a foot over Bruiser’s head. The kid couldn’t even pitch to a dog. What a stiff.
First and second with Coach Lowlife up. Coach Lowlife hadn’t been quite the same guy since the Lemon Pepper Chicken Taco Darkness Fiasco. You’d think having taco meat stuck in your brain would give you an even dirtier mind, but, nah, Coach Lowlife went all straight edge and shit. He told us there’d be no more hang gliding trips on spring break. He told us that strip clubs were probably out of the equation too. He told us that life only got complicated when you tried to do more than one thing. And as long as Coach Lowlife was a baseball coach, he didn’t want to ruin it doing anything else.
Coach Lowlife could ball, man. He played at Florida University at Central Kendall too when he was in school. He had the Babe Ruth gig–hitting and pitching. He only played one semester though, he said. Baseball was getting in the way of the three frats he was in at the time. I’m positive he left the game better than he found it. A noble dude. I wish he was my dad.
A clearing had formed in the sky. God’s peephole. I bet he was up there picking at the plaque in his teeth with my dead arms like two toothpicks, reclining in his cloud chair, tuning in just in time for the end of a close game. Damn, I wish I had the channels to watch any baseball game in the world all day, at a moment’s notice. I wish my baseball streaming subscription was free.
I thought like, damn, what if the sky is a lens, a filtered lens, and God sees things below the clouds unclearly, and we see things above the clouds just as unclearly?
What happened next, I’d never seen in my life.
Coach Lowlife hit a routine grounder to third. It was an easy play to turn into a double play. But Bruiser was a blur, whizzing to second base, yapping all the way. The ‘Boarders third basemen stepped on third to get the force on Dingo, but nearly dropped the ball when he realized Bruiser had crossed the diamond to charge at him.
Bruiser, no! I screamed.
Bruiser never made it to second base. He sat under the ‘Boarders third baseman, waiting for the ball to be thrown.
God dammit! I said, throwing a clipboard across the dugout.
The ‘Boarders had gotten their double play.
I threw another clipboard.
But they weren’t done.
Coach Lowlife didn’t do much running in his older days. His knees were watery and swollen. His feet were blistered and dirty toenails were split. When he ran, he had the same blanket feeling of pain. He limped his way to first as the entire ‘Boarders team understood what was going to happen. It was like rain, how one raindrop followed another until shit started to downpour. Well, it was one ‘Boarder after the other that began their trot to the dugout, knowing that their third baseman was going to make the throw to end the game. And he did.
We had lost.
I’d never been on a losing team before. I had no idea what to expect, feeling what everyone else in the universe had experienced already.
I had a dream about it once–losing. I was in a steam room, purple and blue mist in the air. I was playing my agent in a game of ping pong with green velvet paddles on a table of sand and net made of black cobwebs. Old steaming men in towels watched from wooden benches. No one cheered or booed. The silence passed through me like water through a storm drain. Swear, bro, I never wanna feel that shit again.
But losing in real life didn’t quite feel the same. I think I was in shock. Maybe that’s what coaches were for–bracing the shock. Coach Lowlife was hunched over in the grass just beyond the bag at first. He swallowed big mouthfuls of air and put his hands on his knees. He looked like he was gonna pull his pants down and drop a dookie on the field.
Dudes started giving dap and shaking hands, doin all the good game shit. Except for Coach. The man was still catching his breath off by himself. He looked lonely as a duck in a frog pond. I went over to him to let him know about the transaction of me trading myself to the Boston Red Sox. I put my hand on his back.
I really wanted that one, kid, he told me, man to man. You’re probably trading yourself to Red Sox now, ain’t ye?
I mean, put yourself in my shoes, Coach. I gotta at least consider it, I said, though I was less sure than before.
Our home field looked like a monster truck show ran through it. There were dales in the outfield. Potholes in the infield. It was a minefield except instead of mines it was divets to sprain your ankle in. Past the outfield fence was the environmental studies department building. They had holes in their solar panels from all the homeruns. Lowkey a fried place to put an academic building, but most people at the school didn’t really believe in that climate change or global warming propaganda. What do I care about a glacier melting when I’m shotgunning a natty on Miami Beach (ya dig?)?
Unlike Coach Lowlife, I wasn’t vibing with the way I was about to leave the game. I knew for a fact that field and that pseudoscience building were better off before the Chinchillas came around. I was like, damn, man, we have a mess to clean up.
I helped Coach back to the dugout while the rest of the brodies mingled with the ‘Boarders. I wasn’t really with any of that so I split. It was time for my post-game ritual.
I pulled up to the campus library and hung out on the front steps under the big stone Chinchilla until my delivery guy came through with the takeout order I placed back in the eighth inning. The white bag was sweating grease by the time my dude got there. I was like, clutch, bro, appreciate it. And then I didn’t tip him.
I took my bag of dank food to the library family restroom where I could be alone and lock the door to preserve my privacy. I dropped my pants, then my johns. I unplugged my cup from under my sack and tossed it in the corner of the room under the diaper changing station. The toilet seat was as cold as a leftover protein shake from the fridge. When my ass hit the seat, it was like a warm front and a cold front getting together to create a storm.
Bro, it was lit.
Unrolling that bag of tacos was like the first taste of water after a hot day on the diamond. Just crisp. Inside was a box, and inside that box was three perfectly arranged lemon pepper chicken tacos.