Video game numbers. This is a turn of phrase you see employed by sports journalists often anytime a player is on a particularly hot streak. Their performance exceeds the expectations of our living world and exists in a realm of superhuman ability. However, because we are bound by the constricting natural laws of the world we live in, the athletes eventually and inevitably stop performing.
But what if they didn’t?
Elvis hadn’t slept a solid night since he washed ashore. That could have been due to the unfamiliar stillness that made him restless, or the unnerving silence of the night – unpierced by crashing waves.
He kept grasping for change, chasing anything that could make him half as comfortable as he was for the first eighteen years of his life. This world didn’t make sense to him, no matter how hard he tried. Things were just different on land.
His conversations with teammates were quickly alienating, due to how frequently things turned aquatic. He often approached teammates as they rested in the hot tub after batting practice and tried to make small talk by asking how quickly they pruned.
“It’s a holdover from our ancestors of the Sea,” he’d say, making piercing and constant eye contact. “They needed to be able to grip when things got slippery.”
No one liked his efforts.
The only thing that was the same here was the feeling playing ball gave him. He’d have to let building a missed lifetime of socialization come naturally. The one thing he could focus on and see improvement immediately was training.
He maintained a strict training regimen, focusing on all aspects of his game to transform himself into the kind of player the Diamondbacks would want on their major league roster.. To make himself a player teammates had to pay attention to at the hot tub. A player that fit in.
Any off time was spent in the weird grey void they made all the players train in.
And it paid off. Nearly immediately. Over the course of their first 10 games, Elvis lead the Jackson Generals in every offensive category possible. His batting average was over .500, meaning he was getting a hit more than half of the time. An unsustainable pace, to be sure, but a hell of a beginning to a season and career.
The way the game chugs along through series, it’s sometimes hard to track how your team’s standing is. Thankfully, helpful statistics and standings are displayed on loading screens to remind you the picture of the pennant race.
One of these very load screens puts everything into perspective for me. A chill runs down my spine.
Despite Superbone’s extraordinary effort, his inhuman performance, the Jackson Generals were 1-9 to start the season.
Things seem bleak immediately. Part of defining a player’s career is entrenching them in dynasties of winning teams. Jackie Robinson had the Dodgers, Babe Ruth the Yankees. No one gave a shit about you if you broke records on a team that no one watched.
How was Elvis to distinguish himself? Was this a fool’s errand? Are the first ten games of a career that will span thousands really that indicative of anything?
Elvis had only one way to ponder all of these things.
He’d have to be good enough to make a losing team winning. In a game that was practically scientifically designed to favor and honor the team over the individual, he’d have to drag this team kicking and screaming into being good – single handed.
They wouldn’t be able to ignore that.
Immediately after the first ten games are over, Elvis is called into the manager’s office. Are they calling him up already? Was he free of this purgatory after only having to dip a toe?
Of course not. Greg, the manager who kept a low, even tone and an equally muted office decor, sat Elvis down and immediately got to business: they wanted to move him to shortstop. They wanted to see how he would do in a different position.
From the trapped glint in his eyes, I can tell Elvis is overwhelmed at this decision. He had been trying non-stop for the last few months to enact change in his own life and stand out. And now, so soon, someone was coming along and changing his course.
Elvis takes a moment to respond to Greg, so they sit in silence while making direct eye contact, which is a pretty accurate simulation of two emotionally stunted men with baseball careers, so I relish the moment.
If they wanted to see him at short, at least they wanted to see him somewhere. There were eyes on him.
He just had to give them a show.