Smoke and dust scatter as my time machine hovers to a stop. It lands squarely on the outfield grass, turning its jet propellers to the off position just in time to avoid scorching the pristine grass. The conically shaped ship opens a vertical door downward upon its bottom hinges, presenting a ramp extending to the grass. Upon this ramp I carefully make my exit, narrowly avoiding the land mines of half-chewed gum inconspicuously planted by the bullpen.
The setting is Municipal Stadium in San Jose, home of the San Jose Giants. I spot myself near the first-base dugout, conversing and laughing while a Latino catcher dances. A cigar is in my hand, and my virgin lungs rebelliously cough as I take the first puff from the cancer stick. Another one of my teammates roams the bleachers half-naked, dancing to the DHT version of “Listen To Your Heart.” Yet another is perched against the fence, to no avail hitting on our bullpen catcher’s mom.
A beep from my new Epoch Watch alerts me that it is September 19, 2005. My first full season in professional baseball, we have just won the California League championship, inducing an entire night of on-the-field revelry. Present at this scene is a multitude of talented players: Ryan Sadowski, Geno Espineli, Justin Hedrick, Kevin Frandsen, Nate Schierholtz, Jon Coutlangus, Jesse Floyd, Joe Bateman, Jon Bowker, Travis Ishikawa, Brian Buscher, and many others. They encompass some of my best friends in the Giants organization.
Of all the images captured that night, one indelibly secures itself in my memory: half-kid, half-man, hat backwards, jersey removed, baseball pants still on, surrounded by teammates, smile on my face. The photo comes to life and various emotions flood my nervous system as I gaze at the scene.
After a few moments, I turn my back on this sight. I hop back in my machine and fast-forward to the present. To my surprise, I land in the exact same spot.
It is now spring and the hills are, like my new teammates, fresh and green. The cast of characters drastically changes: Madison Bumgarner, 19 years old, Tim Alderson, 20 years old, Nick Noonan, 19 years old, Angel Villalona, 18 years old, Buster Posey, 22 years old, and many others too young to even sip a celebratory beverage. Only one character statically remains in the scene, as I find myself again near the dugout, yet alterations have transpired upon my countenance as well. Hat forwards, a slightly grimmer look on my face with barely discernible wrinkles forming below my eyes: a more grown-up version of myself is now present.
“Perhaps my time machine has taken me to the wrong place,” I reason. “I should be a short distance away in Fresno, not in San Jose.” I give the machine a kick and glance at my Epoch Watch, yet it resolutely remains in Present mode. I press a button, and a short summary of the current situation spews from my Life Log: “Stuck in extended spring training, Garrett wasn’t earning a paycheck and was tired of playing in intrasquad games. He needed the money and yearned to again be playing the game that he loved. When offered, he immediately accepted an assignment to San Jose with the hopes that it would be temporary, just as his stay in extended spring was temporary.” I could swear that my time machine chuckled. I felt like slapping the omniscient machine in the face.
From the entrance to my machine, I gaze at my new teammates for a few moments. Immensely talented, they rank as the top prospects in the organization and among the top prospects in all of the minor leagues. They have smiles on their faces. They are excited when they play the game and they pursue their dream with a fervor to which I’m unaccustomed. Everything is a competition: jumping rope, playing cards, eating—every triviality becomes an opportunity to prove ones manhood.
Yet smiles do not continually inhabit their faces. Stress, perhaps for the first time in their lives, also shows itself, on some more than others. With great talent comes great expectations, both internally and externally, and these high expectations weigh upon them. In their minds, the whole world is watching them, waiting to see what they will or won’t do next.
A sudden urge overcomes me, and I leave my time machine behind, allowing it to drift off on its own, and climb into my own body. Immediately I feel like a 40 year old walking into a college bar, and subsequently become the pitching version of Crash Davis.
Assuming this veteran role, I begin passing on years of knowledge to my young teammates, falling into the trap of beginning every tale with, “When I was here in 2005′¦” Before long, I notice reciprocity in learning. Their energy and enthusiasm become contagious, and suddenly I have more energy. Without knowing, a greater passion for the game had left me since I last played in these confines, and slowly it begins to rekindle itself.
Sometime soon I hope to see dust again scatter as my time machine cautiously hovers to the ground to pick me up. When it does, I hope to again gaze at the field one last time, seeing a being more closely resembling the 2005 version of myself, happily displaying a smile on my face. The door will then close, storing my re-charged being safely on board before moving onward to another spot in the baseball universe.