I left you with a significant cliff-hanger last week. Now you’ll get a glimpse into how Joe is going to work with his new ability to see how changing the past affects the future.
I hope you enjoy this installment of Extra Innings. It’s a fun story to write.
If you want to read the previous parts of this story, please click on these links:
Joe immediately woke up. He felt a cold breeze and a slight cool mist coating his face. He looked around to see a capacity crowd at Maxwell. His brother Mike was next to him. The Tidewater Tides were in the field.
Joe felt a bit disoriented, but not quite as much as the first time. He expected that his time travel might happen this time, but it was still a bit of a shock to go from being alone in his living room to waking up in the middle of a cheering crowd of 25,000.
The game was a pitching duel. The crowd seemed to rise and fall in intensity with each pitch. Joe did not feel tension for the close game as he knew how it would end. The tension he felt was due to why he was here and what he was here to do.
It was now the fifth inning of a game tied at two runs. Joe had three and a half innings to find the subject of this visit and test his theory.
He didn’t know the boy the first time he attended this game, but he did back in the present of 2013.
Tommy Hamilton was the son of blue collar parents. His dad worked at the auto parts plant with Joe’s brother Mike. His mom worked as a cashier in the Wegmans grocery store. Tommy would go on to be a bag boy at the same Wegmans, but in 2008, he was just an eleven year old boy who was at a baseball game with his dad.
Mike had given Tommy’s dad tickets to the game. Joe and Mike had the seats right next to them with Tommy in between his dad and Mike. All Joe had to do was wait and then, at just the right moment, change what was going to occur in the eighth inning and then go back to the present to see if there were any effects.
Tommy was a good looking kid. Both his mom and dad were very attractive. Their attractiveness, however, did not translate into success. It translated into a high school romance that ended in a pregnancy in their senior year and a marriage right after graduation. Tommy was their first child, they also had a daughter that, according to Joe’s recollection, would be about 6 in this 2008 world. Both children had the best features of their parents. They were truly beautiful children.
Joe watched the game, feigning interest in what was happening and making small talk with his brother. This was a slow period in Joe’s life, so there wasn’t anything uncomfortable in their conversation. Most of it was centered on the game itself and the weather which was threatening to turn into a downpour at any moment. Joe knew that it wouldn’t until after the game. He was glad, however, for the warm shirt and windbreaker that he had worn.
The fifth inning ended and the Chiefs took the field. Their pitcher, a native of the Dominican Republic, was destined for the major leagues and stardom the following year. He had pitched a nearly flawless game with the two runs coming off of a sole long hit and an error that scored the runner and the batter on subsequent plays. The top of the inning ended quickly with three batters up to bat and three batters out. The Chiefs had the bottom of their order up and struggled through the bottom of the sixth with no luck.
The next inning was also uneventful in terms of the game. In terms of Joe’s thinking, he had an idea. When the third out in the top of the seventh occurred, Joe excused himself across the row of seats to the aisle.
“Where are you off to?” Mike asked.
“I’m going to hit the men’s room. I’ll be back”.
One of the things Joe loved about Maxwell Stadium was the official Major League Baseball merchandise that was for sale. It was officially licensed merchandise of high quality and matching high prices. Joe remembered that there was a section of the store that had official major league helmets in youth sizes. These were not plastic knock-off helmets, but actual protective gear that kids could wear to play little league baseball. Joe found his way to a Toronto Blue Jays helmet that looked to be about Tommy’s size. He didn’t flinch at the eighty dollar price and went to the counter to pay for it.
Joe reached for his wallet and his heart sank when he looked at his bank debit card. Even though he had gone to the past, the dates on his credit card did not. The card had an expiration date in 2015. If the souvenir store cashier ran it through, it would likely kick out as an invalid card as he had received it after the year in which he currently was using it.
Luckily, he had five twenty dollar bills tucked away in his wallet as well. He would have to remember this in the future. Luckily the cash had been issued before 2008. He would have to remember this information moving forward if there were future adventures. He handed the cashier the twenties and then headed back to his seat. As he crossed the row back to his seat, he handed the helmet to Tommy.
“What’s this Mr. Joe?”
“I got you a little souvenir. This is a really big game and you should have something to help you remember it.”
“Thanks. It’s really nice.”
“Joe, those things are expensive, you didn’t need to give him something like that,” Tommy’s dad said with more than a bit of suspicion in his voice.
“He can use it to play ball. It’s rated for Little League safety standards”.
“Still, they’re expensive.”
“It was marked down a lot because it’s the end of the season and Toronto is changing it’s logo next year,” Joe lied. Major League Baseball never marked the price of anything down.
“OK. Well thanks,” Tommy’s dad said, only slightly less suspicious.
Tommy looked at the helmet proudly and then put it on his head. Joe settled back into his seat. The seventh inning ended.
Joe knew that the first batter at the top of the eighth inning would strike out. It was the second batter, who would swing at the second pitch, that would determine the outcome of Joe’s experiment.
Joe was tense. As the first pitch of the top of the eighth inning was thrown, He glanced over at Tommy to see if he was still wearing the helmet. He was. The pitcher was winding up to hurl another fastball at the Tidewater batter. A pitch at 98 miles per hour can come off of a wooden bat at the speed of over 100 miles per hour. Joe’s family had seats in the third row behind the third base line for over 30 years. Foul balls were always a hazard, but rarely came to the third base side unless a right handed batter’s swing was way out in front of the pitch. A left handed batter was another matter. Tidewater’s second hitter in the eighth inning happened to be the team’s hard hitting left handed first baseman. He had watched the first pitch cross the plate and then got back into his stance waiting for the second pitch. It was all a blur, just like it had been the first time Joe was at this game. The pitch was thrown, the batter swung, and a white projectile came off the bat and headed right for Joe’s row. Time seemed to slow down. Joe felt a sense of deja vu along with a sense of calm. He watched as the ball headed right for Tommy Hamilton. It came much too fast for any human reflex to prevent or deflect the ball. Just as it had the first time, the ball struck Tommy Hamilton on the top of the head. Unlike the first time, Tommy did not fall to the ground and require medical attention. The helmet that Joe bought for him protected his skull from the ball causing it to bounce backwards three rows into the lap of an elderly man. Tommy was stunned from the impact, but otherwise fine. The elderly man saw what happened and reached up and gave the ball to Tommy. Tommy proudly held it up and the fans within their section politely clapped for him.
This was much different than the original iteration of the game, things did not go as well for Tommy. He was struck directly in the skull causing a concussion and a skull fracture. There were also long-term effects that would follow Tommy. Joe wanted to determine if those effects were eliminated by his actions during this second chance that he brought about.
The Chiefs ended up winning this game in extra innings and Joe was able to relax after the eighth inning and enjoyed reliving the moment. After the game, he said his goodbyes to the Hamiltons and to the five year younger version of his brother Mike and headed for his current apartment which he was already residing in at this point in time. He entered his apartment, which was much the same as it was in 2013 minus one key piece of furniture in his living room. He went into his bedroom, changed into pajamas, and laid down for an anticipatory sleep. He had some investigation to do back in 2013. The results would determine his next steps.