Orlando Garcia, the Dual Blade

By
Updated: September 26, 2019

CLUNK! A hit.

CRASH! Another hit.

THUD! Oops, weak contact, groundball and probably an out.

Orlando Garcia was batting in the gym. The smartphone screen beside his gym bag had the time at 11:18PM. It was late but it was also the only time he got to practice his batting. If there’s one thing Orlando ever sought for in his life, it’s “chance”. He was the last man in the training center and that was only possible by taking his chance to befriend Charles, the Hartford Harpoon backstage worker. Charles trusted Orlando enough to give him the key if he were to go back home earlier than him.

The two of them went way back, back when Hartford Harpoon was the Omaha Cyclones. Orlando Garcia was ever a gym rat, and the man put in extra work every day back in Cheyenne Frontier, when he was just a lowly minor leaguer working up the rank. Charles appeared to have the same career trajectory as him. The man was a maintenance technician for Cheyenne Frontier, who volunteered and worked the later shift. At that time, Charles just had a baby and he was happy to take care of his beloved newborn at midnight so his wife could get some peaceful rest. Now, he kept the same shift as he had gotten used to it. Both of them were workaholic – a likely reason as to why they became friends – but Garcia has always admired the man’s dedication to the family.

It was something Orlando could not do. The pitcher was not close to his family ever since the late phase of his adolescence. The man was addicted to baseball and has dedicated his life to that — and only that. Orlando might not be an economist, or a physicist with deep knowledge of Newton’s Laws, but he understood the concept of trade-off. He was more than willing to sacrifice some aspects of his life to become a better baseball player. Ever since his high school days, the man gave more time to training than anything else. His social life was the first thing he let go, and thus he did not have a lot of friends. Most of his friends were his high school and college teammates and many of them were lost in time as their life decision pulled them apart. Of course, the man understood that and held no grudge to his friends — after all, his choices were part of the causes. He was happy to check Facebook and saw them having a great family, off to a good career, found passion in something and so on. It was through them he understood he has no time for family or anything with the path he is currently walking on. He appreciated all the chats he had with Charles throughout the years. The man taught him the importance of family and made him realize how dedication and time were important to a father. Orlando was a stubborn man, but he meant well. If he were to start a family, he wanted to be a good father, not just have a family to have a family as if just to please the society. It was a plan that he had held off for now.

The lonely road he walked was filled with fogs; “passion” and “beliefs” were the two lights that drove him forward. The man has to practice batting in the off-hours because no one ever allowed him to do so. Ever since his high school days, he had asked his coaches for a chance in the batter’s box. The answer has always been the same: “You are a great pitcher. Don’t worry about batting, just focus on being the best pitcher ever”. No one trusted his bat, no one found any need for his bat. The naive, young Orlando once believed that if he could be the best pitcher ever, he would finally had the chance to hit. He chuckled at that thought right now. Oh, how naive was he? Though he appreciated how much harder he trained because of that.

Still, the man was as resolute as ever, and he was doing everything he could for that one chance to get a plate appearance someday, somewhere. That day did not come in his early A days despite him outbatting many of his teammates in the batting cage in some casual off-day bets. One time, his coaches were there, but that just wasn’t enough. He still remembered how the coaches rejected his request, very vividly and word-by-word. “Sorry son, but this ain’t the 20th century. Specialization is the norm now. Pitchers will always be pitchers. If you want to get into the big league, you have to focus on pitching. Forget about batting. It isn’t worth anything for a pitcher. Most of the big leagues have DH now and you are already here in the biggest league ever, so forget about batting.”

That did not stop Orlando Garcia right on the path. Whenever there’s a blockade on the road, he rammed through it. With some help from his agent and close friend, he roamed the Earth in every off-season, searching for an amateur league to play for. It certainly wasn’t easy getting into a team as an unknown foreigner, and he did want to pitch either. He wanted to be a full-time batter, to understand the game from a batter’s perspective. This was just another type of off-hour training for him. All his batting practice were off-hours, as the man has not been allowed to do that in official training sessions. It made him appreciate every chance even more. Luckily for him, most amateur leagues were fine with a player of his caliber, even if it’s just the hitting. If he was ever unlucky, a little money under the table and some negotiation from his agent always solved the problem for him. A single team willing to bat an eye on that was not too hard to find.

Those were fun times for the man, and the only chance he could be the other half of the man he ever wanted to be — a manga character in Shohei Ohtani. Oh, Orlando was a closet otaku. He never had people to share that side of his interest with, as his close friends were mostly typical jocks who were interested mainly in hot “gals” and bodybuilding. Some of them were into superheroes, as he did too, but not so much for the Eastern counterpart. Shohei Ohtani was the main character of Showtime, a still ongoing manga about a “nitoryu” – dual blade, which is just a more fancy way of saying “two-way” – baseball player and his journey to the show. For a Japanese manga, he was expecting a more epic name for the biggest league than “Major League Baseball”. Like come on, it’s a fictional, alternative Earth, and they decided to go with a name like that? Might as well just stick to Planetary Extreme Baseball Alliance. Either way, Orlando started reading Showtime by the time he was 13 and that alone was enough to inspire him to become a dual blade. Sometimes he chuckled at the thought of him being inspired by another manga series, would change his life? Like him becoming a detective if he were into Conan — the Detective, not the Barbarian.

Every time Orlando got to a new team, he always asked his coaches for a chance at the plate. They were all denied, as no minor league coach wanted to get screwed out of the job because they let a pitcher bat and then he got injured. Job security is obviously more important than fulfilling the naive dream of a pitcher. Orlando was drafted out of high school in round 2 in the draft of 2019 at the tail end of the team’s stint as the Omaha Cyclones. The Hartford Harpoon rebranding came just two years later. As a highly regarded prospect and a potential big league starter, the minor coaches simply weren’t going to risk anything on him. A high school prospect like him needed every bit of active time in the first few years to get going, to get their body and mind ready for the big league grind.

That was the beginning of his 10 years grind that saw him without a single at-bat in PEBA. As resolute as he was, he could not help but accept that maybe batting at an amateur league was as close as he could get to becoming Shohei Ohtani, and ultimately, real life was just too different from fiction. That statement could be true, but through a lucky(or unlucky for Canton) chain of events, he got his wish on 12 May of 2029. It was an away game against the Kalamazoo Badgers and it was his off day so he was just chilling at the bullpen…until suddenly he was called by the coach. The coach might just be drunk or a little high that day, or maybe there was no appropriate sub for the game, as he was called to play CF. Center-fricking-field, on a tie 4-3 game and he was assigned to that as early as the 6th innings. As weird as that was for a request, he fielded in. He knew the outfield quite well, as that was his position in all the amateur leagues he played in. It’s also the position his manga hero had for fielding in the earlier chapters of the series. The player level was different, but he should be able to handle a few innings in the outfield.

Fielding was fine, but what’s more important for him was the plate appearance. Man, he was shaking when he was on deck, exactly like the time he was on the pitchier’s mound on his first PEBA start. It was a whirl of emotion — fear and excitement. Before he could get a good grip on his emotion, he was already up. 2 outs, bases empty. No one had any expectations of him. For everyone else, it was just a pitcher taking the final out of the inning; for Orlando Garcia, it was his only chance to prove the world wrong and to feel like Shohei Ohtani. It was the only chance to use his off-hand blade in the big league.

The pitcher, Alfonso Villalobos, clearly had the same mindset, as he just threw a fastball straight down the middle, or slightly below that. A swing and a miss, as everyone expected, even the commentators.

Alright, he’s underestimating you, gonna take advantage of that, Orlando.

The second pitch came not long after that. Another fastball, this one better placed to the lower part of the plate. But Orlando was more than ready this time, he expected a fastball and he got what he wanted. POP!!! A clear hit, through the gap between 1st and 2nd baseman, and he secured first base easily with his heart pounding mad. After the game, he was acting like that craziest fan of himself. He checked the re-run of the broadcast, checked Reddit and found all the articles of that game to what the world said about him. Sadly for the young man, most people cared more about his teammate who homered after him and other parts of the game than “eh, a pitcher getting a single for a lucky 1.000”. Still, the few that he read and especially the announcers’ shocking reaction were enough to keep him happy.

What made him unhappy was the news that he was traded a week later. The May 12 game just gave him so much hope, like the single light he saw driving down his path of lonely, stubbornness over these many years, yet the road turned pitch black once again, as he was traded back to his old team Hartford Harpoon. Shit, he was so depressed that he did not even ask Harpoon about giving him chance at batting. Surprising to him though, he was approached by the Harpoon manager when he was resting on the locker room after a pitching session.

“Hey Orlando, I have asked the coaches to put you into some batting practice. You will be batting as DH on occasions.” Sim said before turning to leave right after that.

Orlando was slow to react. Wait what, he’s hitting?! He quickly stopped the Malaysian before he was too far off. “Err, I can field to–“

“You shouldn’t.” Sim was quick to turn and cut him off. “We need you to pitch. I appreciate your enthusiasm but it’s probably too late in your career to get you comfortable on the outfield. I heard you like to bat so I am letting you do that. Can’t promise that next season, but you should be fine this season. Just enjoy…and try to not get hurt.” Sim turned and left the room, leaving Orlando to contemplate the situation on his own.

He could not express his gratitude through words to the GM as he never met the man again but he was ever grateful for that. After a few weeks of part-time batting training with his new teammates, he got another chance at the plate on June 5 and this marked his first game started as a batter. It was a huge game for him and the Harpoon as they won against the visiting Havana Leones.

The honeymoon period did not last long for Garcia. Once the teams realized he’s not just there as an entertainment act and he could actually hit the ball, they started to go serious on him. Garcia was definitely happy to see himself being treated as another batter in the big league, an equal to his batting peers, but his result certainly wasn’t so happy about that. He soon found himself below the .200 line and hovered around it ever since then.

“You don’t take breaks, do you?” Orlando did not really need to turn to check out who it is. It’s Charles, the only one who stayed as late as him.

“I do, but I am probably staying for another hour here.” Orlando has no need of a break for now, but he took it out of respect for Charles. As asocial as he was, he really liked Charles and giving the man a few minutes of his time was a thing he’s willing to do every night. “Only a few weeks to go for the season, I just want to be ready for every remaining game.” He continued as he went to turn off the autofeeder.

“Man, if only I have your energy. I can’t stay for too long today,” Charles said as he put the keys by the side of Garcia’s bag. “My wife’s working graveyard shift today so I need to go back soon to take her.”

“Yeah, I get that.” Orlando said as he leaned on the nearby wall, not a fan of sitting in between his training.

“You have been doing a lot of late night batting lately. I thought the manager had you joining the batters in regular practice?” Charles asked as he looked at his phone, keeping a clear tab on the time.

“Have you seen my batting stats? I am horrible, so much so that I am surprised I still get to bat on occasion. I need the extra practice.”

“Don’t be so hard on yourself. You are supposed to pitch, other pitchers probably can’t hit like you either. Or a lot of the minor league batters for that matter.” Charles replied, still working on his phone. “You seem adamant on wanting to bat though, there must be a reason.” Charles looked at Orlando this time; it was a serious question.

Orlando sighed, leaning more heavily onto the wall. “When I was younger, my goal is to become a two-way player. I think that represents the most complete baseball player and I want to be one. But now, I don’t know.” He lifted his bat up to look at it, touched it with the other hand. “I guess…it’s more of a personal goal now. Not a career goal, but personal. I don’t have a lot of hobbies so, maybe I see this as a replacement?”

Orlando was not the same man he was years ago. Reality set in and he understood it was probably too late for him to truly be a two-way player. He saw pitcher as his career goal now, he wanted to improve that every year because it was his job and he always compared himself to the many pitchers of the league. He read the statsheets, he studied the numbers, all to make sure he could be the best damn pitcher he could be. But batting? Nah, he did not care to compare himself to the others. He just wanted to put on a performance he is personally happy about. For someone who had spent way too much time on his work, batting was his leisure. It might be crazy for other people, to consider something along his line of work a “hobby”, but it worked for him. Or perhaps he was just boring and has no other interest. There’s that. He still spent plenty of time on manga though.

“It’s weird but it makes me happy.” He added after a few seconds of silence.

“Whatever works for you, my friend. I got to go now, see you tomorrow, and get some rest, the team needs you.” The technician tapped Orlando’s shoulder a few times before taking his leave through the door. It’s not the first time he was worried about the young man overworking himself, but at the same time, he knew Orlando would not change.

Orlando did not answer. They understood each other too well to know one was not needed. The two-way aspirant turned the pitching machine on again. This could be the only season he would be batting and judging by his frequency, there might only be one to two more games for him. He has to be prepared, for the finale of his dual blade dream.

CLUNK! A hit.

CRASH! Another hit.