He’s a punishing, promising young Met. A righty clutch hitter; noble, interesting… not that human.
PORT ST. LUCIE, FL – The secret cannot be held much longer. Questions are being asked, and sooner rather than later the New York Mets management will have to produce a statement. It’s been exactly thirty years since the organization had a prospect this unconventional and exciting.
Eyebrows were raised around the practice fields last week when new hitting coach Kevin Long strolled out to the forty-odd players doing their warm-ups, and motioned prospects Noah Syndergaard and Rafael Montero to quit yanking their stretchy bands and follow him. The two young pitchers were led out to the north end of the complex where a large, tarp-covered structure stood. The rumor was that the Wilpons had set up a meth lab back there to help meet payroll, and the occasional explosion and loud roar heard across the complex did not dissuade this notion. Indeed, approaching with some trepidation, Syndergaard and Montero were not comforted to hear Long talk about a “delicate situation” with the team as he stepped up and pulled aside the tarp and nodded for them to enter.
They found themselves in the middle of a long, reinforced cage. At the far end stood one of those pill-box observation booths with reinforced glass, sort of like what the scientists at Los Alamos huddled behind when witnessing the first atomic tests. They could just make out the shadowy form of the Real Sandy Alderson staring out at them. In front of them was a bullpen mound, and at the other end was a regular old batting cage. And a 400-pound gorilla, gripping a bat. And behind the plate a cat, calmly licking its paw:
“Meet Korak. I need you guys to pitch to him your full repertoires, and don’t go easy.” Asked if the feline shouldn’t get out of there first, Long gave a chuckle. “Don’t worry about Rhubarb.” Syndergaard shrugged, took the mound as Long scurried back behind the booth and Montero quickly rushed to catch up. Korak barely seemed to notice as the big right-hander went into his wind-up, uncorking a 95-mph four-seamer right at the cat’s head. Rhubarb never flinched as Korak flicked a giant wrist and the ball vanished in a blur so fast, it had ricocheted four times off the structure’s walls before the sound waves reached Syndergaard’s ears and he hit the deck as the ball continued to fire about like a Higgs Bosun.
The Met front office is reluctant to talk about Korak. The fact is, they know very little about him. There are strange rumors. A childhood in the circus. A leader of guerrilla fighters in the African jungle. The friend of a wealthy, mysterious recluse and former Meet The Matts writer. Even some far-fetched lunacy about playing linebacker for the New York Giants during the 2011 season, thwarting an evil plan by Commissioner Roger Goodell, only to mysteriously retire and vanish from public eye with only the occasional Christmas episode or Oscars appearance over the years. Sounds like the stoned ramblings of an overworked, underpaid hack… but, somewhat suspiciously, all records of those stories seem to have been mysteriously removed from the archives.
No matter his past, the Mets are now concentrating on his future. Real Sandy Alderson sees a big, hairy, toolsy player whose salary won’t count against the banana cap. There is of course the question of whether a gorilla can even play in Major League Baseball. The NFL has no comment on why they implemented the specific “Human Players Only” rule in the 2012 meetings, but so far MLB has no such clause in their rule book.
Rob Manfred was contacted by Meet The Matts in his New York office. Baseball’s new commissioner was asked if he heard anything about the Mets’ new phenomenon. No, he had not. Did the name Korak mean anything to him? After a long pause, he would neither confirm or deny any such knowledge. When told that Korak is a 400-pound Silverback Gorilla who could hit a baseball through a brick wall, he paused even longer before answering “I’ll have to see it to believe it.”
Perhaps we all do, Rob. Perhaps we all do.