HOLLYWOOD, CA – Miami Marlin starting pitcher Tom Koehler’s Adam’s Apple quivered and bobbed as the Mets’ new clean-up hitter ambled to the batter’s box in the bright sunshiny day. The walk-on music: Clint Eastwood by Gorillaz. Some intern’s idea up in production, and while Rhubarb thought it a little on-the-nose (if they wanted the cool Ennio Morricone he would’ve gone with the real thing, something like Ecstasy of Gold, right when the broad starts singing), but these Mets front office people so far seemed to be philistines, and anyway he was just a cat. The rest of the team had taken to rubbing him for good luck as they ran up the clubhouse tunnel to the field–somebody had seen it in some old movie–and wouldn’t you know these bums started winning ballgames. Now he found himself on the verge of unofficial mascot territory, the kind they’ll start featuring in jumbo-tron rally cries like that poor monkey in Anaheim. Thank goodness Korak hasn’t seen that yet, Rhubarb mused to himself, or he may not stop destroying stuff until he got through Disneyland.
Still, the new status as “team cat” wasn’t all bad, as it afforded Rhubarb nearly free run of the place…except when Fred Wilpon caught him in his office as he arrived one afternoon with an orange tan and a tropical shirt, whispering into his cell phone what sounded like “Jah mon” to the party on the other end. Rhubarb figured he was hearing things when Wilpon spied the cat on his file cabinet and chased him out by waving his MLB Finance Committee bookbag at him. Some people just keep getting jobs, Rhubarb thought, like Tim Tebow.
Rhubarb likes to sit on his perch in one of the batting helmet nooks in the dugout during games, where he watches the action as Korak digs his bare feet into the dirt by home plate, grinding out whole new holes each of the hitters would have to step in the rest of the day. Koehler gulped back his fear, went into his wind-up, and fired a hard fastball right at Korak’s head. The big ape simple reached up and caught it with his fingers, smelled it, and handed it to the umpire, who paused and then offered the gorilla first base, since he was technically hit by the pitch. Korak refuses, and nobody dares argue with him. Koehler wants nothing to do with him now, and tries to throw it outside, but Korak flips the bat out there and rockets a foul ball that peels up, over the stands, and hits a beer cart up on the mezzanine. All the taps start spraying the delicious suds in the air in a beer fountain, and fans begin dancing around it like pagans on a harvest moon.
The third pitch is again inside, this time tailing in right on his hands, but with a quick torque he catches the ball out in front of the plate, right off the handle. The Canadian Maple bat is the hardest natural wood bat known to man. This one explodes into splinters, kindling, and dust. The ball rockets down the line and the CLANG of the foul pole reverberates through the building. It sways and wobbles as Korak lumbers around the bases, knuckles and feet, until he steps on home plate…
…and howls in pain. Rhubarbs knows there’s only one thing that makes Korak shriek like that, and it’s not good. He’s stepped on one of the splinters from his bat. Korak is going on the fifteen day DL.Tune in tomorrow for our Big Friendly Ape, Fake Sandy Alderson/Big Al Sternberg.