Angell in the Outfield
Neifi! in Thunder
I am not sure that I have ever seen anything like this in all my years of covering baseball -- although I might have missed it, considering the fact that I am also the fiction editor of the New Yorker, and therefore get to see Jhumpa Lahiri on a regular basis.
Hubba hubba, huh? Sometimes I love my job.
It is a fine night for baseball at Miller Park, that pseudo-cathedral sitting sedately alongside I-94 East in southwestern Wisconsin; as long as the roof is closed, that is. I might have been a little under the weather, after a long day's journey into divebars with my old friend Bob Uecker, but the weather itself was under...well, itself. I do not often leave my little island, except for journeys like this, which I undertake a few times a year to remind myself that there is a whole world out there, somewhere. And this world is cold. Out there, beyond the infamously wonky retractable roof, it is snowing.
I have come here to see Neifi Perez. He is the very prototype of the "all field, no hit" utility infielder, a short-stacked pitbull of a man who might as well be holding a toothpick when he is at bat, for all the good it does him. But this year is different. This year, and more if you count the end of last season when he began his current stint with the Chicago Cubs, Neifi Perez is a golden god with the lumber. He stands astride this narrow world, and the batter's box, like a Colossus. He is the master of all he surveys. He is the son and the heir of a spryness that is criminally vulgar.
(Okay, that is another picture of Jhumpa Lahiri, not Neifi Perez, but you'll thank me for posting her instead of him, later, when you're alone.)
Neifi Perez, hitting .366 for the year, paces like a tiger as he awaits his turn in the batting practice cage. I manage to speak with him, briefly, before --
I am sorry, but this piece is turning out too well for me to finish it here. Daddy needs a new pair of shoes, kiddos, and blogging don't pay. I don't know how you all do this for free. What, it's FUN for you? Okay. I got over the whole "writing is fun" thing around the time your grandfathers bought The Boys of Summer. As my friend Flann O'Brien was wont to say, that is all my eye and Betty Martin. Free my foot.
But I'll leave it up here to whet your appetite for the real thing, when it comes out. And I'll leave you something else to whet your appetite: this picture. I'm lunching with the lovely (and accomplished!) Ms. Lahiri tomorrow! Try not to salivate with envy, suckaz!