BULL: In “Potential”, why did you make the Number One Draft Pick a catcher?
CS: I played baseball from the time I was five until the end of my freshman year of college. I played other sports in the off-season, but baseball was always on my mind, even throughout those terrible Indiana winters, when it was hard to remember what the field looked like beneath so much mud and snow. I gave up baseball when I was nineteen, and then three or four years later I was talking to the woman I would end up marrying about her sister, who had also been good at sports. My wife said something about how her sister was a very creative person but that she spent that creativity on the basketball court. Even though I had been writing daily since giving up baseball, it had never occurred to me that I had been doing something “creative” all those years I’d spent out at shortstop, or roaming centerfield, or standing atop the pitcher’s mound.
I’d always claimed that baseball players were the smartest athletes, even though I doubted it was true, and after I started thinking about things, I realized just how much creativity I’d put toward baseball before I’d given it up. I thought about all the little routines I’d employed, about all of the visualizing I’d done. People who prefer basketball or football like to claim that baseball is boring, but it’s never really boring if you’re engaged with it on a pitch-by-pitch basis, as a fan or when you’re out there on the field. There are just so many things going on. Each half inning, each game, is a story, however slowly or quickly it unfolds.
Which brings me to that question you asked: I made the Number One Draft Pick a catcher because catchers usually know more than anybody outside the manager what’s going on in a game at any given time. When the clean-up hitter steps into the batter’s box with a runner on first, the catcher knows what happened the last time he was at the plate, and they’re already kind of anticipating what might happen the next time he comes up in another inning or two. In short, catchers are smart. They are never not thinking.
This character of mine doesn’t necessarily come off as smart, at least off the field, but he’s starting to make the right kinds of connections. He’s starting to see the way there are threads running through everything, connecting event to event the way those seams on a baseball stitch two ordinary pieces of leather into something amazing.