The Time Shifter Chapter 69


It was now October and I spent the weekend going to the battingcages to maintain my stroke. Then I went home to watch the MLBplayoffs, which were occurring at the time. Monday, I  brought myCharvel San Dimas to school and met with Valerie, giving her anothermini guitar lesson. She went home with me. I made dinner for the two ofus and we jammed until 11, when I had to take her home. I taught her"Stone Cold Crazy," a Queen song, and we had a nice blow on that sinceit really lends itself to jamming. Her fluidity was already improvingand she was good before, but now she seemed ready to take that nextstep. She still had some work to do, but it indeed appeared she wasputting in the practice time.

Tuesday, I went to our school's art teachers and told them I was holdinga contest with a $250 prize to devise a logo for my band, Red Sentinel. I added that the winner would also receive a dime for each album copysold if we got signed and started releasing albums. The logo had to beflashy and cool and I didn't want any death metal band type stuff. Theywould have by December 31st to come up with something suitable.

Wednesday, I finally got a response to my musicians wanted ad thatwasn't a waste of time. A 21 year old drummer, Chris Ellis, who hadprevious band experience wrote me and I set up an audition for Saturdayat my place. He turned up with a full double bass drum kit and hisplaying was powerful, crisp and you could set your watch by his meter,so he was in. I told him what I was going to do with the band from A to Zand he was on board with it.

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   The thing that did it for him was that wehad some money to work with for marketing and equipment. Now I had abackbone to build from.

The following Monday, I put up notices on music and drama department(the latter for vocalists) bulletin boards at a few local colleges. Outof that I got a bass player, Johnny Burrell, and a lead singer, PhilDorsett. We still needed a keyboard player, but at least by earlyNovember, we could begin hammering out material. I also didn't have anyother option, so I formally asked Valerie to join my band as our secondguitarist. Getting a load of the songs I presented to the band reallylit a fire under Valerie's ass because she liked what I was writing alot and wanted to be a part of performing it. Thus, she upped herpractice regimen from four hours a day to as much as eight when shewasn't rehearsing with us.

I bought all new equipment for the band. Valerie was stunned that shenow had a backline of four Marshal 100 watt stacks (I played throughMesa Boogie Dual Rectifiers) instead of just her little 50 watt halfstack, several new guitars and a full pedalboard of effects. At thatjuncture, I was playing all the keyboard parts during our rehearsals,which I held four days a week. However, in mid-December, we all went to aTrans-Siberian Orchestra show at the Forum and, just for a laugh,before the show started, I yelled out to the other audience membersaround me, "anybody here play keyboards?" "Yeah, I do,  bro!" I askedhim to tell me more. He had some classical training in elementary schoolwhen he was a kid, but was pretty much self taught from junior high on. His name was Barry Mullaney. He had a You Tube channel, so I told him Iwould get back to him after seeing his videos.

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The TSO concert was uber kick ass as was usual for them, but I couldhardly wait to get home and see Barry's videos, hoping I wouldn't bedisappointed. I wasn't. He had a full keyboard rack and amplificationfor it and displayed his prowess on a range of material from Elton Johnto Deep Purple to jazz to show tunes. I wrote him and brought him downfor an audition on my keyboard setup. After just a couple of songs, weasked him to join and he signed up. I suggested he use my gear and tweakit however he felt he needed to. And he was blown away by mycompositions.

School was becoming tougher to handle for Valerie and I since our rehearsals would often go past midnight. My personal life also took a dive because I was just so focused on dealing with my little combo.

We took the Christmas holidays off to rest and recharge. When we cameback to school the first week of January, I chose a logo from those thatwere submitted and presented the winner his money, in cash, during hisart class. I also had a contract for him and his parents to sign that Ihad my band's lawyer draw up. There was a provision in it that when heturned 18, if he didn't re-sign the deal, we would seek another logo andabandon the one he created. I then asked him to submit art work to usfor our first album, which would be self titled, saying that it waslikely going to take at least a year for us to get a record together, sohe had a deadline of July 1st. It must be done in a hyper real style. 

  We would also have first right of refusal to all of his other creations. He would be paid 25 cents per album sold

I hired a web designer I knew and opened an official website, a You Tubechannel and Facebook and Reverb Nation pages for us and incorporatedthe band. I also trademarked our name and started a publishing company,Sentinel Songs, to handle defense of our tunes. I bought a warehouse touse as both our office and rehearsal space. I brought in an architect tocome up with renovation plans for said use. By the time I got all thatdone, it was mid-February and baseball tryouts were to begin a weeklater. Our rehearsal schedule would now be Tuesday, Thursday, Saturdayand Sunday. The latter two days, they would be all day affairs, withlunch and dinner included.

The first day of baseball tryouts at my school, I stepped into thebatter's box and hit the first pitch I saw 450 feet over the 20 foothigh leftcenterfeld wall into the middle of the street of a cul de sacthat was behind the school. The outfielders didn't have much to do sinceI dialed long distance on pretty much everything I saw. During other'sbp, the way I was chasing down liners and fly balls and then thevelocity I displayed on my throws knocked my coach and my fellow playersout. My coach came up to me afterward and said that the earlier reportson me were definitely valid and he looked forward to seeing me in gameaction.

The tryouts lasted a week. I wanted seven since it was my lucky numberand also the late Mickey Mantle's uniform number. My coach decided tohit me leadoff in order to get me as many at bats as possible, figuringthat we would score the most runs that way.

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   He was also hoping that wewould commence many of our games with instant 1-0 leads as a result andmaybe get inside the heads of the opposing pitchers early.

We had our first faceoff the second week of March. The first pitch I sawfrom the opposing hurler was a thigh high middle out fastball at about90mph  that I torqued 500 feet beyond the rightcenterfield fence attheir home field. The guy began muscling up after seeing his heatertaken so far downtown and he walked our next two hitters. Then hegrooved one to our leftfielder, who spanked it off the leftfield wallfor a two run double. By the time I came up again in the inning, thebases were loaded and we had a 5-0 advantage. His coach went out to gethim and they brought in a little lefthander who tossed me a curve ballthat didn't bite so much as roll and I mashed it even further than myfirst homer for a grand slam. The contest was over at that point and Isuggested to my coach that he give the bench guys some ups in my stead. That proved popular with my teammates. My coach was also impressed withhow selfless that was and sat me down. So I never saw an inning ondefense, but we won 11-4.

Our next match was at home and there were a bunch of pro scouts there towatch us. We got behind 1-0 in the first and then I got a hold of asecond pitch slider and flamed it off the top of the rightfield wall fora two bagger. I stole third and scored on a dribbler to the rightsideto tie it up. Then I made a running catch of a gapper, which broughtapplause from the about 50 people in attendance.

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   I came up again in thebottom of the second and was thrown a fastball on the inside corner andup, but letter high rather than around my noggin, and I tophanded itover the roof of the house that was directly in back of our leftfieldfence and on to the lawn of the domicile across the street. I gotcarried away during my next at bat, though, and overswung on a changeupdown and away and hit a little topper to first for an easy out. I cameback to the dugout cursing myself for being an idiot by muscling up.

This may have inadvertently done me and our team a favor. We were downby three with the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth when I cameup. I got ahead 2-0 and then he threw me that change up in the samelocation as my previous at bat. I punished it just inside the rightfieldfoul pole and cleared the bases. The first baseman bobbled the relaythrow and I slid home with the winning run on the error.

Our third game, and we played two games a week, one on Monday and one onFriday, I got a mid-80's fastball up and just destroyed it. I have noidea how far it went, but it was one motherfuck of a long way for aquick 1-0 edge. That rattled the pitcher real bad and he got pulledafter our next two hitters walked. We went on to trounce them 17-1 and Icame out of the game after my third homer of the game in the fourth.

During the succeeding tilt, I drilled a slider that was down, somewherebelow my knees, but over the middle of the plate, and it just keptrising and was still going up when it disappeared from view. I never sawa pitch to hit after that, as I was walked the next three times up. Istole second and third all three times and scored on two of thoseoccasions and also threw two men out at the plate.

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   We still lost,though, 6-4.

By then, the titanic shots I was unloading was getting around school aswell as the scouting community. At our next home game, it was standingroom only. (the seating at these games was just a couple of bleachers,so it didn't take much to fill them) Adding to that was that the otherclub had a pitcher named Dave Farrell on it, who was also drawing a lotof major league interest. They scored three runs off of us in the firstinning and then I came to bat. Farrell threw me a fastball up that I letgo by for a ball. He came inside and that was off the plate, too. Hehad really good movement on that pitch. Then he threw another heater hetried to bring back over the outside corner. I hit it over therightfield wall, but I was just a hair late and it sliced foul. He hung aslider and I got every bit of it, this homer being highlighted by thesound of the ball crashing through the window of the house across thestreet from the home that backed up on to our leftfield fence. Everybodygot a good laugh out of it, but with coach's permission, I dispatched ateammate to the house in question with my phone number so we could setup a payment plan for the broken pane.

My second time up, they intentionally walked me with nobody on. Therewas a lot of booing from the 200 or so people in attendance. I stole thenext two bases, but there were two outs and our number two hittercouldn't get me home.

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The next time up, though, got ugly. When the catcher held out his handto indicate I was to be given four wide ones with nobody on, everybodystarted booing loudly. One of the scouts berated Dave, telling him to"throw the ball over the plate like a man!" "Oh shut up!" his coachblasted back. "You guys walked Bonds and Pujols the same way. Go fuck yourself!" That infuriated coach Addison, who was there scouting me aspart of his bird dog (scout without portfolio, basically) duties for theAngels. He walked up behind the opposing team's dugout and asked, "sowhat are you going to have this kid do when he faces the Yankees? Walkeverybody until he gets to the eight hole? Teach him to make a pitch orteach him how to sell shoes. But you can't do both!" The crowd beganchanting, "pussy! pussy!" toward Dave, who was caught between a rock anda hard place. I stole second.   They pitched out when I went to stealthird, but their catcher threw the ball down the leftfield line and Ihustled home for our second run. The audience chanted that epithet theentire time Dave was on the hill and when he came up to hit.

I was back up in the ninth leading off. They had a 5-2 lead with nobodyon. "You better not walk him this time you asshole!" someone shouted atthe opposition's coach. Dave had exhausted his pitch count, so I stoodin against a reliever, who threw me four balls that were off the plateand I walked. I stole second and third and scored again on a fly ballbefore we went down to defeat 5-3.

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After the game, a couple of scouts, one with a vein popping out of hisneck, could be seen letting our opposition's coach have it. "What thefuck do you have that kid prove when you do that?" the  scout wonderedrhetorically. "You're not doing him a favor. He's not Barry Bonds orPujols, he's a high school kid (referring to me). Let the kid (Dave)figure it out up there. "

The incident was written about at length in our school paper and therewas video footage on You Tube which got picked up by baseball websitesand on our students' Facebook pages. Monday, the phone at our school wasringing off the hook wanting to know when our next game, which was onthe road, was. "Fuck, we might have to play this next game at AngelsStadium if all those people show up," my coach joked.

It seemed like every seamhead in southern California showed up at ournext outing. My first at bat, I missed a good biting slider down in thezone but in the middle of the plate and only hit it hard back throughthe middle instead of over the wall for a single. I stole second andthird and scored on a squeeze. In my second appearance, the pitcher gotbehind to me 2-0 and tried to run one down and in on the inside corner. Unfortunately, that was my biggest happy zone and I just about made itdisintegrate, depositing it into the rear of the parking lot to gaspsand hoots from the standing room crowd for a three run homer. Thepitcher lost his nerve and couldn't throw a strike to save his life fromthat point forward, walking two runs in before he was pulled. I was thenext hitter and smoked a weak fastball into that same spot in theparking lot.

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   We won going away 15-7.

The game after that was against Dave Farrell and his team. Theproblem was that it wasn't much of a home game for them because therewere scouts from every major league team there and even some frontoffice people as well as the baseball press and a large contingent ofbaseball nerds. When I came up in the top of the first, people werealready ranking Dave out for the last time he had to take me on. Hiscoach, not wanting to be shown up or something, had me intentionallywalked. The "pussy, pussy" chant started up again and it got a lotnastier than that from individual hecklers. The police were called,hauling away several spectators for being intoxicated. The cops were notthrilled about having to, in effect, referee a high school baseballgame. There was nothing they could do about the crowd because yelling,"pussy, pussy" wasn't against the law.

All of this threw Dave off of his game and he couldn't command thestrike zone at all. The next time I came up, there were two on and oneout. Once again, the manager wanted me walked. The 1500 or so spectatorsstarted hurling every invective in the book at Dave and his coach whenthe catcher gave the sign to give me four wide ones. Stuff began beingthrown on the field and the umpire notified the crowd that he wouldforfeit the game if the onlookers didn't cool their jets. The cop whoheaded the detail ordered Dave's coach to have Dave pitch to me toprevent a riot.

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   When I was standing up there, I reminded myself to becalm and just focus on staying short and quick to the ball. Dave threwme a room service fastball and it left the grounds in the blink of aneye. Dave was crying by that point since he was unfairly put in themiddle of all this and his coach finally yanked him. We won 6-5. Istayed afterward to sign autographs and take pictures with fans.

Our school decided to hold our next game at a local park that was muchmore equipped to handle the crowds that were now turning up. It was thesame one that I had worked out with coach Addison's squad at. There wereat least 2,000 people there and when I leadoff the first inning for ourteam, the pitcher hit me in the left hip. Then he plunked the nextbatter, too and walked the man after that. He was totally overwhelmed bythe attention. Our clean up hitter singled up the middle for two runs. Later, the pitcher walked a run in. We scored a run on a groundout andthen the bases were refilled via the base on balls. That brought me up. He aimed a fastball over the outside corner, but it got a lot of theplate and I jacked it well over the rightfield wall and it was 8-0.



I had to stay in because of the audience size. So I came up in thesecond with us now leading 10-0 and a couple men on and golfed a rollingcurveball on to the freeway beyond the centerfield fence. My third timeup, there was nobody on and I took a strike on the outside corner. Thepitcher tried to come back with the same pitch, but missed his spot and Iunloaded a screaming mimi more than 450 feet to rightcenterfield. Ibegged out of the game after that.

Over the course of all this, interview requests came flocking in, but Iturned them down unless I would be allowed to do them during myathletics period and they would mention my band and link to our Facebookpage. The ones who refused I didn't talk to. I wouldn't meet them afterpractice because I wanted to work on band stuff. Besides, I was only ajunior.  

During our last game the first week of June, I homered three timesand drove in eight runs while also making a diving catch of a drive inthe gap. Again, about 2,000 people showed up. By that time, Red Sentinelhad 15 songs nailed down for our set, about half a dozen covers tospice things up and we were completing and adding two tunes to ourrepetoire a day. . The renovations on our warehouse were finished, too,except for a studio I belatedly decided to create in it. We moved ourgear into the rehearsal space, which made things a lot more comfortableat my house.

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   Now I had to hire road crew and someone to do our sound andlights. In addition, we needed folks to work in our office once thingsreally started happening.

Valerie was a much improved guitarist, too, with all that concentratedwork on her skills. She was well chuffed with herself and she had everyright to be.

The school year ending was such a blessing. I was named league, countyand state High School Baseball Player of the Year and got a whole hostof invitations to play for club teams during the summer, but I was moreconcerned with my band. We could now knock off our rehearsals at morereasonable hours and have more time for individual practice andsongwriting. The ideas continued to surge through my mind.

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