In the fall of 2016, after the season was over in Hickory, I went back home for a few really shitty months. I had to adjust to the fact that I wasn’t going to be a pro ball player; I did it by being an asshole. I got a job at the Gap in Knoxville, which wasn’t so bad, but I was going out like 5 nights a week to get shitfaced and into fights. One of the waitresses at a bar I used to go to in Knoxville became my girlfriend for a while…and Mom hated her.
It wasn’t a good time for any of us. At least it didn’t last too long. I got back from Hickory in September of 2016 and left for California right after New Year’s 2017. So that’s like four months.
So how’d I end up in California?
I think everyone realized from my behavior that I needed a change. Staying at home wasn’t going to work long-term, and, trust me, it’s very hard to move back in with your folks after you’ve been out on your own. Easy example: if you’re living on your own and decide to stay out all night, it’s not a problem. If you’re living with your parents, trust me, it’s a problem.
So I got the courage up to make a big change. I was working for a big company that had stores all over the country, and sometimes you could transfer to another store. Sometimes stores wanted to bring in supervisors from other places, so I applied for the first opportunity that came up, at a store in a mall in Seattle. I didn’t want to go anyplace particular (although I knew I didn’t want to go to the Northeast), and all I knew about Seattle was that they had a MLB team, it rained a lot and they drink a lot of coffee. Still, I took a chance: it was time to get out of Tennessee. And maybe see something of the world since I’d still never been north of Baltimore.
I came close to getting the Seattle job. I know I did well on a Skype interview, and I could tell the manager liked me, but I think she wanted a chick for the job. That bummed me out, obviously. The next job that came up was the one in Pasadena, and, as y’all obviously know, I got that one.
They gave me less than a week to report to the store, so the next day I rented the same size U-Haul I rented to get my stuff back from Hickory. Dad and me packed it up with my shit and the few pieces of furniture I owned, and I was on the road the day after that.
I didn’t have time to think about what I was doing until I was in the car and driving west. Then I got crazy scared and asked myself what the fuck I was doing moving from a city of 20,000 to the second biggest city in the country. I knew Pasadena was part of LA, but that was almost all I knew. I went into this totally blind. I rented my apartment using an app on my phone, so I wasn’t even sure what it was going to look like when I got there.
Turned out the apartment was nice, so was the new store. I didn’t know anyone when I got here, so the first thing I did was find a softball league and ask if there was a team that needed a shortstop. That’s how I got on the Parrots; those guys were the first friends I made here, and they’re still some of the best guys I’ve ever known.
Me and Keaton met on the field. Sumter always said you should be on good terms with your 2nd baseman, so I just introduced myself.
“Hey man, I’m Hunter…the new shortstop.”
“That’s good. Cause otherwise you’ve got your ass in the wrong place.” Keaton may have lived all over the place, but he still sounds like he got here from Texas yesterday.
I didn’t know him well enough to call him a fucker, so I said “keep it up and I’m making every throw to 1st.”
“Sounds like they got another Southern boy for the team. Where are you from? North Carolina?”
“You’re close. Eastern Tennessee, close to Knoxville.”
“Just get me the double play balls fast and we’ll get along fine, bubba.”