#baseballboy is Born (last part)

My day after I blew up Maya Bedrossian’s Facebook page because of how I looked on TV in boardshorts was starting to feel endless when, after I’d finished with Jacob and Matteo, I headed back into the pool house to change. I looked at the time: it was 4:45 and the 4th game of the NLCS was set to start at 5, but I needed to unwind some…so I decided I’d give the super cool shower another go. Nobody said I couldn’t…and, well, now I was an important part of the ‘operation’.

I was toweling off from my shower when someone called my name from the living room. I looked for a robe but couldn’t find one, and I barely got a towel around my waist when the bedroom door opened. There was a dude there I’d never seen before. He was my height and about 195#, and I’d say he was somewhere in his 40s: he had brown hair that was greying at the temples. He looked like he’d been athletic when he was younger but now had too many big business lunches. He was dressed in what I could tell was a expensive open white shirt, tan slacks and loafers. You could see a little of both Jacob and Matteo in him, and it turned out that Matteo got his blue eyes from his father, since that’s obviously who the dude was.

The dude took one look at me and said:

“I see what all the excitement is about. But you’ll find a robe in that closet.” He pointed to a closet I’d already opened.

“No robe,” I said. “I looked.”

“Oh,” said the dude, “there usually is one. Sorry, I totally forgot, I’m Robert Sharpman.” He put his hand out to shake. I once had a very bad experience trying to shake hands with a towel around my waist (it involved a female reporter, too), so I try not to fall into the trap again. Luckily, Robert or Mr. Sharpman came to my rescue.

“Oh…sorry…I keep forgetting we can’t shake hands. It’s been 6 months and I still can’t break myself of the habit.”

“Neither can I,” I said.

I was still processing that I was talking to the dude who told a 5 year old Matteo that he looked like he swallowed a basketball. And still just wearing a towel.

“Maybe it would be better if you changed first. Then come out to the living room so we can talk.”

Was I in trouble, I wondered? I know Maya and Sandy had been cool with what had happened overnight, but maybe Robert wouldn’t think it was okay that people were talking about me more than Maya.

I put on the tshirt and shorts I’d worn in the gym with Matteo along with my Nikes and went out to the living room. Robert was standing by a little bar and making himself a drink.

“Can I interest you?,” he asked.

“No thanks.” I paused. “Unless you have a beer.”

“That I do,” he said, opening a cabinet that turned out to be a mini-fridge. He brought me a Pilsner Urquell then got his drink and sat down. I got a good look at the living room, which previously I only passed through to get to the bedroom and bathroom; it was one of those rooms that make you feel at home right away. I think you call the color scheme ‘earth tones’ and there was a couch and two chairs, plus a big flat screen that kept calling to me that the ballgame was ready to start.

“So you’re our overnight Facebook sensation…”

“I reckon so,” I said. “I hope it’s alright. I mean…I know it’s supposed to be Maya’s show but it seems like everyone’s talking about me…”

“Not everyone,” Mr. Sharpman said, “but a lot of them are, yes. All the various people in our lives appear on the show sooner or later,” he explained, “and the public responds to them in various ways. I suppose we might have anticipated something like this, but this is the first time I’ve seen you live. You have a Southern accent, so I take it you’re not from here.”

“No, sir. Maryville, Tennessee, born and bred.”

“How long have you been living in Los Angeles?”

“Since 2017.”

“And in all that time no one’s approached you asking you if you wanted to get into the business? There are a lot of good-looking people in this town, but you’re good-looking even by those standards. Nobody ever offered to get you a screen test?”

“I got asked if I wanted to work for an escort agency once,” I explained with a laugh. “And, yeah, it happened a couple times that people said something about putting me in movies, but I don’t want to be in movies in the first place, and, in the second place, I thought they were trying to make a move on me. And, well…they were both men so I wasn’t interested.”

“Straight?”

“Yessir.”

“That’ll please your female fans, of whom you have a lot already. Although I’m not gonna lie to you and say that there aren’t some guys who are interested in Baseball Boy too. That had better not freak you out.”

“I’m cool with it,” I said. I didn’t mention that my best friend thinks that’s gay of me. “As long as they don’t start touching me.”

“That’s not going to happen from cyberspace,” Mr. Sharpman explained. “But you should know who’s behind all the interest in you.” He took a sip of his drink. “I hate the name Baseball Boy, by the way.”

“That makes two of us,” I said.

“The thing about internet fame is that you’re dependent on what people decide to call you. There’s no changing your nickname.”

“There’s no changing nicknames people give you, period. My nickname as a pro ball player was Heartthrob. You gotta imagine a locker room of 25 mostly straight guys giving me shit for my looks.”

“Heartthrob, you say? Hmmm… Maybe we can get that to catch on.”

“The only thing I don’t want to be called is a gym teacher or a PE teacher. I took this job as a baseball tutor, and that’s what I do, sir. I’m perfectly willing to work with Matteo more as a gym teacher, but I don’t want people thinking of me as that. I’m not even qualified for it. The only thing I really know about is playing baseball…and swimming and football. But I’m not a conditioning coach or a personal trainer. And I don’t want to be taken for one if it can at all be helped.”

“One good thing about calling you Baseball Boy is that it has baseball in the title.”

He had a point.

“And I understand we got a lot of footage today of you and Jacob practicing dropping catches or something…”

“Diving catches,” I said. “Yeah. He loved it. He’s a great kid to work with.”

“Maya and I figured you’d say that. I hope it makes up for working with Matteo.”

“Matteo’s awesome too, don’t get me wrong.”

“You think so? That’s a first. He got the person we had doing your job before you to quit.”

I wanted to say something to the effect that what I’d heard about that dude from both Jacob and Matteo was that he was an asshole who knew shit about baseball and just kept yelling at Matteo to run faster.

“I’m trying to be gentler with him,” I said, thinking that I was also trying to undo the damage he did to his own son. Then, pretty proud of myself, I added: “I got him in the pool this afternoon. We swam a few laps and splashed around.”

“You got Matteo in the pool? What about not appearing in public in a bathing suit?”

“It wasn’t exactly in public. And I had to work on him for a couple weeks before he finally couldn’t say no any longer.”

“I’m impressed. Looks like you know about child psychology as well as about baseball.”

I wanted to say that all I was doing was being nice to the kid, but I couldn’t exactly say that, could I?

“Since you’re bonding with Matteo, I should ask how you feel about the exercise program. You’re pretty much the one who’s in charge of putting it into action. The doctor at the weight reduction clinic thinks that, if he works hard enough, Matteo can drop the 15 pounds in 10 weeks.”

I really wanted to ask him if he thought this was such a good idea before it went on TV, but I could tell he was convinced that putting a 9 year old’s weight loss program on reality TV was good for, I reckon, ratings.

So I didn’t know what to say. I felt I was betraying Matteo when I finally settled on:

“It looks like a very carefully structured program. I was hoping that they could make room for some fun, too. I want him to learn to enjoy running around.”

His father shook his head.

“Matteo is never going to be like his brother. He…”

I know you’re not supposed to interrupt your elders – especially when they’re your employer – but this time I couldn’t help myself.

“That doesn’t matter. Jacob’s a great athlete and is lucky that way. But Matteo doesn’t have to hate everything as bad…as badly as he does. I think that I can get him to like stuff like swimming and playing catch. I’m not fooling myself into thinking that I can make him into the next Corey Seager…” I got a blank look. “Shortstop for the Dodgers,” I explained. “But maybe he can learn to enjoy playing the game. And he’ll hate organized sports a lot less if he can do better at them.”

“Maybe we can get you on camera saying some of that,” he said. “Although it’s the first time anyone’s said anything like that about Matteo. We’re thinking of keeping him home schooled even after COVID. He was getting bullied a lot. Maybe you saw one of the shows from last year where we talked about it…Maya came out big time against bullying.”

I didn’t tell Mr. Sharpman what I was thinking, which was that the antidote to bullying was teaching your kid how to punch a bully in the face.

“But enough about Matteo. We need to talk about you, just in case interest in you keeps up. The social media people need to talk to you ASAP and get some biographical facts about you out on the internet. Is there any chance you can meet with one of them tonight?” I wondered whether I might be able to talk to them after the game. There was a clock opposite from where I was sitting, and I reckoned they were probably in the bottom of the 1st already. “Then,” Mr. Sharpman continued, “I understand there’s this blog you keep…that’ll be good to link up to.”

“I’ve…been pretty frank about working with y’all,” I said. “You might not want everyone reading it.”

“Mr. Block – may I call you Hunter? – this is reality TV. A real blog would go along with it very well. I mean, you can’t say outright bad things about Maya, but anything else is fair game. What’s in there that people may already have seen? Your name’s already on Maya’s Facebook page, so it’ll be easy for anyone to google you and find your blog.”

“Well…this may lose me my job…but I have written that I don’t agree with the way you’re treating Matteo.”

“Oh.”

Boy was there an awkward pause there.

“Fine,” he said, “if that’s how you feel, that’s how you feel. You’re still putting him through his program, that’s what matters to us. And it’s kind of interesting that the blog gives another side to the story. It adds depth. I’ll have someone read through the blog and tell me if there’s something that you absolutely must expurgate. You don’t go into politics, do you?”

“No sir. I mean, I guess I kind of hinted a long time ago that I was a Republican, given where I’m from, but I don’t talk about politics with anyone in California. I’m not sure what I am anymore,” I added honestly.

“Maya is a libertarian” I’m still not clear what a libertarian is, by the way “so we avoid all talk of politics on the show. It’s no secret – nothing is secret if you have a reality show – but we don’t mention it. Just remember: anything that makes you interesting makes the show more interesting. I also don’t want to get your hopes up over web traffic – it’s not as though everyone who watches our show is on the Facebook page clamoring for more footage of Baseball Boy. You’re not going to become an international celebrity based on this.”

“That’s fine, sir. Being an international celebrity was never one of my goals. As it is this is more notoriety than I ever expected…unless I made it to the major leagues, of course…but that’s a different kind of fame.” That’s fame for what you do, not how you look.

“At any rate,” Robert said, looking at his watch – and, yeah, it was a Rolex – “I have to go upstairs and get dressed. Maya and I going to a benefit for Armenian soldiers tonight. Before I forget, did you say you can meet with social media tonight?”

Again…I had the ballgame to think about. But I couldn’t say no. So I said:

“Yessir.”

“Oh…wait…there’s a Dodger game tonight, isn’t there? I should have thought of that. Here,” he said, picking up a remote control from the coffee table in front of us, “what channel?”

“11,” I said.

He turned on the game, but kept talking over it. It was the top of the 2nd, no score.

“Destiny is our social media whiz – she works remotely like most everyone else these days. You can stop by and see Sandy on your way out and she’ll set you up for a Zoom meeting later tonight. You have Zoom at home, I take it?”

“Yessir, I do.”

“Good. Then you can go see Sandy. And I’ll see about getting a bathrobe in that closet. If you’re going to be using the pool with the boys all the time you’re going to need somewhere to change. You might as well do it in here and be comfortable. Nobody else ever uses the pool house.” He got up to leave and added: “feel free to stick around an watch the game. There’s plenty of beer in the bar fridge, help yourself.”

Keaton was working until 8 that night, so I had no one to watch the game with if I went home…and you can’t say that the pool house living room wasn’t comfortable. So I decided to stick around there for a few innings and drive home when it looked like the game was getting boring.

I was feeling good after Rios scored in the top of the 3rd when Sandy came in.

“Robert said I could find you here,” she said. “I’m heading home so I thought I’d bring you the Zoom information.”

“Oh…I’m sorry ma’am…I didn’t mean to keep you late.” Dang did she look hot standing there after I had a beer in me.

“Don’t worry,” she said, sitting down next to me on the couch. “I’ve got it printed out here, but it’s all in the email I sent you, link and all.” I gotta admit that I was very much aware of the fact that I had a super hot chick sitting next to me on a comfortable couch. Luckily I was also aware of the fact that I had a girlfriend. “Destiny works late, so I told her that you’ll be available at 9. The game should be over by then, shouldn’t it?”

“Probably,” I said…worried that I might miss the end of the game and Jansen blowing it again. But this was work, and pretty important work, I knew. I may not like having become #baseballboy, but I was #baseballboy…and my future with the Sharpmans depended on it.

Sandy got up and left, and, unless I really don’t know chicks by now, she knew dang well that I was looking at her backside as she let herself out of the pool house.

I don’t want to write about the game. No matter how comfortable the pool house was, and no matter how big the TV was, there was no way I was sticking around after that nightmare of a 6th inning. It only kept getting worse as I was driving home, and, after I got home, I actually turned the game off in disgust before it was over. I know what the odds are of a team digging itself out of a 3-1 hole in the postseason, and, well, I got to wondering how we managed to piss the baseball gods off another time this year.

At least I was home in plenty of time to get set up at the computer to talk to the social media ‘whiz’ Mr. Sharpman had told me about. Sandy’s instructions were as simple as she promised they would be, and Destiny was waiting for me when I connected to Zoom.

She turned out to be a super nice black chick about my age, which is the age you’d expect a social media person to be – younger than Maya and her husband who might not be as dialed into social media as her. Destiny seemed nice when she got on, but definitely tired. Maybe Sandy lied about her working until 9, I thought.

“I hope it’s not too late for you to meet with me,” I said.

“I’ve been monitoring you all day,” she said, “so I’m getting a little tired. But it’s no big deal. I’ve been through worse.”

She had one of those pierced tongue things that always make me a little uncomfortable. I reckon it went with her look – which was a lot edgier than this Tennessee redneck goes for – but it always takes me a while to adjust to talking to someone with one in. (I also don’t understand why anyone would want something like that in their tongue, but I reckon I’m too conservative for piercings and tattoos.)

“I’m sorry…,” I started to say.

“Nothing for you to be sorry about…it’s not your fault that you look like that in a bathing suit. But you have been trending even since the overnight blow-up. I wouldn’t say the YouTube clip has gone viral…but it’s gotten over 25,000 views last time I checked. That’s the short one where they keep repeating the shot of you climbing out of the pool.”

“The what??”

“Go to YouTube and search on ‘baseball boy gets out of the pool.’”

So I did. Sure enough someone had remixed – or whatever the word is – one of the shots of me climbing out of the pool so that you see me doing it 5 times in a row. What is it about the way I get out of a pool, I keep wondering?

I got the feeling that I looked a little green. That got Destiny to say:

“Like I said, Hunter: you’re trending.”

“I…I reckon I am.” I’ve never trended before. It was a weird feeling. But the whole day had been super weirdass.

Destiny asked me a whole mess of questions, then said she’d been reading the blog. She asked if Travis was ok (that was nice of her), and then asked a little about Joyce.

“Some people are going to be super jealous of her,” Destiny said, “and she may get some shit from wackos on the internet. If we were making you a pop star we might want to hide her from your female fans, but this is reality TV, and, honestly, we’re not trying to make you into a sex symbol. No matter how hot you apparently are. I like girls,” Destiny said, “so I can’t tell.”

That came as kind of a relief lol.

I was on with Destiny for maybe half an hour. I had texts from both Joyce and Keaton, but I was so tired of talking I just needed to be quiet and alone. I made myself some grossass ramen noodles and choked them down…I thought I should have asked Mr. Sharpman if someone could have brought #baseballboy a sandwich in the pool house while I was watching the game. And I wished I had a beer in the house. At least I had some ice cream, so I made myself a big dish of that and ate it, feeling super confused about everything but the Dodgers, who I felt super bad about.

I got myself into bed before 11, which is early for me, but I was exhausted. It had been one long heck of a day. I couldn’t fall asleep (of course), so I took one of Joyce’s melatonin pills. That finally got me to sleep and finally got me to the end of my first day as an overnight Facebook sensation.

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