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March 19, 2013

Prospects Will Break Your Heart

The Magic of Mondesi

by Jason Parks

In the unexpected event of witnessing magic, please keep a tether to your breath and a shot of Fernet on the ready. It’s important to be alert when it happens. I think I saw it happen last fall; my mind is a mess from failures of the past and the sunshine, but I’d wager that I saw it happen last fall. I was freshly sad and sampled, covered in an emotional fur that resembled actual fur because my tears had long dried up and turned into hair and like Velcro I attracted debris and I bathed in a river to avoid humiliation. Sad eyes searching for a prize, and I found it on a field, with direct heat cooking me from the outside in. I turned to a friend and asked if he believed in enchantment. He said she was never coming back.

I think it happened on a numbered field in front of a small number of people, hats over all the heads to protect them from the seductive nature of prospect sorcery. I acquiesce to all charms and attentions, and I rarely wear hats because it can temper the effect, and when you are lost, it’s important not to temper the effect. He was playing shortstop--a precocious study—and I was playing the wishful thinker. The name on the jersey suggested we pay attention regardless of action and I did with ardent intent; although, names are just names and magic is best delivered by moves and not by patronymic means, or by other forms of surface heredity. But I was paying attention, and the son of Raul Mondesi started sawing a woman in half in between the left-side bases, much to the delight of this audience of one.

I jotted down a name and the number 6, and I checked my phone for the happy birthday text from my ex that never arrived. I should have been born earlier in the year. The number 6 holds special significance in the scouting lexicon, like a gold star on a page or an unfettered smile on a face that also happens to like your face. It’s a plus distinction, a separator of common things from things less common. I put a six on his glove based on the choreography of one play, a simple groundball that disappeared up his sleeve and reappeared behind the ear of his teammate on the receiving end. The tuxedo might have been a bit much, but pageantry and theater can boost the price of admission. I was ready to see his next show.

Adalberto Mondesi is a 17-year-old shortstop prospect in the Kansas City Royals organization, and I’m pretty sure he is magic. It’s now spring. A season where imagination gains control over emotion—the intrinsic burden of non-compos mentis notwithstanding—and if you stare into the sun long enough, anything is possible. I once visited a Transubstantiation booth on the backfields where high-ceiling talent will turn your own blood into prospect wine for a nominal fee and the burden of faith. I told the friendly man behind the curtain that I once wrote down a 6 based on sense, and that I wanted to write more 6’s and I wanted to drink more potions. I gave him my soul and he simplified my life by saying she was never coming back and I could either decay or head over to field 6 to watch a teenager wax balletic in a private show. Life isn’t as hard we want it to be.

Grace is difficult to define but easy to identify, even for the clumsiest of creatures, and paradoxically, in our most sophisticated hour, we wear awkwardness as accessories. Our eyes are designed to recognize and appreciate patterns and fluidity and beauty, which is one of the reasons handsome people do well in ocean settings. You need not come from a scouting background to stand on a field and comprehend elegant maneuvers, and after a few minutes of motion and memory, the picture of grace becomes representational and alive, and we all grab pens to form 6’s on a page. We splash in the water out of acceptance of the beauty around us, not out of puerile innocence.

Prospect wine in my bloodstream, I eagerly await the spectacle of discovery and the subsequent responsibility of command. It’s important to stay in command of the fervor once the fervor becomes fur and covers your body. A groundball on a date with the space three feet to the left of the second base bag gets interrupted by the leather fingers of Magic Mondesi, quietly transferred to his coiled right arm, and delivered to first as he athletically tiptoes over the hard rubber obstacle to start the double play. It’s a major-league quality play executed by a would-be high school junior on a field with adults being watched by adults, and I struggle to act like an adult in the aftermath.

My phone buzzes and it’s the past calling to say that witchcraft is for the weak. I take the call because I make foolish choices and find comfort in my own defense, but just as I go lips to lips with my demons, Mondesi is stepping into the box and is preparing to hit. Loose and wiry, his hands are quick and offer protection and attack both inside and out. His body is immature but not lifeless, and the whippy swing offers some strength and speed. The magic lives in the hands, and I’m once again attracted to their action. He might be wearing gloves made of glitter. Something is sparkling, like light on an ocean handsome, and I ask the scout to my left if he thinks it's store-bought glitter or naturally occurring glitter. He asks me if I’ve been staring into the sun again and I tell him that magic is real and that I’ve seen it. He tells me that she is never coming back. I tell him that I no longer need her to. I paid a nominal fee and the burden of faith, and I returned my eyes to the show, where illusions are more than just inventions of the mind, they are realities of the moment.

Jason Parks is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Jason's other articles. You can contact Jason by clicking here

Related Content:  Raul Mondesi,  Adalberto Mondesi

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