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January 10, 2014

Prospects Will Break Your Heart

An Evening with Brian Kenny

by Jason Parks


I’m nervous. I don’t wear a watch with any success, so I check my wrist every few heartbeats in the hopes that one materializes and solves my puzzle. Where is he? I remember that my phone can service this request. It’s 7:15 p.m. He’s late. It’s the second week in January. I’m standing outside a dimly lit boutique food establishment in Brooklyn. Normally I prefer to see the food that I eat, but eating in the dark is all the rage and we must adhere to what is the rage. It’s important to adhere to the rages of the moment. I brought a conveniently sized table candle from home just in case I struggle to adhere to the rage. My date for the evening has a very busy schedule, so I slow my judgment and make a concerted effort to feel confident and poised, regardless of the circumstances of his delay. A text or tweet would have been nice. I bet he’s on the subway and lacks the necessary technology to connect with me. Perhaps Mr. Brian Kenny stopped along the way for a quick hot topic debate with a local sports yokel? It will be worth the wait.

My emotions are confused and uncertain, and I’m starting to cling to the outside air like I’m Frank Booth about to butterfly into his “Daddy” persona. I can’t seem to satisfy my need to breathe, and I feel rejected and abused. I pretend to be smoking because it calms me down and makes me look cool to any curious onlookers that happen upon my particular spot. It’s cool to smoke cigarettes in deep freeze outdoor conditions but it’s not cool to explain to a medical professional the avoidable frostbite that occurred while waiting for a baseball analyst and power voice. It’s 7:30. I heard this place served a fantastic piece of fish, and my intuition tells me that Brian Kenny would be excited to learn that this place serves a fantastic piece of fish, and would become so excited—in fact—that he would probably mention the fish during his next television segment, detailing the mood and the memories to his fiercely loyal and oddly epicurean fan base. Yahoo! Answers said the fish was good when I asked if the fish was good.

It’s 7:45 and my table is going up for auction. The reality of the evening is a Chuck Close painting, and my distance from the work is helping with the acceptance of my fate. I elect to dine alone, even if I’m small inside and curious to the shortcomings that left me small inside, and my body temperature and appetite could use a friend. As not to arouse suspicion that I was ignored by the combustible and respected MLB Network personality, I ordered for two, starting with drinks and an appealing yet vague appetizer that was billed as a “delicious journey from the farm, to the dairy, to your palate,” which arrived looking very much like a standard dinner salad, consisting of various leafy greens, walnuts, goat cheese, and standard-fare fruits disguised as exotics, topped with a balsamic vinaigrette of little merit. Mr. Brian Kenny picked up on the fruit costume immediately, as most forward thinking gastronomes should—and requested a conference with the manager to have the fruit killed from the menu—while I pretended that peeled Granny Smith apples pierced with star anise was a world yet discovered. I asked how he found himself in the baseball business, a question he answered by staring into my soul for 60 uninterrupted seconds before returning to his salad protest, and when it was my turn to sing, I explained using broad strokes my path to Prospectus, which was met with a slice of silence served with an uncomfortable still.

By 8:45 I was already on drink number five, an idiosyncratic mood stabilizer for years now, and a journey I would be taking alone, as Mr. Brian Kenny was only taking sips to accompany his supper, which was just served and appeared to be as delicious as Yahoo! Answers had advertised. I asked if his fish was prepared to his satisfaction and as delicious as my metric suggested. Using his fingers, he carefully removed the initial bite from his lips and placed the discarded remains on his unused and unsheathed napkin to the left of his dinner service. He explained in a harsh, didactic voice that the fish was disgusting and inedible, despite the fact that he seemed to enjoy ordering and discussing the dish prior to consumption, and would later admit in a more causal environment that the fish did in fact have positive qualities and that he could—if he felt so inclined—discuss the fish in a more nuanced manner than he showed in his initial outburst. Once again, his eyes took a sword to my shortcomings, as he questioned my antiquated fish valuing system while quoting from the freshly minted Michelin Guide that now appeared on the table. I was sitting in the dark.

I asked him if he wanted to split the chilled cheesecake with the frisky raspberry topping, and he informed me that the menu didn’t specifically indicate that the raspberry topping was frisky even though the menu specifically said the raspberries were indeed frisky this evening and that he was going to stick to his deduction that the raspberry topping would not be frisky because he could not see the described friskiness and that he would make his decision accordingly. I explained the process behind the adjective, which not only stemmed from my firsthand experience with raspberries and how there is more to the cluster of drupelets than simply appears on the plate or the palate, and that in a certain conditions, the fruit can be quite frisky, an intangible distinction but an apt distinction nonetheless, not to mention the fact that the menu specifically said the raspberries being served tonight were in fact frisky.

Mr. Brian Kenny became so enraged that he smashed all the surrounding breakables, including a cute ceramic creamer in the shape of a stray puppy that the woman seated to his immediate left brought from home in order to feel less alone and vulnerable. In a chaotic scene, Mr. Brian Kenny once again turned his ocular intensity on my spirit, and with a faint whisper that was probably closer to a growl than a whisper—but he reminded me later that it was only a whisper—said, “No; you are wrong. You are so wrong. You can’t prove the raspberries are frisky. You can’t prove the raspberries are frisky. You can’t prove the raspberries are frisky.”

I spent the last hour of the evening studying the framework of Mr. Brian Kenny’s face, as if it was playing right in front of me on repeat. It was stubborn and sturdy, with a game show host finish and just enough of a suspicious uncle vibe to keep you honest yet ready to commit. I wouldn’t say he was a handsome man; at least not in the traditional sense of the word, which I always take to mean gorgeous in the most masculine of manners. But he wore his face well and it carried his strength, which was his austere and confident voice, the kind of voice that you turn to for truth regardless of the validity of that truth, a sound speaker that propped up his existence like a steel skeleton. The model was capped off with a dense head of hair, sculpted to replicate a warrior’s battle helmet, a protective shrub of fur that framed his gaze and preserved his aesthetic like an angel atop a holiday tree.

Before parting, my conveniently sized table candle illuminated his face enough to discover a slight frolicsome smile, a tease that brought me closer to him despite my early stumbles with the anachronistic fish valuing and the intangible raspberry adjectives that led to his judgment and scorn and subsequent destruction of property and threats of additional physical harm. Under the robust exterior was a kind man, a generous man, a man with delicate combinations of subtlety and sweetness that he kept hidden during most of [read: all of] our meal. My breathing had finally returned to normal and I felt a wave of tranquility lift my posture and aplomb, and in my moment of acceptance and serenity, I offered my table companion an outstretched hand of gratitude, appreciation, and respect.

The room was empty and I was the lone patron. The bartender asked if I would like to close my tab, as he wiped the counter clean and powered down the flat-panel television that was telling baseball-related stories behind the bar. My paper bill had the word count of a Pynchon novel, a stenograph of a day that turned into a night that turned into a day, and if my eyes worked I would have been disappointed in the conclusion. As I stumbled to my feet and established my extremital tether to the ground, I choked down the final swallow of my daily medicine and offered up my empty salutations to a staff that would see me again tomorrow. Tomorrow is Tuesday. I never miss Clubhouse Confidential.

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

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