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Jesus Montero, Pitcher

By: Kate Preusser

On June 17th, the Norfolk Tides played the Louisville Bats in a game that took 16 innings to complete. That in itself is not remarkable; minor league games are known for wandering deep into the double digits, and even its bloated runtime (five hours and twelve minutes) wasn’t the longest game in either team’s history. What is interesting about this game, as it usually is in such games, was the position player pitching portion. Usually such spectacle is reserved for blowouts, but this was not that: each team had five runs after the fifth, six runs after the eighth, and those same six runs from the ninth to the fifteenth innings. But in the 14th, the Bats brought in infielder Hernan Iribarren, who has some pitching experience, because that’s what happens when you’re a 32-year-old journeyman minor leaguer, where these kinds of games happen; you collect 8.1 innings pitched over three years in the minors, hot, sticky, miserable affairs, played in a mostly-empty stadium in a small town in the middle of the night.

Maybe you recognize the name Jesus Montero, former top prospect signed by the Yankees in 2006 to a then-princely sum of 1.6 million dollars. Prior to this night, Jesus Montero did not have any career innings pitched, because he was not the kind of player, not before this night. But his team needed someone to pitch, and he either asked, or volunteered, and so Jesus Montero: Top Prospect faded another mile into the rearview, and Jesus Montero: Journeyman Minor Leaguer continued to emerge. Look, no one said it would be easy:

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And so Jesus Montero: Garbage Time Pitcher was born. Things went about as well as you might expect: he immediately issued two walks, and then the Bats executed a double steal, which seems not exactly in the spirit of things. Montero chided them for their effort by walking the bases full anyway, and then walking in a run. To his credit, he didn’t look too ruffled by the affair, standing on the mound like he was having fun, or if he wasn’t having fun–because it’s not fun, a sixteen-inning game played late into the night in what is essentially a large concrete armpit–that he was at least amused the right amount. The expression on his face ranged from “stuck on an express bus in which someone has vomited” and “has finally counted out which circle of hell this is.” At the end of it, Jesus Montero had a new column on his player card, a card which has been around baseball for about a decade and which is already full of all the usual things, so why not go full blackout bingo? Jesus Montero was the losing pitcher of record on this night. But he got to throw 27 pitches, and nine of them were strikes, and this is one of those.

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No one, either in the moment or in the long view, saw it coming.


A Fallacy of Follicles

By: Patrick Dubuque

(Editor’s Note: In reading the following, please keep in mind that the thesis of this petite essay is in direct contradiction to the spirit of my previous one, that I am a guarded ethical relativist, and that combining these two with the below makes me an undeniable hypocrite. Also note that regardless of that fact, I am the last person on staff who should be writing these words. My own hair lost its perfect game at the tender age of twenty-two, and in one of the worst ways: I spotted the unnatural glare atop my head in the security camera footage of a Taco Bell. Thank you for muscling through this apology.)

© Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Baseball appears, by my rough appraisal, particularly prone to being caught up in facial hair fads: the angry beards of the late 70s and early 10s, the truck-stop mustaches of the 80s, the woefully inadequate middle reliever goatee of the 90s. In the area of head-topping hair, however, the game has lagged. Perhaps it’s the near-constant headgear, but we still huddle under the shadow of Oscar Gamble and his afro-bearing comrades, making no progress. Our current momentum, perhaps led by the golden locks of comic-book-hero-pitcher Noah Syndergaard, is to worship at the altar of length, as is the case with Mariners wonder twins Ben Gamel and Taylor Motter.

With that in mind, I can only offer this terse aphorism, delivered with the utmost congeniality:

Hair, measured by quantity, is not a virtue.

I understand that one’s hairstyle is a method of self-expression. I do not deny anyone’s desire to find pleasure in the aesthetic qualities to appeal to them. And given the superstition and mental conditioning that many ballplayers require to complete their tasks, I am in no position to tell them to take to the shears. Are they trying to hide their cutter in a tunnel of wavy locks? Go for it. Do they fashion themselves modern Samsons, their strength nestled somewhere between root and tip? Whatever it takes. Baseball is already arbitrary; there’s no harm in matching the ballplayers alongside.

But look. Hair has many qualities: color, style, wave, thickness, luster, all of which can be modified and improved by the hair-equipped. Length is not one of those attributes. Length is the result of literally just not cutting your hair for a while. It is an anti-accomplishment. We should require at least a little more.