Hops Topple Wigs, and I Was There (!)

Boy, did I need a break. My life has been absolutely out of control these last few weeks. So much stress; so many what-ifs. And after another long week fraught with the kind of all-consuming angst I haven’t felt since asking Susie Jennings to the eighth-grade junior homecoming dance, something had to give. Yesterday it did, simple as that. I think some internal barometer must have finally cracked, and all the pressure just evaporated. I woke up feeling distinctly devil-may-care. Lovely day for a trip through the space-time continuum!

I fried some bananas for breakfast – for some reason, bananas seem to help me to resist the pull of the wormhole’s mouth once I’ve crossed over – and headed to the lab. A few minutes later I was knocking on the press box door, dressed in my dad’s old tweed, a pair of browline glasses, polished leather shoes and a chambray bow tie. A round, middle-aged balding man with drooping eyes and half of a cigar dangling from his lip answered the door. Not what I expected.

"Um," I managed. So much for first impressions.

"Oh, crap. Are you Maggie’s summer intern?" He spoke in a raspy sort of drawl, like ashes washed down with whiskey. "Christ, they keep on coming earlier and earlier." He paused to draw a deep breath, no doubt winding up for a long, exasperated rant. Sensing my window already starting to close, I stumbled into speech.

"Oh no, sir. I’m—" Wait, what am I? "—just a friend. A friend. Of Maggie’s."

"Oh, thank the lord." He flashed a half-grin that may have been apologetic, or may have been snide, then swung the door open and motioned for me to step inside. "Usually the intern doesn’t show up until sometime in June, once school’s out, but you never know. Yeah, last year she had some idiot from over in the Twin Cities. Sturgeons fan. He was awful. I’m Bud, by the way. Write for the Madison Tribune."

I managed a little smile. Somehow I hadn’t imagined having to interact with other people. This was hard work.

"Hold up, you’re not from the Twin Cities, are you, son?"

"Hmm? Oh, no!" I assured him. "Born and raised in Milwaukee."

He paused on his way to his seat and turned towards me, a bemused grin spreading across his face. "Milwaukee! Well I haven’t heard anyone call it that since I was a boy! Born and raised, you say. Maggie’s down in the clubhouse, by the way. She’ll be back any day now. Help yourself to a seat!"

A rocky start, I’ll admit, but I was in. Maggie arrived a few minutes later, in a whirl of verve and excited chatter. She strode over to the table where I had found an empty chair, hair bouncing around her head in all directions, all the while delivering a gossipy monologue to the room at large:

"Ruxley’s finally had the good sense to bat Simmons third; Jones has moved down to fifth. Of course he’s still hitting himself clean-up, but I guess they say old habits die hard. I asked him about Chester Stokes – he said nothing’s broken, so you can all thank your lucky stars. He’ll be out for a bit, though, so Darren Darnell is getting the start at second today. Oh, and Guy-Homme is looking crisp down there. He has his breaking stuff working today. Of course he had nothing good to say about his so-called new pitch." She abruptly sat down in the chair next to mine and spread a mess of papers out over the table with a sideways glance. "I see you got my note. Welcome to Schlitz. I’m Maggie, obviously, pleasedtomeetyouwhat’syourname?"

I swear, everyone over there talks at about a million miles per hour. I introduced myself just before they announced the lineup over the stadium PA, and spent the next couple of hours chatting with Bud, Maggie, and the rest of the Hops press corps as the game unfolded down below.

It was a good game, too! The Hops were playing the Washington Wigs, and Guillaume Guy-Homme was every bit as good as advertised. He’s tall and lean, and he prowls around the mound with a kind of menacing confidence that makes you wonder if he wandered down to Cream City from his natural home atop Mount Olympus. He has bronze skin, dark curly hair, and a neat pencil mustache that would look at home on the face of Errol Flynn. He also has a hell of a left arm, and he got stronger as the game went on, draping the hot afternoon sun around his shoulders like some sort of regal cape. He pitched eight innings, and surrendered his only run on a cheapie solo homer that barely cleared the right-center fence in the top of the fourth. (Carlos Gomez easily would have had it, I noted silently.) After each inning, Maggie would mutter something or other about how she still hadn’t seen his mysterious new pitch. But I noticed that she would always perk up a little when he was on the mound, her conversation briefly becoming a little stunted as he sliced through Washington’s lineup. Not that I blame her – he was a lot of fun to watch. He reminds me a bit of some unholy cross between Aroldis Chapman and Wily Peralta.

The offense, strangely enough, didn’t seem that dissimilar to the Brewers’ current gang – lots of swinging for the fences, with Chaz Simmons and Wrench Ruxley connecting for back to back blasts to put the Hops up 3-1 in the bottom of the sixth. The shortstop, Raul Cassavetes, breaks that mold somewhat. He finished the day with two slap singles (one to each corner), two eight-pitch walks, and two stolen bases, along with two double plays started at short. He has soft hands and a feline grace on the field – always coiled and ready to strike. His arm is an absolute howitzer, too (I stole that from Maggie), and he let loose a laser of a throw from deep in the hole to nail the Washington leadoff hitter in the seventh inning.

I’m pleased to report that I also got my first look at the much-maligned Gary "Gopher Ball" Grant. He got the save, but not before subjecting the fans to three incredibly loud outs to the warning track. If K-Rod offers us twenty pitches of terror, Grant gives the Hops the Three Frightening Fly-balls, or something.

I declined an invitation to head down to the field and meet some of the players after the game – despite my recklessness this weekend, I’m still not sure if I should let myself get very involved over there. So I hugged Maggie, shook Bud’s hand, then hid out in the men’s toilets on the stadium concourse until I figured that everybody had left. From there I crept back to the press box, and waited for the familiar tug to drag me back into my "normal" life, in this universe. I got back just in time to see Rickie drive in Luc to go ahead in the seventh. I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t a fun day. I’d also probably be lying if I said that the whole thing was a good idea on my part. Since coming back I’ve thought a lot about whether I should have done it at all. And truth be told, I don’t really know. But I’m glad that I did, for now at least. I imagine the angst will probably return this week – I’m flying in uncharted territory with all of this, and the fact that my actions could have serious implications for the future of both our universe and theirs has not been lost on me. Day to day, I have absolutely no idea what I should do. As ever, though, I’ll keep you posted. And until then, go Brewers!

Oh, and the Hops' record is up to 15-20 now. Which apparently is better than it was a week ago. So go Hops, too!


For those who wish to catch up:

Part One
Part Two
Part Three
Part Four
Part Five
Part Six

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