The team silently filed out of the dugout, shuffling back to the locker rooms, their heads hung low. Crunching on the stale sunflower seed shells that littered the cold concrete floor. In the distance, two people were chuckling, drunks, judging by how loudly they were talking. Although they were practically screaming now, they were too far away to make out the words. Crewmen were sweeping up the stands, but Ned just sat there on the bench. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw a June bug fly down onto the bench beside him. It was so close; he could smash it if he wanted to.
Soon he would have to go to the post-game press conference, to answer those stupid questions. Fat, soft people in suits, who do nothing but try to think up the next "gotcha" quote. People who probably never even played any sport, let alone baseball. They just don't understand competition, how you have to trust your instincts, you don't have time to estimate how fast the fastball is coming at you. You just hit it. You can't think your way into catching a throw. You just do it. These assholes have the fucking leisure of sitting there in their cushy fucking seats, guffawing it up while they take notes on how they will make him sound like he lost the fucking game. They have the leisure to pour over a games worth of moves and question him about the times that didn't work out. The times that his moves worked didn't fucking matter to them.
What the fuck did those assholes know? Nothing! They don't know what its like to work and claw and struggle to get to the show. How hard you have to work to stay at the top of your game, how sometimes, some people just aren't meant to be a Hall of Famer, yet can still be productive members of a ball team. How even though you might have dreams of being an All-Star player, sometimes your dreams are crushed. Not those assholes, they don't know. They don't know shit!
Pain in his forearms pulled him out of his thoughts; he had been clenching his fists so tightly that they were spasming, he took a deep breath and released his grip, but his tendons were wound so tightly they balked at relaxing fully. He stared at his hands for a while. The June bug was still there.
He remembered the hot August days, wearing a vest and helmet and shin guards. The musty smell that wouldn't go away no matter how much the gear was scrubbed. The sound of a pitch smacking into his mitt, the sound of a bat swinging through the air near his head, the smell of the dirt. It was so much simpler than this shit. Teammates would be there to pick you up, your coach would say something to make you feel better. Now, nobody had his back.
The June bug flew away. He watched it go. His thoughts turned to that time he was deer hunting. It was the almost the last day of the season, and he hadn't filled his tag, yet. He sat there in his tree stand all day, waiting for his chance. With the sun setting, he unloaded his rifle, and quietly climbed down. A rustling sound caught his attention, and he saw a buck off to his right. He stood still, barely breathing, the deer didn't even know he was there. It was so close that Ned could hear it's breathe.
Ned thought about loading a shell back into his rifle. The deer moved closer. He could probably take one step and just stab it. The deer continued rummaging through the brush, somehow it didn't even know Ned was there. He could touch it, probably even steer-wrestle it to the ground. He just watched it. Listened to it eat. Suddenly, it looked up, snorted. It's tail flicked. It looked around for a while, sniffed the air. The twilight was waning. Everything was black and white. The deer snorted, stomped at the ground. Ned stood still.
"Hey! They're waiting for you," said Joel.
Ned jumped up. "Yeah, I was just about to head in."