9

Searching For Skip

The Starbucks coffee cups were piled high in a room. The white and green cardboard and plastic that stretched across the office floor stood still in a shadow. A single light on the desk dimly lit the 10’ by 15’ square foot space. The green two-tailed mermaid on each cup smiled and watched as two men threw darts at post-it notes stuck on a wall. Each post-it note had a different name written on it: Stubby Clap, Sandy Alomar Jr., John Schneider, Chris Woodward, Eric Wedge, and John McDonald.

“Darn it, how long are we going to keep doing this, Mark?” Atkins asked. He tossed his coffee cup into the pile and walked over to one of the Starbucks coffee boxes on the desk, grabbed a new cup, and began to pour some more coffee.

“Why do you always insist on using a new cup?”

“You know why.”

“Well, it’s strange behaviour, Ross. Now, hurry up it’s your turn.” Shapiro said.

Atkins picked up one of the darts on the desk and threw it at the wall.

“Hah…Alomar Jr. How many is that for Sandy?!” Mark screamed in excitement.

“33”

“So Clapp’s at 24, Sandy’s at 33, Schneider is at 15, Woodward…21, Wedge at 18, and McDonald at 31…It’s a close one between Sandy and McDonald.”

“Are we really going to hire the guy who gets to 50 first?”

“Yes, Ross. How many times do I have to tell you that this is how I’ve always decided on new managers?”

“What’s wrong with interviews? Really, what’s wrong with them?” Atkins asked.

“How many times do I have to explain this to you? The interview is a formality and we will continue with it, but we will hire the guy who gets to 50 first…Okay, my turn.” Shapiro picked up a dart and threw it at the wall, “Hmm…Schneider.”

Atkins looked over at the white and green Starbucks hill that stretched across Shapiro’s office floor. He noticed one of the two-tailed mermaids staring at him, smiling. “Across the water to Hanlan’s Point,” she said.

“Hanlan’s Point?”

“What about Hanlan’s Point?” Shapiro asked.

“You didn’t hear that?”

“Hear what?”

“The mermaid.”

“Are you completely boxed out of your mind, Ross?”

Atkins looked back at the green two-tailed mermaid who spoke to him. “Ask the Babe. The Babe. The Babe. The Babe.”

“Ask the Babe?”

“What Babe, Ross? What the hell are you going on about?”

“I think we’re suppose to ask the Babe at Hanlan’s Point.”

“Ask what Babe what at Hanlan’s Point, Ross?”

Atkins looked back down at the two-tailed mermaid. “Google it,” she said. He grabbed his phone off Shapiro’s desk and googled ‘The Babe, Hanlan’s Point.’

“Get off your phone and toss a dart, Ross.”

“Hold on for a second.” Ross put his phone back down on the desk. He stood there quietly thinking. “Okay, now hear me out. Now, I think I’m going to sound a little bit crazy, Mark, but I think the two-tailed mermaid is telling me that we have to go to Hanlan’s Point and ask Babe Ruth who we should hire as the new manager.”

“Are you completely nuts, Ross? Pick up a damn dart and toss it at one of the names.”

“No, Mark…We’re not going to choose the next manager based on your dart throwing system. We are going to go to Hanlan’s Point and ask the Babe.”

“This is absolutely absurd, Ross. Pick up a dart and throw it at the wall.”

“Every strike brings me closer to the next home run,” the two-tailed mermaid whispered.

“Did you hear that, Mark?”

Mark stood there quietly. He looked at the pile of Starbucks coffee cups. He looked back at Atkins, “Every strike brings me closer to the next home run.”

***

A full moon was shining in the sky like a giant baseball ready to be mashed into potatoes. Shapiro and Atkins stood at the Toronto Waterfront looking at Hanlan’s Point in the distance. A couple of drunk girls wearing Blue Jays caps walked past them. “Holy shit…it’s Mark Shapiro and Ross Atkins,” one of the girls yelled. “What the hell are you guys doing down here?”

“We have to get to Hanlan’s Point and talk to the Babe.” Atkins said.

The girls looked at each other and started laughing, “Ah, sure, good luck with that.” They continued walking.

“Darn it, Mark. Those girls probably think we’re on grass or something.”

“Don’t worry about them, Ross. We need to figure out how in the heck we are going to get across the water.” Mark looked around at the boats in the harbour and spotted a canoe.

“CALL HIM UP!” One of the girls shouted in the distance.

Shapiro and Atkins looked back at the girls. “Call him up…Call him up…” Atkins mockingly said under his voice.

“Don’t worry about them. We’ve got bigger baseballs to catch. Follow me.”

Moments later.

Shapiro and Atkins were sitting inside a canoe that was tied up to a dock in the waterfront. Shapiro leaned over and untied it. The two started paddling.

“What are we doing, Mark? Maybe this is just hooey. Maybe I’m just tired. Maybe we should just go back and throw darts. Maybe your dart throwing system is the proper way to choose a new manager.”

“Ross, I remember reading in one of my leadership books that sometimes later becomes never…No, wait…Hmm, not that one. Oh…yeah…Success doesn’t just find you, you have to…Ah, no. Not that one…Yes, that’s it: Your limitation – it’s only your imagination, Ross. So paddle the damn boat. We are seeing this thing to the end.”

Twenty minutes later. Shapiro and Atkins were halfway to Hanlan’s Point.

“I feel like we’re not getting anywhere.”

“I agree – it’s like we’re not moving anymore.” Shapiro put down his paddle.

“What do we now?” Ross asked.

“Let’s just take a rest.”

The two sat there looking at the giant baseball moon. Atkins began to hum the beat to Hall and Oates’ ‘You Make My Dreams’.

“Hmm…Hah…Hmm…Hah…Hmm…Hah….Hmm…Hmm…Hmm…Hmm…Hah…”

“Hall and Oates?”

“Yeah. I always hum that when I’m nervous.”

“What I want, you’ve got. And it might be hard to handle. But like the flame that burns the candle. The candle feeds the flame, yeah…yeah…” Shapiro began to sing the lyrics to this classic Hall and Oates tune. Atkins joined in and the two sang quietly.

“What I’ve got’s full stock of thoughts and dreams that scatter. You pull them all together. And how, I can’t explain. Oh yeah, well…well you. You make my dreams come true…” The two stopped singing and started laughing hysterically like a couple of drunk sailors lost at sea. After a few seconds of mad laughter, they sat there quietly.

“Ross?”

“Yeah, Mark.”

“We’re fucked.”

“Yeah, Mark. I think so.”

Atkins stared off into the water and noticed a lot of big bubbles coming up a couple feet from their canoe.

“Ah…Mark, what’s that?

Shapiro looked down at the water. “I have no idea, Ross.”

The bubbles got bigger and bigger with each passing second. The canoe began to rock back and forth. Shapiro and Atkins grabbed onto the canoe and held on as it rocked harder than any Hall and Oates song. The canoe flipped over.

Moments later.

Shapiro and Atkins were trapped inside a life-size bubble, which was about 59” or 1.5 meters in diameter. They slowly fell to the bottom of the harbour. The light from the baseball moon in the night sky began to fade from the surface of the water as the two dropped to deep depths. They were scared. Shapiro and Atkins’ bubble hit bottom.

“What the heck is going on, Mark?”

“How the hell am I suppose to know, Ross?”

“We should’ve just tossed darts, Mark. We should’ve just tossed the darn darts.”

“Shut up for a second…Do you see that, Ross?”

“See what?”

Atkins looked straight ahead and noticed a dim light getting brighter and brighter.

“Is that a Starbucks?” Ross asked.

“I think so, Ross. I think so…”

The bubble started to float in the direction of the Starbucks and the doors opened and they went inside as the doors closed behind them. Their bubble disappeared and Shapiro and Atkins stood in an empty Starbucks. Hall and Oates’ ‘You Make My Dreams’ played softly in the background.

“What the heck is going on, Mark?”

“How the hell am I suppose to know, Ross”

A large figure suddenly appeared in front of them. It was Babe Ruth.

“We didn’t have two beauts like this back in my day,” Babe Ruth said as he appeared.

“Beauts?” Atkins asked.

“Hall and Oates…Now hurry up and follow me. No time for dumb small chat.” Babe Ruth began walking to the back of the Starbucks and opened up the only door in this bizarre underwater coffee corporation.

“Whattya waitin’ for?!’ Babe Ruth bellowed out.

Shapiro and Atkins hurried over, Babe Ruth opened the door and went in. Shapiro and Atkins followed.

***

The sun blazed in the sky showering the earth with a Nolan Ryan kind of heat. Shapiro, Atkins, and Babe Ruth were walking through a large corn field.

“Where are you taking us, Mr. Ruth?” Atkins asked.

“To the answer.”

The three of them approached the end of the corn field and Ruth stopped and turned around and looked at them, “Isn’t it beautiful?”

Shapiro and Atkins followed Ruth onto a baseball field. In the distance, a bunch of ballplayers sat in a dugout taking in the air.

“Where are we?” Shapiro asked.

“Iowa, but we call it heaven,” Ruth laughed.

“Is that Kevin Costner?” Atkins said excitedly.

“Ha…Nah, that ain’t Costner. It’s Ray Kinsella.”

“Yeah…but…”

“Kinsella, Ross…It’s goddamn Ray Kinsella.”

Ruth led Shapiro and Atkins to the dugout where some of the greatest ballplayers to ever set foot on a diamond sat: DiMaggio, Clemente, Mantle, Feller, and Shoeless Joe, who was sitting at the end of the bench by himself.

“So I know ya boys came to me for the answer…And the truth is that I ain’t got it, but he does.” Ruth pointed at Shoeless Joe Jackson.

“So what are we suppose to do now?” Atkins asked.

“Ha…GMs…I’ve never liked the likes of any of ya…Whattya suppose to do? Whattya think? Go ask the man for the goddamn answer. Ya want me to hold your hand, do ya?”

“I thought I was suppose to ask you,” Atkins said.

“Nope, ya need to ask, Shoe.”

Atkins looked over at Shapiro who stood there in awe of being in the presence of these baseball legends and…Ray Kinsella. Atkins nudged Shapiro and then gestured over to Shoeless Joe. The two approached Shoeless Joe. He looked up at them.

“Whattya two bozos want?”

“We’re looking for a new skip,” Atkins said.

“What the darts weren’t doin’ it for ya?”

“A two-tailed mermaid spoke to me.”

“Ha..that old tart…Good gal…So whattya want me to tell ya?”

“Who we should hire as our new manager.” Shapiro jumped in.

“Well, here’s the thing guys…And you’re probably not gonna like it.”

“What?” Atkins asked.

“Ya wasted your time.”

“Wasted our time?

“Yup.”

“You’ve got to be kidding me.” Atkins said.

“Nope, not kiddin’.”

“Listen, I threw darts for hours at a bunch of post-it notes. I spoke to some weird two-tailed Starbucks mermaid that told me to go to Hanlan’s Point because Babe Ruth had the answer. I had some random drunk Jays fan yell at me to call him up. I stole a canoe and tried to paddle to the Toronto Island. I sang Hall and Oates with Mark. I got trapped in a bubble that fell to the bottom of the darn harbour. I ended up in some weird Starbucks where Babe Ruth appeared out of thin air. I walked into a door that led me to Iowa or heaven or Ray Kinsella’s baseball diamond from the movie Field of Dreams, and now I’m talking to you. So tell me something, Shoe. Tell me something…Anything.”

“Well, the thing about managers is that they ain’t gonna win ya a World Series, are they? The players will though. So the truth is, your dart system is a damn good system, it is. Ya didn’t need to go through all this trouble to get the answer from me. The two of ya should go back to that stuffy office and toss some more darts.”

“But we’re here now. We’re here now. Tell me anything…” Atkins desperately said.

“Yes, you’re here now. And the only thing I can tell ya is this…#GibbyTheBest!”

-THE END-