The story is "Beanball" by Ron Carlson. I think he heads the MFA fiction program at UCI, where I got my MFA years ago.
"Beanball" was first published in One Story, a literary magazine that puts out one story per issue and never publishes the same writer twice, according to its website: http://www.one-story.com/
I read "Beanball" in "The Best American Mystery Stories" of 2009. At first, it didn't seem like a mystery at all.
Our hero, Driscoll, travels all over the world scouting for talented young pitchers for a major league team, a job I've always thought would be great.
The fictional Driscoll used to be a catcher in the majors, but he was hit in the head by a pitch and almost died. So now he is a scout. OK. So far, so good.
He finds a talented kid in Guatemala, and the kid goes to the majors and is hugely successful, until he beans a batter who dies. At that point, the story still had me.
Then it turns out that things are not as they seem. A kidnapping. A girl's finger is cut off. Money exchanges hands. Dirty work. Huh? WTF?
I don't want to give away too much of the plot. But Driscoll goes back to Guatemala, buys a gun and stalks the bad guys.
Turns out, the bad guys forced Alberto, the young pitcher, to kill the batter on purpose. But why? I never figured that out. Apparently, it’s not just for money. That would make too much sense.
The thriller stuff here didn't make any sense to me.
Why does Alberto show up at the end at just the right time? Apparently, just for the convenience of the plot. Did Driscoll set this up? Beats me.
And then Driscoll's old coach, mentor and good friend turns out to be another bad guy. WTF? This is like a bad Hollywood ending to a bad movie.
There are too many convenient details. The second driver in Guatemala just happens to have a gun that he is willing to sell. How does Driscoll know the gun works? He doesn't. I would not trust that gun. And it is way too convenient for the plot.
Suddenly Driscoll goes from being a baseball pitching scout to a black ops killer. He kills a man in cold blood and has no reaction. Huh? Where did that come from? Again, too convenient for the plot.
This could have been a great story. It is a good idea to have a story about the corrupting influence of money. But is that true in baseball? I have no idea. I would believe it. Unfortunately, that is not what this story is about.
What is it about? I don't know. It seems to be a weird hybrid of baseball fiction and bad thriller writing. Maybe a man's gotta do what a man's gotta do
My verdict? A good story gone horribly wrong.
Copyright © 2011, Roger R. Angle