Larry Gordon has it all. He’s a successful major league pitcher and is dating the perfect woman. He’ll earn big money in the free agency market at the end of the upcoming season if he plays well during this, his Contract Year. But his girlfriend walks out on him and turns his world upside down. Larry heads off to spring training to forget about her and get ready for the season. He learns quickly that his self-absorbed carefree way of life won’t cut it anymore, that he’ll have to find a new way to succeed on the mound and in his personal life. Follow Larry’s funny and poignant journey, and get a peek inside the world of professional baseball.
Recent praise for Contract Year:
“Contract Year tells not only the story of a superstar’s emergence in the key year of his baseball career, it presents the journey of a superstar’s heart in the most pivotal year of his personal life and shows how the glory we seek is sometimes right under our nose. A great read.” — Rick Hurd, National Baseball Writer
“The author gives a good glimpse into the trials and tribulations that a professional baseball player faces, including the stress and outside distractions we deal with on a daily basis. Although I am the polar opposite of Larry off the field, its’s a good story and I enjoyed reading it a great deal.” – James Simmons, Oakland Athletics pitcher
“Memory of a fan waving a sign “Marry Me!” was the inspiration for Contract Year, and the author lit up with joy and excitement. I know. I was there. And it’s been a joy watching Bee Hylinski develop the plot, deepen her characters, enhance the scenes, and tighten the writing, all for the love of baseball, and for the love of love.” — Clive Matson, author Let the Crazy Child Write! and Chalcedony’s Songs
“What fun to experience a young man’s success as he struggles to become more than he ever imagined becoming! When we first meet Larry, he seems a shallow and callow youth with a one-track world view: his baseball career and himself. But then–slowly and not too willingly–he looks beyond and sees more in his universe than himself, and he begins to change, to open up, to become. For this reader, he moved from a boy I did not much like to a person I enjoy knowing.” — Jean G., Walnut Creek, CA
“I just finished Contract Year and the ending was wonderful. Wish we heard more stories like that.” Ray D., Walnut Creek, CA
“It’s really good! Very well written.” Ned L., Seattle, WA
I am pleased to report that the novel is done and is in the publication process. As soon as it is out, I can have my life back. Well, I’ll have to market it, but that sounds like fun to me.
Anyway, I thought I’d give you a teaser of sorts, in the form of a chapter that was removed “because it didn’t move the plot,” as my esteemed editor, Rick Hurd, told me many times as we were trying to whittle it down from 465 pages to 330+.
In this scene, my character and starting pitcher, Larry Gordon, and his buddy, Rick Wycliffe, a relief pitcher, are in Seattle for the start of the baseball season. They flew up a day early and have some time to kill. After going up to the top of the Space Needle and eating lunch in the revolving restaurant, they walk towards the downtown area and come upon the Pike Place Market. Here is what happened there:
Rick and I continue south along the Seattle waterfront until we come to the Pike Place Market, an old fashioned wharf-side fish market that sells more than just things from the sea, and we decide to wander in and have a look.
We pass stalls decked out in the vibrant colors of vegetables, berries, fruits, and flowers in a rainbow of hues, and booths that sell candy, aromatic coffees, teas, spices, and ice cream. Our noses are greeted with a strong aroma of cinnamon as we approach a lighted case containing warm sticky buns that make our mouths water. Even though we just ate dessert, they smell too good to pass up, and we buy one to split.
Next door is one of the fish mongers, and something flying catches my eye. Rick and I move to the left to watch a guy tossing a large silvery salmon to another guy at the other end of the stall. He lays it out on the crushed ice heaped on a slanted display shelf at the front of the stall.
We watch several more flying fish, and I can see by the expression on Rick’s face that he’s hatching something. He gives me an evil look. “Hey, bro. If you ever get injured and can’t pitch, I bet you could get a job here.” He pauses for a second for effect. “Nah, you’d never do it,” and gives me a jab in the ribs.
“Who says?” I rub my side and wink at Rick. After a few seconds, I vault quickly over the barrier between the stalls and land in front of the flabbergasted fish tosser, “Can I try that?” I ask.
I’m sure this guy in a bloodstained apron and wool fisherman’s cap thinks I’m a raving loon, but he says, “Okay, if you want to.” Then, eyeing me quizzically, he says: “You look familiar. Do I know you?”
I say in a low voice: “That guy over there is Rick Wycliffe and I’m Larry Gordon. We’re in town with the Renegades to play the Mariners.” Recognition spreads across his face.
Before he can say anything, I say, indicating Rick, “He bet me I wouldn’t do this, and I want to make a liar out of him. Can you help me out here?” I put on my most appealing boyish smile and hold out my hands.
He looks at me dubiously but decides to go along with the program. He hands me a somewhat cleaner apron than the one he is wearing, which I slip over my head. He tells me to turn around and wraps the apron strings around me so I can tie them in the front. Next he holds out a pair of long rubber gloves and I slip them on. I don’t want to think about what kind of fish guts are inside them.
Then he retrieves a huge glistening salmon from a crate behind him and places it into my gloved hands. He calls down to the guy at the other end of the stall, “Hey, Mike, incoming!”
Mike yells back, “Ready when you are, Chuck!”
“Go for it!” Chuck says, and stands back to give me some room.
I make sure I have a good grip on the slippery fish, take a few practice swings to get the feel for its weight, and launch it into the air in Mike’s direction. He deftly catches the salmon, places it carefully next to the previous one and gives me a thumbs-up. The few people who saw me vault into the stall start to clap.
Chuck hands me another silvery fish, and I fling it toward Mike who lays it out next to my first fish on the ice. I look over the counter to find Rick. I see him standing behind the burgeoning crowd, shaking his head, but smiling.
I turn back to Chuck who thrusts another fish into my hands, clearly amused by this whole scene. I send it on its way, a perfect strike, right into Mike’s waiting hands. This is a piece of cake, I think. Much louder applause this time. We’ve drawn quite an audience.
After a few more perfect pitches, I hear murmuring in the crowd. Uh-oh. I bet we’ve been found out.
“Thanks for the fish-pitching lesson,” I say to Chuck. “It was fun. But we’ve got to get out of here.”
I peel off the gloves and the apron, thrusting them at Chuck, and jump back over the barrier to more applause. People are now pointing at me. I sprint to Rick and we take off away from the crowd before Chuck can confirm who we are.
We emerge into the sunlight, put our sunglasses disguise back in place, and dissolve into hysterics. It feels like the time when I was a kid, and my best friend and I reduced a neighbor’s ancient grape arbor to kindling by pulling it apart with our bare hands. When we heard a car pull in the driveway, we snuck off through the adjoining back yards, and no one but us ever knew who had done it. We chuckled about that in secret for years afterwards.
Rick and I head back toward the hotel with a bounce in our steps, and he teases me about how fishy I smell now. In all my current turmoil, it sure was nice just to goof around for a while. Rick and I used to do this a lot when we first met in A-ball, before he got married and baseball got so serious.
We duck into a bar for a beer along the way and thank our lucky stars that no one we know was on hand in the Pike Place Market to witness our shenanigans. Rick says, “You know we could never get away with anything like that in the Bay Area.”
“Yup. It’s one of the few benefits of being on the road. We can go out in public,” I say, and chug the rest of my beer.
Rick and I decide to grab an early dinner at a small restaurant near the hotel. It’s a little hole in the wall place but the menu posted outside looks promising. In honor of my fish-pitching exploits, I order salmon, which is delicious. Rick has Alaskan King Crab legs which are huge and very messy. His Dead Head tee shirt will never look or smell the same again.
We pay the check and walk back to the hotel completely contented. He heads off to his room to call Cindy. I crawl into my bed and bury my head in my Michael Crichton novel until the oblivion of sleep claims me.
* * *
Hope you enjoyed this little vignette. BTW, the pictures are not in the novel. I just wanted to break up the text for the blog.
I’ll keep you posted on the publication process. The book should be avaliable sometime before the baseball season starts.