Excerpt: 'The Art of Fielding' by Chad Harbach


Baseball, Nintendo, 1983

From Vanity Fair:

Henry Skrimshander stood in line beneath a billowing, navy-and-ecru-striped tent, waiting to obtain his room assignment. It was the last week of August, just three weeks after he’d met Mike Schwartz in Peoria. He’d been on the bus from Lankton all night, and the straps of his duffel bags formed a sweaty X across his chest. A smiling woman in a navy T‑shirt with a man’s bearded face on it asked him to spell his name. Henry did so, his heart thumping. Mike Schwartz had assured him that everything was taken care of, but each moment the smiling woman spent flipping through her printouts confirmed what Henry had secretly known all along, made only more apparent by the groomed green lawn and the gray stone buildings that surrounded it, the sun just risen over the steamy lake and the mirrored-glass facade of the library, the lithe tank-topped girl behind him tip-tapping on her iPhone as she sighed with a boredom so sophisticated that Henry could imagine precisely nothing about her life: he didn’t belong here.

He’d been born in Lankton, South Dakota, seventeen and a half years earlier. It was a town of forty-three thousand people, surrounded by seas of corn. His father was a foreman at a metalworking shop. His mom worked part-time as an X‑ray technician at All Saints. His little sister, Sophie, was a sophomore at Lankton High.

On Henry’s ninth birthday, his dad had taken him to the sporting goods store and told him to pick out whatever he liked. There had never been any doubt about the choice—there was only one glove in the store with the name of Aparicio Rodriguez inscribed in the pocket—but Henry took his time, trying on every glove, amazed by the sheer fact of being able to choose. The glove seemed huge back then; now it fit him snugly, barely bigger than his left hand. He liked it that way; it helped him feel the ball.

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