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Authors: Lucas Mann

Class A (49 page)

BOOK: Class A
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“In between Clinton and Davenport,” Joyce says, looking at the water. “By a lake.”

She walks into the muddy, tall grass by the shore, and I follow her.

“I wonder what was here,” she says. “Under the water.”

I give a stoned drawl in response: “
Lots
of stuff, probably.”

We look at the skeletons of soon-to-be lakefront vacation homes, identical and clustered. We smoke cigarettes on the hood of her car, then get in, keep driving. We talk about baseball, and we talk about driving. She talks about how, when you drive eighty miles an hour down
highways, you can’t see anything, you miss everything between where you started and where you end up. What a waste. I tell her, a bit guiltily, that I speed, but I don’t want to. Going slowly makes me nervous, but I regret what I’m missing. She tells me she understands. We are about to hit the end of the gravels, come right up on a four-lane highway like a burst of fluorescent light that will shoot us down to the stadium in Quad Cities, another game, a mostly new crop of players with names she is still learning.

“Oh,
look
,” she says and stops the car.

There’s an old, once-red wooden building next to a nonoperational farm.

“That’s Buffalo Bill’s ranch,” she says.

I don’t say anything, because it seems dubious, a landmark hidden off a road with no name.

“Sometimes you’ll see people touring it, the ones that know about it,” she says. “People take care of it still. They keep buffaloes right there behind the house.”

I want to see, and so we drive up. But the field behind the house is empty, browned in late-summer heat. I sigh and I wish it weren’t such a loud sigh. Joyce says they must be inside, the buffaloes. She promises they exist. They’re magnificent, huge and antique. She’s sorry that I didn’t get to see them, but they were there, somewhere, hidden from any casual passersby. So remarkable and so close to us. They were there. And now we both know that.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

I should start at the beginning. Thank you to Ted Tornow, Nate Kreinbrink, Mitch Butz, Dave Lezotte, Brad Seward, and the rest of the LumberKings staff. Thanks for letting me into the front office, for allowing me to watch you work, for believing in the value of a project documenting the team you run so well. John Tamargo could have kicked me out at any time, and didn’t. I truly appreciate his kindness. Thanks to JT, Terry Pollreisz, and Dwight Bernard for letting me be a part of the clubhouse and imparting to me at least a fraction of your combined century of baseball knowledge.

Of course, thank you to all the players on the 2010 Clinton LumberKings, with special thanks to Danny Carroll, Henry Contreras, Nick Franklin, and Erasmo Ramírez. You let me get to know you when you had plenty of other things to do. Thank you for sharing your stories with me. You are some of the most talented, dedicated people I have ever had the privilege to know. I wish you all the best. You deserve it.

So much of my Clinton experience was shaped by the fans, a group unlike any other I’ve ever met. Thank you to Joyce, Betty, Bill, Tammy, Tim, Eileen, Gary, Cindy, Julie, and so many more, as well as Sue Bigwood for her words about Tom. To be welcomed into The Baseball Family was a gift that I never anticipated. I am grateful to have sat all those hours with you and to be able to call you my friends. Outside of The Family, so many helped me get to know Clinton: Mike Kearny, Bob Soesbe, Bob Krajnovic, Ed Broderick, Jennifer Sherer, Charlene Bielema, Tony Davis, Lydia Hallbach, Steven Ames, Heather Bahnsen, Gary Herrity, Rev. Ray Gimenez, the volunteers at the Clinton County Historical Society, the list goes on and on. Thank you all for your time.

The amazing generosity that people showed me during my research didn’t end in Iowa. So many people made my travels in Venezuela possible. Thank you to Jose Manuel Plata Ramírez, Juan Carlos Hererra, Alba Tirado, Sara Jiminez Molina, Luis Linares, Reny Bernal, Arturo Marcano, my gracious Tinaquillo hosts Ana, Luis, Justino, and Arnaldo, the staff and players of the VSL Mariners at Agua Linda, the scholars at the Venezuelan Baseball Hall of Fame in Valencia, and many, many kind strangers. I, quite literally, would have been lost without you.

Thank you to my teachers, without whom I would also be lost, though perhaps less literally. First, to Amitava Kumar at Vassar College, for telling me I was a writer and then telling me to shut up when I disagreed. And to my professors in the Nonfiction Writing Program at the University of Iowa. Thank you for teaching me what this genre really is and why it is important. John D’Agata, there are so many ways in which you helped me grow as a writer. I will just say a simple thanks and hope it can suffice.

The best gift that the University of Iowa gave me was a group of peers and friends who also happen to be some of the best young writers in the country. I can’t mention everyone, though I should. Kristen Radtke, Mary Hellen Kennerly, Angela Davies Stewart, Lina Maria Fereira Cabeza Vanegas, Chelsea Cox, Ariel Lewiton, Inara Verzemnieks, and Mike Lewis. Thank you all for being so smart and willing to take time away from your own work to make this manuscript better.

I would also like to thank my editor, Keith Goldsmith, and everyone at Pantheon. Keith, thank you for the opportunity, the support, the shrewd and thorough edits. And thank you to my agent, Victoria Marini, for finding me and staying with me, for being a great reader, advocate, and friend.

Finally, my family. Thank you to my parents and my brother Pete for being kind, funny, and smart, and making me aspire to those qualities. And to Ottavia: I am so lucky for everything that you are. I love you.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Lucas Mann received his MFA in nonfiction from the University of Iowa, where he is currently a Provost’s Visiting Writer. His essays and stories have appeared in or are forthcoming from
Wigleaf
,
Barrelhouse
,
New South
,
Columbia: A Journal of Literature and Art
, and
The Kenyon Review
. He lives in Iowa City, Iowa.

BOOK: Class A
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