Trolls make great catchers. This troll, however, wanted to play first base.
The troll wasn’t having any of Rick’s usual “do as you’re told,” garbage. As manager, Rick knew he had to maintain tight control of his players, and these players in particular.
Next to the dragon and were-beasts, the trolls were the hardest to control.
He had to find a way to get the troll to play ball, as it were, and accept his assigned position. One angry troll can ruin a baseball game, and bench clearing brawls in this league were brutal. During the last melee Rick lost a relief pitcher (a wizard in training who took a surprise hit to the head from a rampaging unicorn), and a utility infielder (crushed by a fire-demon). Additionally, his third baseman, the dwarf, lost two fingers from his glove hand, which would not have been all that bad if he hadn’t also lost his left eye. Like a trooper, however, the little guy was in today’s lineup, with a couple dowels stuffed in his glove and a leather eye patch with an Unblinking Evil Eye painted on front. He also had his battle ax strapped to his back, just in case.
Rick made a mental note to watch for any depth perception issues on the Hot Corner, and to be especially polite with any comments.
Right now he was dealing with a recalcitrant troll.
“Look, Bruk, I know you want first base, but I need you at catcher. Besides, Veriolas the elf is the best first baseman in the league! Error free over the last eight games!”
“I eat him,” said Bruk the troll, and began a move toward the elf, who was sitting at the end of the dugout in deep conversation with a pigeon.
“You will NOT eat him!” said Rick, raising his hands in front of the troll to stop him.
“Want first base,” insisted the troll, who had in fact stopped, but was now looking at him in a way suggesting the brute was considering a gastronomic alternative, something starting with “R” and ending with “ICK”.
A couple players were watching. It was a Leadership Moment. Rick stood his ground.
Sticking his chin out with a foul glare, he pointed his finger at the troll and pounded it into the massive chest with each word, barking “YOU’LL PLAY WHERE I TELL YOU, YOU SLOW-WITTED QUANTUM-BRAINED LEVIATHAN!” He stopped poking the chest because it hurt, and continued, “If you don’t, you can darn well find another team, if any will have a slow-moving cross-eyed moron with pigeon-toes and a brain dumber than a cat turd rolled in peanuts!”
There was a stunned silence in the dugout. The troll raised his head and looked at Rick with a quizzical tilt, his slow-witted brain struggling to figure out what had just been said.
Then, figuring it out (or at least near enough), his eyes narrowed and his ears, like a cat, twisted back in anger. He reached out a massive arm and swatted Rick aside like a thin leafy branch.
Rick hit the back of the dugout and fell to the floor.
The troll lifted a fleshy foot, placed it on Rick’s neck and pressed down.
Rick struggled for a minute or two before passing out.
Rick awoke, still on the floor of the dugout.
He sat up and looked around. It was empty except at the far end sat the Troll all alone. He was rubbing his eyes. Snot was running freely from his nose. It puddled on the floor and, being highly acidic, had burned through half a discarded Dixie Cup®. It lay sizzling on the dugout floor. The smell was acrid and painful.
He stood and, still dizzy with a throbbing head, staggered down and sat next to Bruk.
Before saying anything, he looked onto the field and saw the team warming up for the game. Goblins, elves, dwarves, a dragon, everyone except the troll. He noted with relief that Veriolas was on first.
“Bruk sad!” said the troll suddenly. “You hurt Bruk feelings.”
Rick looked at Bruk.
“First base, Bruk? Why first base?” he asked because he genuinely wanted to know. What was the big deal with first?
The troll answered, “Food always run from Bruk. Always have to chase. Chasing hard.”
“Food. Enemy. Other team. All the same,” said Bruk simply. “On first base, food comes to me.”
“You can’t eat the runners, Bruk. You know that, right?”
Bruk gave Rick a sideways glance, “Bruk might forget.”
There was silence as Rick thought for a minute.
“You know, Bruk,” he said casually, “I think you’re forgetting something about being catcher.”
“Bruk knows catcher. Forget nothing.”
“I think you are,” said Rick. “In fact, I think you’re forgetting the most important part of being a catcher.”
“Catching? Throwing?” replied the troll sarcastically.
“Bruk,” Rick turned to the troll, “Food doesn’t… I mean runners don’t just run to first base. They also run to second base.”
“Bruk know this. Is nothing new.”
“Then they run to third base,” Rick continued.
“This is stupid talk. Bruk know all this.”
“But where does the food… I mean runners go after third base, Bruk?”
“Food runs to home…” Bruk stopped and turned slowly to Rick, a smile beginning to grow on his face, “…plate.”
“Home plate,” repeated Rick. “Now, I don’t approve of eating the other team, but if one of my players once in a while gets confused and acts on a misunderstanding of the terminology, well that’s hardly my fault.”
“Food runs to Home Plate!” Bruk said excitedly. He jumped up and ran to take his position as catcher.
Rick sat on the bench in silence.
Eventually he stood up and walked to the other end of the dugout where his assistant manager, a blue-skinned fellow with gills and pointy teeth sat looking over the pitching stats.
“Looking good, Mer-man!” Rick clapped his hands together and said, smiling, “Today I feel a win coming on. I think it might even be a shutout!”