Running Out the Hurt

Posted on April 4, 2013



Running Out the Hurt

Baseball the Way It Should Be Played

Robert Joe Stout

Running away from his failures in trying to compete with professional baseball stars, fifteen-year-old Alejandro Lòpez winds up destitute in a seaside city in western Mexico. Although the runaway Cuban attempts to conceal his abilities on the diamond several members of a ragtag semi-pro team—the San Arturo Zancudos—drag him back into playing the sport he loves. An instant success, both on the field and with the town’s teenaged flirts he sparks the formerly last-place has-beens into a contender for the league championship.

“Baseball the way it should be played!” enthuses the team’s quirky leftfielder as he and the oddball collection of ballplayers battle, lie, joke and celebrate both on and off the field. Their antics—and successes on the diamond—spark a contagious community following until Alejandro’s abilities attract the attention of Major League scouts and his illegal immigration status is revealed.

Alejandro is forced to choose between a professional contract to play in the United States and staying with the team. His decision and the responses of his teammates provide a dramatic climax to an entertaining and vivid look at baseball, at Mexico, and at how human relationships struggle and prosper.

From the book: Alejandro and his compadres

The heat and work schedules that forced Sergio Naranjo, El Jipi and Cipriano to arrive later than usual shortened the Wednesday practice.
“Beer time! Beer time!” Cruz Torres trotted among the players extending what Memo González called the “dirtiest ugly baseball cap” he’d ever seen. Torres countered that it was his lucky Arteaga pitching cap.
“It reeks!” Memo held his nose, insisting the “A”-emblazoned once black headpiece was more sweat salt than fabric. Sergio held it up to show it to his wife Elizabeth, who grimaced and agreed with Memo.
“Oyen, give it to me, I’ll wash it,” she tried to dump the money that Cruz Torres had collected into Sergio’s hand but Torres grabbed it away from her.
“El nombre de Diós! It’s bad luck to wash a pitcher’s cap!”
“Just go get the beer!” Quino swatted Torres with his glove. The heat had made Quino more than usually thirsty and the day and a half without Yolanda made him feel oddly distracted, as though he had forgotten something important and couldn’t remember what it was. He had just pulled off his shoes to shake the dust and grime out of them when he heard a woman’s voice shouting from a car that had stopped by the edge of the practice field. Thinking it was someone for Alejandro he waved, then recognized Cipriano’s car and realized that Cipriano’s wife Sonia was gesturing to them.
“I thought you’d be getting thirsty,” she laughed and began passing plastic bags filled with ice and cans of Tecate through the window. Quino noticed someone in the car with her and waved, then realized that it was Sonia’s sister.
“Quino!” she opened the passenger door and blew him a kiss. She was wearing a form-fitting knit blouse and hip-hugging black pants that flared at the cuffs. “And Aleje-…`Grifo,’ no? May I call you that, too?”
Her smile danced impishly across her lips.
“Diós mío, you do get more handsome every day! I should be the one pursuing you, not Esther.”
“Maybe you should,” Quino suggested. “We’ve been concerned that he’s too old physically–sexually–for the harem, that he should seek older, more equal—”
“Alej-…Grifo, you’re looking for someone older?”
“No, es decir—l”
“Be careful, Aleja-…`Grifo,'” she cautioned. “You know the old saying about a `woman scorned.'”
“I–no,” he stammered, aware that behind him some of the Zancudos were calling for the beer. “I mean—l”
“That’s why we thought, you know, someone older…”
“Pura mierda. I love what you’re doing but that’s pura mierda.”
Quino grinned. He could handle such banter–he’d been handling it most of his life–but he could see that Alejandro was intimidated. As other cars pulled up and Quino recognized Sergio’s wife Elizabeth and Edda, the former Number One Concubine, and Maricela, El Jipi’s one-time partner. Sonia’s sister tried to convince Sonia to stay but Sonia replied that she needed to take the two children somewhere.
“Then maybe this young Lothario will see me home?”
“As long as Esther doesn’t see us,” Alejandro seemed to realize that she was teasing.
Sonia’s sister laughed and took one of the bags of iced beer from him. Halfway towards the ball players clustered beside the practice field’s wooden benches she stopped.
“Diós mío! We’re caught before we even get started!” She pointed towards a convergence of fifteen-year-olds that included her daughter Esther and blinked up at Alejandro in such a perfect imitation of harem adoration that Quino burst out laughing.
Nor did she relent once they were among the team members. She pressed her hips against Alejandro, brought him a cup of beer and put her arm around him while she gave him little sips from it.
“Mother! What are you doing?”
“Flirting. Or couldn’t you tell?”
“It’s not fair that you monopolize him!” a woman that Quino recognized as one of Moctezuma’s publicity contacts wiggled onto Alejandro’s lap and ripped little folds of Kleenex from a plastic packet to wipe the sweat from his cheeks and neck.
“Make him tell us about his gringa. The one they had to carry to the airplane in a stretcher—”
“Have him tell about the night he kissed me,” Maricela’s softer, deeper voice intruded.
For an instant reality changed. The level of flirtations were different. Even the teenagers sensed it.
“Tell us about it,” Sonia’s sister whispered.
“It–it was very nice,” Alejandro replied.


Running Out The Hurt paints a vivid picture of the colorful world of Latin American baseball. The story begins with a Cuban player, drafted by Yucatan in the Mexican professional league, who decides his younger brother has more natural talent and should take the opportunity in his place. Fifteen year old Alejandro Lopez posing as his older brother is not mature enough to play at the professional level and suffers “the hurt” of failure and bringing shame to his family. He runs away to hide in the small coastal town of San Arturo.

Like most small towns, San Arturo prizes its amateur baseball team, a collection of colorful players ranging from the catcher Sergio with some professional experience to Paco, the crafty old junk ball pitcher who could have taught Gaylord Perry a thing or two about doctoring baseballs, to El Jipi, the outfielder able to slug the odd home run and to an assortment of other players of varying ability. All work to support their families but live to play baseball.

Cipriano, the second baseman, recognizes the runaway boy’s athleticism, befriends him and coaxes him to come to a practice. Alejandro tries without success to hide his baseball talent and is soon drawn back into the game. The team adopts him as one of their family, finds work and lodging for him, immerses him in female admirers, introduces him to sex, even arranges a false Mexican identity for him. In return, Alejandro transforms the team from perennial losers to league contenders with both his outfield play and pitching. However, this is not one of those stories of an unsung hero coming out of nowhere to lead a team to glory. It is a realistic story with losses as well as wins, a story of amateurs with dreams of what might have been and the ability to nurture a boy with the talent to live their dream.

Stout cleverly keeps readers immersed in the Latino baseball culture with unique experiences such as post game parties, saucy if not risqué interplay between sexes, dialog structured as though translated from Spanish, and a liberal sprinkling of Spanish words in his prose. There is no need for a knowledge of Spanish to read the book. In fact, a sensitive soul is better off not translating the more commonly used words. Nor is a knowledge of baseball necessary to appreciate this story of human relationships and aspirations. It’s a well written, entertaining book–Sandy Graham

Posted in: Fiction