The Haunting

I have fond memories of my childhood growing up in rural Idaho. We would spend every waking moment playing some form of baseball. We carried our gloves with us everywhere organized a pick-up game at a moment’s notice. There were a group of us that always seemed to be picked together when choosing teams. This group would become some of my best friends. Besides baseball we dealt with childhood tragedies such as girls, mean teachers, and mothers who made us eat green vegetables (I still contend that some of those vegetables were not supposed to be green). At the end of the school week our band of friends would all plot to figure out a way to talk our parents into letting us have a “sleep over”. The “sleep over” is an interesting event. I’m not exactly sure why the word sleep is even in there since rarely if ever did anyone ever go to sleep and if you did you would surely wake up with your hand in warm water or shaving cream coming out of your ear. While we loved each other’s company; the real reason for having the sleep over was so we could sneak into the living room after the parents had gone to bed and watch Creature Features.

Creature Features was a local program that came on late Friday night where a host would be dressed up in whatever scary costume he could find around the television studio and recount ghost stories and tales of horror. After building up the fears of his audience he would then introduce what was normally a really cheesy black and white horror film. Of course to a bunch of 10-12 year old boys these were the scariest programs ever produced. Inevitably the result would be that we would be frightened out of our wits and at least one boy would have to call home because he was too scared to spend the night.

Looking back, the plots to these movies were rather predictable. The storyline almost always included a group of kids who had the perfect life. They were popular in school, drove cool cars, and the biggest problem they had was deciding whether they wanted to kiss on the first date. Their lives were filled with hopes and dreams of the future. These were the next community leaders and had everything going for them. Usually though there was a dark side to one of the kids which lead to them leaving the group and vowing to extract revenge on the group for shunning them and not including them in the “in crowd”. The rest of the movie would be filled with scary music and random attacks on the group as the one dark member began picking the group off one by one. As kids we would be completely freaked out by this and would end up making a secret pact that this would never happen to us.

As I have gotten older, the memories of those sleep overs and watching Creature Features have become distant. I find myself laughing as I recount the movies and storylines to my kids and how crazy the whole thing was. Horror movies today follow much of the same plotlines. The special effects and set-up is much more sophisticated but under all the make-up and monsters; they don’t differ too much from those old black and white films. As a kid, whenever I thought about these horror movies I would tell myself that the stories were fiction and could never really happen. I convinced myself that in the real world there were not a group of evil zombies travelling the world hunting down their former friends and destroying them. It was just too strange, it couldn’t happen right?

After the first week of the 2009 Arizona Diamondbacks season I am beginning to rethink my theory. Maybe I was wrong; maybe there are monsters in the shadows and maybe they are taking down their friends one at a time. Before the season started the Arizona Diamondbacks had two exhibition games at Chase Field against the Chicago White Sox. From 1998 through 2008 the White Sox shared a Spring Training facility with the Diamondbacks. They saw a lot of each other and some became friends. During the off-season after the 2007 World Series the Diamondbacks traded outfielder Carlos Quentin to the White Sox for basically a throw in player that was sent to Oakland as part of the Dan Haren deal. Since that time Quentin has become a monster destroying American League pitching and being talked about as a potential MVP. During the two games against the Diamondbacks at Chase Field this spring he began taking down his former friends one at a time robbing them of hits and leaving pitchers in the training room to be treated for whiplash as they wheeled around to see where he hit their best pitch. It was brutal to watch as a Diamondbacks fan.

When the Los Angeles Dodgers came to town the Diamondbacks saw the return of Orlando Hudson; their former leader and teammate. For three games he tormented his former teammates robbing them of base hits, standing in the base paths challenging them, and belting home runs to beat his former employers. Diamondbacks fans moaned in agony as they watched their team being dismantled by a once favorite son. At the end of last weekend there were cheers not because the Diamondbacks won but because the Dodgers with Orlando Hudson were leaving town to give Arizona time to heal.

The healing did not last long though; the St. Louis Cardinals came to town and with them they brought another monster for the Diamondbacks to face. This came in the form of Brian Barden, a player drafted by the Diamondbacks but let go. He barely made the Cardinals out of Spring Training as a utility man but you wouldn’t know that from the way he played last night’s game. He made several nifty snags taking away base hits from the Diamondbacks then Barden delivered a knockout blow when he hit his first major league home run off Doug Davis to beat the Diamondbacks.

All of the fears I had from watching Creature Features are beginning to become real. Looking around Major League Baseball I am already seeing more scary moments. Orlando Hudson hit for the cycle in Los Angeles during the Dodgers home opener; the first Dodger to do that since 1970. The San Francisco Giants signed pitcher Randy Johnson during the off-season and he about the scariest guy to ever put on a uniform. Pitcher Micah Owings made the team in Cincinnati and I am sure he wants nothing better than to take on his former friends in Arizona. Down in Florida former Diamondbacks players Dan Uggla and newcomer Emilio Bonifacio are tearing things up and will setting their sights on terrorizing the Diamondbacks. If this haunting by former players keeps up; I may have no other choice than to call my mom to pick me up. I am not sure I can deal with something this scary.

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