HERE YOU GO!

As promised I am providing you, my readers, with an excerpt from my upcoming novel “Paint the Black.” My book is currently being professionally edited. After that it will be headed to a few beta-testers for more input. Look for the complete novel to be published in late May-Early June.

Let me first give you a brief synopsis:

Jack Burke isn’t your prototypical teenager. Blessed with a ton talent in the game of baseball, “Paint the Black” takes you through three seasons of Jack’s minor league baseball career. Even though his successes on the field have him climbing the proverbial baseball ladder, his off the field addictions carry him deep inside a rabbit hole of an immoral kind.

Without the help of a God fearing teammate, this prodigal could find his way broke, dead, or worst of all, out of the game of baseball for good.

I hope you enjoy the first chapter and please don’t hesitate to comment, or ask any questions.

 

1

There weren’t many teenagers like Jack Burke. At eighteen Jack had the ability to become one of the game’s all-time greats. He just needed to get out of his own way. He always had success no matter what sport he tried. His problem tended to be lack of motivation. Being as gifted as he was in athletics allowed him to take a more relaxed approach toward life. Not necessarily lazy, maybe just misguided, which was the reason some scouts questioned his stock and overall draft position.

Jack was a 6’4” lanky, good-looking kid with the precision and accuracy of a seasoned veteran. His fastball had been clocked as high as ninety-eight miles per hour, and had the most devastating slider scouts had seen in some time. Most boys, especially eighteen-year-old boys, did not have the type of control that Jack had over his pitches. It was common to see pitchers with less velocity and an undeveloped second pitch. But Jack had it all; the dot on his slider was so tight, making it unrecognizable to the untrained eye. Not that he needed it; his velocity alone could run through high school lineups with ease, especially in a small town like Austin, Minnesota.

Austin wasn’t known for many things, aside from maybe the SPAM museum. With its population hovering around 25,000, not too many people flocked to this part of the state. Almost two hours from the Minneapolis airport, Austin was not an easy place for scouts to get to. But knowing Jack’s talent, many made an exception.

Jack had received numerous scholarship offers from college baseball powerhouses, such as LSU, USC, Stanford, Oregon State, and Vanderbilt. Jack’s mother attended a university, which is where she wanted him to start; Jack’s father, on the other hand, appreciated the almighty dollar.

Jack was pushed in many different directions since an early age, from his coach who only wanted fame for him, to his father who was trying to live vicariously through him, to his friends who wanted to mooch off his signing bonus.

The one person Jack could always rely on was his brother. Caleb was younger by a few years, but they were best friends. Best friends you would expect brothers to be much later in life.

Caleb, a strong hockey player in his own right, worshiped his older brother. He would spend countless hours watching tape of Jack from his earlier years playing baseball. Wherever Jack would go, Caleb was never far behind, which made Caleb’s absence on this day unusual. Here it was not minutes before the biggest day of his older brother’s life, and Caleb was nowhere to be found.

“Have you seen Caleb?” Jack asked his mother.

“I’m sure he’ll be along soon; he’s just finishing up with practice.”

Jack waited, as patiently as a boy could whose future was about to be transformed. But as Jack sat on the edge of the couch, his legs bounced up and down uncontrollably. Just then his brother and his father burst through the front door.

“I haven’t missed it, have I?” Caleb ran in, dropping his equipment before plopping down on the couch next to his brother.

“Just in time, little bro,” Jack said, wrapping his arm around him.

The Burke family, along with Jack’s beautiful girlfriend, all sat in front of the TV watching the Major League Baseball network, waiting for the MLB draft to start. Soon the commissioner would come on and tell everyone whom the Cubs would select as their number one overall pick. Jack was projected to be a first rounder, but no one knew exactly where he would fall. He received calls from numerous scouts from various organizations, all salivating over his talent.

“We’re going to take you with our first pick,” they had told him over the phone. “We want you bad!”

Jack hoped to be selected by his favorite team, the Minnesota Twins. Of course, Jack was born well after their two World Series victories, so he’d never witnessed their glory days firsthand, but he always cheered for his hometown team. The Twins didn’t pick until number five, giving him a moment’s rest before their selection. The Twins seemed to be the most interested team; at least that’s what his father had told him.

After the commercial break the commissioner walked onto the screen. He thanked everyone he needed to thank, then said, “With the number one overall pick, the Chicago Cubs select left-handed pitcher out of the University of Virginia, Tom Delaney.”

“I hear he’s a stud,” Caleb said.

Caleb scoured the latest Baseball America prospectus to see who would compete with his brother for the top picks in the draft. He knew it inside and out. He teased his brother relentlessly, often showing him statistics of players from major universities. “Just think, these boys are doing it against the best college players in the country,” he would say.

Jack waited. No phone calls came from any organization. Generally you would expect a phone call before being drafted. The next three picks flew by without a whisper. Jack had yet to be picked, but it was now up to the Minnesota Twins. Jack figured since he was from the state, he had an advantage.

The commissioner walked back on stage. “With the fifth overall pick of the first round, the Minnesota Twins select short stop Miguel Montenegro from Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.”

Jack’s mother broke the silence in the room: “It’s alright honey. It just isn’t God’s plan.”

Jack’s mother, a brilliant woman with the faith-filled heart of a child, always offered comfort and reassurance. After fifteen more players came off the board, the phone finally rang, easing the tension in the room.

“I’ll get it,” Caleb said, rushing toward the phone.

Jack’s legs hadn’t stopped shaking since the start of the draft. His heart raced. He had an idea of who was on the phone but didn’t want to get his hopes up; he had been disappointed in the results thus far.

Caleb came back in the room grinning from ear to ear. “Yep, he’s right here,” he said.

“Hello,” Jack said in the deepest voice he could muster.

“Jack, this is Jerry Cotton from the Cleveland Hawks.”

“Yes,” was all Jack could think to say.

“We are going to be taking you with our first pick. I just wanted to call and congratulate you on becoming a Hawk. I hope you’re excited. We’ll talk more soon.”

Jack hung up the phone without another word.

“Well? Who was it?” his father said.

“Some guy from the Hawks,” Jack said. His family let out a collective gasp. “I am going to be a Hawk.” Jack wasn’t sure he believed his own words.

Screams echoed through the halls of their intimate home. His family gave him kisses and hugs as he sat there bewildered. Jack knew this day would come, but it was surreal.

The commissioner came back onto the screen to make it official: “With the twenty first pick in the draft, the Cleveland Hawks select right-handed pitcher from Austin, Minnesota, Jack Burke.”

Applause erupted throughout the room. Jack sat with a smile, loving the attention. The phone rang, but it was drowned out by the consistent screaming.

“Hey, at least you’ll be in the same division as the Twins,” his brother said, elbowing him before getting up to grab his laptop.

Jack’s girlfriend shyly stroked his back as they sat together. Caleb came bouncing back in from the other room with his computer in hand, separating Jack and his girlfriend by sitting between them.

“Where do you think they’re going to send you, bro?” Caleb began looking at the team’s website.

“I don’t know, little buddy. What do you think?”

If you didn’t know Jack well, you would have thought his brother had been the one drafted. Jack didn’t get overly excited about anything; rather, he seemed to expect things to go his way.

After a short time on the internet, Caleb said, “I bet they’ll send you to rookie ball in Arizona, wait that is where their rookie ball team is, right?” Caleb said double checking his computer.

“Rookie ball? I hope not,” Jack said. “I bet A ball, maybe double A.”

“Not likely, Jack. Don’t get cocky,” his dad added from his armchair.

Caleb searched the pitching staff of the Hawks, as well as their entire minor league system. He wanted to find the best prospects in their organization, to see if they held a candle to his older brother.

Jack had yet to hear from his agent, which was odd but not entirely uncommon. After all, it had only been a few minutes since the draft pick.

***

After all the commotion Jack excused himself, and left for his room, the perfect place to recharge. A knock came just as Jack began to relax.

“Who is it?”

“Jack, it’s me,” his girlfriend said.

“Come in.” He rolled his eyes.

Jack had strong feelings for his girlfriend and had even told her many times that he loved her, but the truth was, he didn’t really know. He had been consumed with himself and with baseball, making it hard for him to concentrate on anyone else. Cassandra entered with a coy look on her face, carrying a pink bag with white stripes, which to most men only meant one thing, lingerie. Jack took the bag from her and set it down on his bed.

“Now is not the best time, Cassandra . . . Look, I am going to be leaving in a week or so, and who knows what’s going to happen to us—”

She broke in before he could utter another word. “Don’t you dare, you self-righteous bastard. You think you’ll find a better girl out there than me. Try nothing but jersey chasers, good luck with that.”

Cassandra darted out of the room, leaving Jack to reel in his own self-pity. The curious soul Jack was, he peered into the bag. A black silk negligee was folded inside. He imagined what could’ve been. Jack felt distraught over her rant; she was the longest relationship he had ever been in, just over a year. She was a good girl, Kind, sweet, pretty, but there are many more fish in the sea or whatever that saying is.

Jack rose from his bed and went back downstairs.

“Is everything alright, dear?” His mom asked.

“Cassandra and I . . . uh . . . we broke up.”

“What do you mean you broke up?” She asked, as the rest of the family entered the kitchen.

“We broke up. It’s been a long time coming.”

“No, it hasn’t,” his brother interrupted.

“What do you know about it?” Jack said, taking a seat at the kitchen table.

“I know she was too good for you.”

“Alright, you two, knock it off,” his dad said.

“You better not have hurt that poor girl,” his mom added.

“It’s not our business, Judy.”

“Stay out of this, dear. Why would you have broken up with her, especially today?”             “I didn’t know what else to say,” Jack said, fiddling with a pencil on the table. “I mean, I’m leaving, right?”

“That doesn’t mean you need to break her heart,” his mom said as the phone began to ring again.

Jack sat speechless. His father broke in, saying, “Jack, phone for you. It’s Riley.”

Riley Grimes was Jack’s agent. He inquired along with multiple others for Jack’s business. Jack finally signed with Riley because his mother felt he was the least likely to screw up her son’s career. Jack moved into the living room before settling on the couch.

“Riley, what’s up?”

“Well, I just got off the phone with the Hawks, and they would like to offer you a signing bonus of just under two million dollars, one point eight five, to be exact.”

“Is that something I should entertain?” Jack said.

“That is about the going rate for someone drafted late in the first round,” Riley said.

Late in the first round, Jack thought. I’ll show those teams that passed on me.

“How ’bout we try for two point three?” Jack asked.

“I’ll try, but that’s a big jump from where they are, almost a half-million.”

“Make it happen, Riley. Isn’t that what I pay you for?”

“I’ll try. Call you in a while.”

Caleb stood near his brother after he hung up the phone. “Two point three. Million?”

“That’s right, little brother. Wanna go shopping?”