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Pete Mackanin’s Inner Monologues

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When things go awry during the Phillies’ long rebuild, it’s time to plumb the depths of Pete Mackanin’s mind

Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images (Modified by Wet Luzinski)

[Ed. Note: First of an occasional series]

It would sound so silly, Pete Mackanin thought, but he knew this to be true like he knew that the sky was blue and water was wet and there were 108 double stitches on a baseball. It was all about the details. Because in his mind, during the horrible losses and ass-kickings, he remembers her long dark hair, he must – and those green eyes. It was his first summer away from home, his first season playing pro ball in Wytheville after getting drafted by the Senators, and she was troubled, her marriage wasn’t going well, but they were hosting young ballplayers anyway, or maybe that was the reason why. He remembers that sultry night in June, the one before that rare off day, when it was just the two of them, and they had started walking and talking, and he taught her then the great game of backgammon and every detail. How in the holding strategy you couldn’t leave your pieces exposed and vulnerable, ever! And despite the seeming randomness of the dice, there were precautions you could take, there were always precautions. The best backgammon players knew this, knew how to play percentages, even when you were desperate, even when you needed those low-percentage throws, you always had a plan.

He taught her this, and they played game after game after game, hiking and pausing to play, until the early dawn. They had walked all the way to Big Walker Lookout. He remembers her laugh, the long legs, that smile. He remembers how he could have had her there, on top of that tower, with Wythe County spread all around them. The world felt like it was going mad in 1969, and yet because of this – the control of the game – it could lead here, and this this was enough. The details are the fundament. You can’t rebuild without a foundation. Most ballplayers don’t understand that, think of conquest in other, far more transactional terms, but he thought surely Freddy would get this, that the story would be the key, as he knew it was, to help him to an entirely different level, as he knows it got him into the permanent manager’s role after all those years. He was going tell him, his felt sure enough in his Spanish that Freddy would get the nuance. Had he wound up on second that would have been the sign. He understood why Freddy didn’t wind up at second on that infield pop Reyes dropped.

He wasn’t going to ream him out about it, he could see how it affected him.

But it wasn’t time.

Maybe later, Pete thinks. Maybe later in the season.