A powerful supervillain was born this afternoon at Citizen’s Bank Park. This is his story.
It was Saturday afternoon, the Philadelphia Phillies were playing the Pittsburgh Pirates, and Citizen’s Bank Park was buzzing. It was loud in the stadium, but Hans Crouse could still hear two fans talking in the stands.
“Hey, who’s that pitcher we got in the Spencer Howard trade?” one of them asked.
“Oh, you mean Kyle Gibson,” replied the other.
“No, no, the other one.”
“Nope, not him either. You know, the other, other guy.”
“Ohhhh. Hans Crouse. I don’t know much about him. Matt Winkelman says he’s really just a mid to back of the rotation starter.”
The other, other guy. It certainly wasn’t the worst name Hans Crouse had ever been called, but he didn’t love it. He tried to ignore the fans and just watch the game. Ranger Suárez, another “back of the rotation” type pitcher, was throwing a shutout, and it was mesmerizing. Hans couldn’t help but fantasize about throwing his own big league shutout someday.
The game was over and Hans was packing up his things. Maybe he’d go and see Dear Evan Hansen tonight. He’d heard good things.
“Hey Crouse! You’re wanted in the manager’s office. Now!” barked bench coach Rob Thomson. Hans put his bag down and walked towards Joe Girardi’s office. Dear Evan Hansen would have to wait. Hans was more than a little nervous. The players called Girardi “Ol’ Binder Joe”, because usually when you were called into his office, you were in a bind.
Hans entered Girardi’s office and sat down. He looked around at all the framed photos of Ronald Torreyes and Didi Gregorius on the walls. Girardi’s 2006 NL Manager of the Year trophy was prominently on display behind the desk. There was also a dart board with Mickey Moniak’s face on it.
“I suppose you’re wondering why I called you in here today,” said Girardi, as he turned around in his chair. He was stroking a cat.
Hans just gulped and went to twirl the hairs where his moustache used to be. He forgot that he had shaven in anticipation of his major league debut.
“We’re adding you to the roster,” explained the manager. “You’ll be taking Matt Joyce’s spot.”
“What... what happened to Matt?” asked Hans.
“Let’s just say that Mr. Joyce has been... designated for assignment,” answered Girardi. Rob Thomson cackled. Hans hadn’t even realized that Thomson was in the room.
“There’s more Hans,” Girardi continued. “You’re not just joining the team tomorrow. You’ll be starting the ballgame.”
Hans was stupefied. He’d barely even pitched above Double-A, and now he was going to start for a major league team? It was everything he’d ever wanted, but it was all happening too quickly.
“Rob, give Mr. Crouse our scouting report on the Pirates,” Girardi demanded. “He has a lot of studying to do this evening.” Rob Thomson placed a thick dossier in front of Hans. Joe Girardi stood up and walked towards the door. Thomson held it open for him. As Girardi and Thomson walked away, Hans could faintly overhear Thomson asking Girardi if they could go see Dear Evan Hansen tonight. Girardi didn’t reply.
Hans opened the dossier, prepared to be up all night reading. However, he was surprised to discover that every page was just a large picture of each Pirates player with his batting average written underneath. It wasn’t very up-to-date either. Andrew McCutchen was still in there.
It was the day of the game. Hans was walking down the hallway to get to his locker when all of a sudden he noticed the most gorgeous dame he’d ever seen in his life standing in the middle of the corridor. She didn’t work for the team, that much he knew for sure. He would have remembered her.
“You’re not supposed to be down here,” he said.
“Oh, I was given special permission,” she replied with a coy smile. “I just wanted to wish you luck in the big game. I’ll be rooting for you.”
“Thank you miss. And who, pray tell, are you?”
“Most people call me Miss Hudgens. But you can just call me Vanessa.”
“Well Vanessa, how about this – I’ll strike out the first batter of the game, just for you.”
It was 1:05pm and Hans Crouse stood on the mound, ready to make his first pitch. Cole Tucker of the Pirates stood in the batter’s box. Hans was feeling confident. He’d read the scouting on Tucker so many times he could repeat it from memory: .207 batting average. Moreover, he was feeling extra confident after his conversation with Miss Vanessa.
He started his windup. J.T. was calling for a pitch down and away. Hans could do that, no problem. But just as he was about to throw the pitch, he noticed Miss Vanessa in the stands. She was wearing a Cole Tucker Pirates jersey. What on Earth?
He let the pitch go and missed his spot completely. Tucker smacked it into right field for a home run. Miss Vanessa clapped and cheered. She blew a kiss at Tucker as he rounded third base, and winked up at her. Slowly it dawned on Hans that had been tricked. Hans didn’t like being tricked.
Hans wasn’t going to allow himself to be beaten again. He finished the next three innings against the Pirates without allowing another run. It wasn’t always easy – he walked four batters – but he battled through and got the job done. Crouse was done for the day after the third inning, and he’d done everything he could. All he could do now was sit and watch.
He sat and he watched his pinch-hitter, Travis Jankowski, ground out to the pitcher. I could’ve gotten a hit there, he thought to himself.
He sat and he watched as J.T. Realmuto ended the inning with runners on base for the second time. It wouldn’t be the last time either. Best catcher in baseball? Yeah, right!
He sat and he watched as the Phillies’ offense failed to capitalize against the Pirates’ pitching staff. The strikeouts piled up and the hits were few and far between.
By the seventh inning, Hans was fuming. The score was still 1-0. Was that first pitch home run really going to be the difference maker in this game? As it turned out, no. Because in the top of the seventh, things got even worse. The Pirates scored two runs in the most infuriating sequence imaginable. José Alvarado walked the first batter (the smug Cole Tucker) and then balked him over to second base. Two batters later, he intentionally walked Bryan Reynolds to set up the double play, only to allow both runners to advance on a wild pitch. Alvarado walked the next batter too, and then allowed two runs to score on a double by the struggling sophomore Ke’Bryan Hayes.
As Cole Tucker crossed the plate, Hans could swear he saw him laughing.
Hans was trying as hard as he could to bottle up his anger, but when he saw Adonis Medina jogging out of the bullpen to pitch the eighth, he’d had enough. He approached his manager.
“Medina is pitching in this spot? Are you kidding me? It’s still a close game! In the eighth inning!”
Joe Girardi took a sip of water before calmly responding. “Adonis was already prepared to pitch today. So he pitched. Don’t underestimate preparation, Crouse. Trust me, this is going to be a one-two-three inning.”
Hans didn’t trust him. Not at all.
Medina gave up a leadoff double to rookie Hoy Park. Park advanced to third on a passed ball by Realmuto. Medina hit the next batter, then walked the next one (it was Cole Tucker, once again). Two more runs scored on a single by Yoshi Tsutsugo, and Hans almost flipped the Gatorade cooler, but he managed to keep his cool because Bryce Harper threw out Cole Tucker at second base. What an idiot, thought Crouse.
By the top of the ninth inning, Hans had lost faith entirely. All he could do was laugh as another run scored thanks to a passed ball, a wild pitch, and another balk. How often do you see two balks in one game? Crouse thought, laughing to himself. His teammates slowly moved away from him, unsure what he was laughing at or why he had such a maniacal look in his eyes.
As Didi Gregorius was striking out in the bottom of the ninth inning, Hans was already walking to the dugout. It was over. He’d had enough.
When the rest of the team returned to the dugout, Hans Crouse was already gone. His locker was empty. But scratched into the inside of the locker was a list. A list of names. Girardi. Tucker. Hudgens. Alvarado. Medina. Realmuto. Rosso.
Nobody has seen or heard from Hans Crouse since. But according to sources from around the ballpark, the Joe Girardi autographed baseball bat that was given out as a prize for Fan Appreciation Day was stolen, and Cole Tucker’s car was smashed to pieces.
The Phillies are offering a $4,608,264 reward for any information into Crouse’s whereabouts. (The Phillies are currently $4,608,265 under the luxury tax threshold.)
This is a work of fiction. Any similarity to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events, is purely coincidental. Hans Crouse is not suspected of any crimes, nor is actress Vanessa Hudgens suspected of tampering with this afternoon’s game. The Phillies did lose though. That part isn’t fiction. Sorry.