by: Blenjamin Rees
Are you familiar with the concept of nominative determinism? It’s the concept that your name has an impact on who you are as a person or what you do for a living. Wisconsin firefighter Les McBurney is one example, as is the retired meteorologist Storm Field. If you look at some sporting examples, how about baseball player (whatever one of those is) Prince Fielder, or the Dutch footballer Mark de Man, who appropriately played in central defense.
There is, of course, a reason I bring this up: Rat Batson. Those of you who are not Tacos fans might not be aware of Rat Batson. They’re hardly one of the splorts’ household names, which is to be expected for a player in their first season.
Season 15 had just the one Incineration, back on Day 14. The Infinite Cities are playing game 2 of a series at The Garden against the Boston Flowers. In the bottom of the third Inning, with Boston batting, a Rogue Umpire sets their sights on Basilio Fig. Thankfully for LA, Fig is a Fire Eater, and disaster is averted. The now Magmatic Fig is second to face in the top of the fourth and hits a towering two-run blast to drive in themselves and Basilio Mason on first base. Nicholas Vincent is next to face, and after taking a fastball in the strike zone decides to go yard as well, their second home run of the young season, putting the Unlimited Tacos up 4-1.
That would be their last ever action on a baseball field.
In the bottom of the Inning, the Rogue Umpire, perhaps seeking vengeance on Basilio Fig, has their attention naturally drawn to Vincent. With Margarito Nava at the plate, the Umpire takes aim, and Vincent feels the full force of the official’s wrath.
RIV Nicholas Vincent. They’d only come out of the Shadows in the Season 13 Elections, in a Soreshadow swap with Vito Kravitz. In a Lineup packed with power hitters, Vincent was the glue at the bottom of the Lineup, posting the second-best batting average on the team, with only MVP candidate Valentine Games ahead of them. Much was expected of Vincent in their second season— a season that was tragically snuffed short.
This is not an article about Nicholas Vincent, however. This is an article, nay, a tale, about Rat Batson. Play must continue on the immaterial plane, and with Vincent in the Hall of Flame, Rat Batson hatched from the Field of Eggs to take the vacant spot in the Taco Lineup. Their Birth was greeted with excitement, as most are. Rat Mason had another rat to play with! The Tacos officially had a mischief of rats in their squad.
The excitement would quickly turn to trepidation. Their first at-bat would end almost as soon as it had begun, struck out on three pitches, swinging and missing each one. Batson’s day at the plate did not improve from there, hitting a ground out in their second at-bat, while their third was the same as the first— three swings, three misses for another K. Maybe wary of that, Rat decided not to swing on their next plate appearance. All three pitches were right in the heart of the zone. A ground out followed before LA was finally Shamed, appropriately enough, in the bottom of the 13th.
First game jitters, perhaps? Not quite. Their questionable plate judgment was able to garner them some walks, but their first hit didn’t come until Day 20. Another fallow spell at the plate followed. As fascinating as the concept of nominative determinism is, there is an excellent argument against it, and that argument is called Rat Batson.
Replacing a hitter like Vincent was never going to be easy, of course. Sadly, I can think of few worse replacements in the ILB than Rat Batson. Rat Batson is almost antithetical to the very concept of batting. It is almost as if when presented with a bat, Rat’s natural reaction is not an embrace as their name would suggest, but one of utter revulsion. Any success they’d found at the plate had come without a bat in hand, a high walk rate a natural result of a player who was frankly befuddled with the shaped piece of wood in their paws.
Rat hit a veritable purple patch from game 31, managing five Hits and a stolen base over series against the Jazz Hands and Wild Wings, only to promptly return to their frustratingly familiar self afterward, with only two Hits across the following 30 game stretch. Rat Batson had made their presence felt in Los Angeli, and it was a black hole that absorbed any sniff of offense at the bottom of the Taco Lineup.
That is, until Day 67, when in a game against the Ohio Worms, with Rivers Rosa on the mound, when Rat Batson did the unthinkable. For the first time in their career, they managed multiple Hits in the same game – a triple in their first plate appearance in the second Inning (where they would end up stranded on third base), and a single in their very next at-bat. Rat Batson could have been forgiven for thinking that they had finally turned the corner when it came to batting, but any hopes were dashed almost as soon as they had begun. They were 0 for 3 the rest of the day, struck out on each occasion. They walked twice in the last game of the series for their only other appearances on the base paths in what was a now overtly familiar pattern of ineptitude at the plate that lasted until game 74.
We need to talk about Season 15, Day 74. The Miami Dale are visiting the LA Taqueria for a three game series. The first game at Al Pastor Memorial Park had gone Miami’s way. A Greer Gwiffin home run had put the hosts up 1-0 at the bottom of the third, but with runners on first and second base Sixpack Santiago coaxed Basilio Fig into a pop fly fielded by Cannonball Sports for Out number three. That was as good as it got for LA. Francisca Sasquatch landed a 2-run homer in a Big Bucket to put Miami up 3-1 in the 7th, Jasmine Washington added an insurance Run with a homer of her own in the top of the 9th, and Santiago closed out the Infinite Cities in the bottom of the Inning to secure the 4-1 victory. Rat Batson had endured a typical day at the plate. Four appearances, each one of them predictably ending in exactly the same way, with Batson striking out having made no attempt to swing at the deciding pitches. Were their ability not so tragic, it would almost be comical.
Then comes Day 74. Rivers Clembons is on the mound for the Dale, with Yummy Elliot pitching for LA. Gwiffin had drawn a walk for the Tacos, but otherwise the game seemed like it might follow the pattern of the previous day, and many other days in Season 15, with LA struggling offensively and the lack of run support eventually telling on a pitcher who could only stem the Miami tide for so long. Bottom of the second Inning, Basilio Mason hits a flyout to Logan Horseman, before Basilio Fig strikes out swinging to leave the Unlimited Tacos down to their last out in the inning. Rat Batson, cutting a forlorn figure in the batter’s box, trudges to the plate to accept their fate.
At this point in their career, Rat Batson had driven in a singular Run, a bases-loaded walk to score -a- M-son way back on Day 27 against Parker Parra of the Boston Flowers, a pitcher whose propensity to throw balls doomed Boston to lose every game they would pitch this season, the first pitcher to pitch 20+ games in a year to do so in a story that is itself beset with tragedy. This does not mean that Rat Batson had an RBI of 1 entering Day 74. Somehow, the truth is not only worse, but much worse.
Batson’s apparent urge or attraction to strike out had cost their team not only figuratively, but literally. The Coffee 3s Weather, with its Triple Threat pitchers, had bedeviled Rat Batson. Take Day 29, against the Atlantis Georgias. Flooding Weather, but Flattery McKinley had carried over Triple Threat from a previous appearance. Rat Batson managed just the second Hit of their career in their second plate appearance of the day, before two strikeouts with three balls in the count, and a bases-loaded strikeout to end the top of the 9th Inning would end Rat Batson’s day, having scored 1.2 Unruns. Day 60 against the Tigers in Coffee 3s weather, Batson strikes out with a runner on third base to score another 0.3 Unruns. The Tigers were again the opponent on Day 63, with Dunlap Figueroa carrying Triple Threat from a previous day striking out Rat with a runner stranded on third once more. Another 0.3 Unruns for our beleaguered protagonist. Day 65, the LA Taqueria hosting Atlantis again. Two strikeouts with three balls in the count, the second with Basilio Fig left forlornly on third base once more, score Rat Batson another 0.9 Unruns. After that singular run batted in, or more accurately walked in, against Parker Parra, Rat Batson had cost the Tacos 2.7 Unruns, putting their season RBI total entering Day 74 at a scarcely believable -1.7.
This brings us back to Day 74, the bottom of the second Inning, two outs on the scoreboard, and Rat Batson dragging themselves to the plate to embrace the inevitable. Rivers Clembons stands tall on the mound, the Coffee 3s Weather casting a shadow towards home plate, where Rat Batson awaits. Clembons is pitching their best season for over a decade, finishing with the highest Win total and winning percentage of their career, an ERA of 3.18, a WHIP of 0.972 with 16 Quality Starts by the regular season’s end. If there is to be any change to the score this Inning, the overwhelming favorite is Miami beginning the third leading 0 to -0.3, with Rat Batson working the count full before the inevitable air shot scores 0.3 Unruns for LA to give the Dale the lead.
Clembons stares down Rat Batson from the mound, instilling their dominance over the Tacos’ embattled hitter. The pitch comes, a fastball over the heart of the plate. Rat Batson has been in this situation before. More often than not, be it through fear and trepidation, or be it through lack of reaction and reflexes, the pitch is in the catcher’s mitt before Batson has even had time to think. Rat Batson closes their jet black eyes, prays to the Blaseball Gods, and swings.
The Al Pastor crowd goes into a deathly silence. There is nothing to be heard throughout any of the Infinite Los Angeli. The silence is deafening and seems to continue for all eternity. Until, at the very moment when it feels like the parallel cities may collapse in on themselves, returning to their singular past, as if the Grand Unslam was nothing but a fever dream, it happens. The sound is unmistakable. It could only be one thing – the crack of maple as it connects with leather. Everything seems to stop. The air is sucked out of the LA Taqueria by a collective intake of breath as every fan in the stands fills their lungs.
Rat Batson, through willpower, through hope, through determination, or through sheer dumb luck, has connected. The ball keeps going. Rat Batson has swung as if their career, or even their very reason for existence on the immaterial plane, depends entirely on the outcome of this one singular pitch. The ball keeps going. Clembons stands dumbfounded on the mound as the ball sails over their head, through the Coffee 3s skies. The ball keeps going. It has left Batson’s bat like an arrow, deathly straight, and is going to stay fair. The ball keeps going. The infielders turn and follow the ball as it passes above them, powerless to stop the course of fate. The ball keeps going. Centerfield, playing shallow to prevent a blooped single, knows that they are a passenger on this play. The ball keeps going. For only the second time in their career, Rat Batson has hit for extra bases. The ball keeps going. Rat Batson is glued to the spot as their eyes slowly begin to open, expecting to see the familiar sight of the ball nestled into a fielder’s glove. The ball keeps going. Thousands of eyes are rooted to a white speck in the sky, and Rat Batson’s eyes finally join them as they desperately scan for the ball. The ball keeps going. There is nothing that anyone can do now. The ball keeps going. All they can do is hope that the splort they love, the splort they curse, the splort they cherish, can somehow repay the faith and devotion they have given to it. The ball keeps going.
The ball keeps going.
The ball keeps going.
The ball is gone.
The silence endures as those in the stadium, those watching at home, those listening on the radio, try to process what has happened.
Rat Batson has hit a home run.
Eventually the stadium erupts, an explosion of noise as Rat Batson, looking as equally bewildered as Rivers Clembons on the mound, somewhat sheepishly scurries around first, second, third base, and crosses home plate.
Rat Batson’s season would continue as if nothing had ever happened. They would end the season with 3.7 RBI, and the lowest batting average in the League, as the Tacos were swept in the Wild Card round by the Mexico City Wild Wings, with Rat Batson 0 for 11 in the Postseason having struck out ten times.
Batson’s story would be put on hiatus in the Season 15 Elections, being foreshadowed in exchange for Sexton Wheerer, and whether they ever emerge from the Shadows in future remains to be seen. Regardless of what destiny holds, we’ll always have Season 15, Day 74, when in the bottom of the second Inning, in a game between the Miami Dale and the LA Unlimited Tacos at Al Pastor Memorial Park, Rat Batson, the player with the most inappropriate name in the splort’s history, and possibly the worst batter ever in the ILB, hit a home run.