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Foul balls


A swoosh and a grunt. The sudden thwack of metal on leather. Another grunt, then the sound of running and a yell of pain.

"Are you OK?" I yell out the window to the Lizard of Fun, who’s in the yard with a catcher’s mask over its face. "What’s all that noise?"

"I’m practicing my pop flies," shouts the Lizard, tossing a baseball into the air. "Either that, or practicing for my next trip to that S&M club. I haven’t decided yet."

The Lizard isn’t exactly the physical fitness hardbody type, so I decide to investigate before it gets into further trouble. I hurry to the yard, where the fall air tastes crisp as a fresh apple.

"I was thinking of trying some of that powdered protein stuff you can buy at those health food stores," says the Lizard, pumping its biceps. "I hear that if I drink enough protein shakes, I’ll look as buff as Mark Wahlberg. Preferably in Boogie Nights."

I shudder. "What’s with the sudden jockstrap kick?"

The Lizard takes off its catcher’s mask and looks at me like I’ve just come out into the daylight after a summer’s worth of "Jerry Springer" and "Oprah" reruns.

"Hello, freak girl, haven’t you heard? There’s a whole big stadium over there that’s very soon going to be sitting empty. And you know I’m not one to let an opportunity like that slip by ungrabbed. That’d be like seeing Winona Ryder in Victoria’s Secret, and not even checking out what she’s buying."

"What were you doing in Victoria’s Secret?"

"Never mind. Tiger Stadium is about to be vacated. Emptied. Cleared of all Tigers and the people who watch them lose. Don’t you see the potential here?"

I nod, then shake my head. "Yes. No. What are you talking about? I thought someone was going to do something with it. Turn it into a shopping mall or loft or some such trendy urban thing."

The Lizard nods sagely, doing its best Yoda impression. "Clever is she. But slow on the swing. Ball right past her goes."

"Okay, what do you know that nobody else does?"

"Promise you won’t tell? Not anyone? Not even those people who read your newspaper?"

"Yeah, sure. Get on with it."

The Lizard hitches up its striped baseball pants and looks pleased with itself. "I’ve got a plan for the reuse of Tiger Stadium. Never mind what you hear. This is the real deal."

"Oh yeah?" I say doubtfully as the Lizard drags me down Michigan Avenue to Trumbull.

"See that?" it says, pointing to the Tiger Stadium marquee. "Imagine it, this time next year. It’ll say, Lizard of Fun’s Pleasure Palace. Or Loungin’ Lizard’s Bar and Grille. I haven’t decided yet."

I fend off a roving ticket scalper ("No, thanks. I don’t want to see the final game. I can already guess who wins.") and listen as the Lizard details the pleasures it plans: The infield will be a dance floor. The radio box will become a DJ’s booth. The dugouts will be a chill-out room (home) and a cigar bar (visitors). Left field will be fitted with a giant waterbed, where revelers can romp or snooze. Right field will feature a swimming pool; center field, a Jacuzzi big enough for 300.

The ramps to the upper deck will become a giant water slide, while the seating areas themselves will be transformed into affordable housing for the people who don’t want to have to travel too far to party (or to sleep after partying).

Tiger Plaza, where the fast-food restaurants are currently located, will stay much the same, but the kiosks will sell different items: Shots of single-malt scotch, veggie burgers and Hello Kitty boxer shorts are just a few of the possibilities.

And of course, there’d be a big roof over the whole thing, so that even in the middle of January, there’ll still be a warm place to play.

The Lizard gets an ecstatic look on its face. "Won’t it be great? It’s my very own field of dreams."

"Um, the city put out a huge call for big-time investors to pay for their idea of a Tiger Stadium redevelopment," I say. "How do you suppose you’re going to fund your alleged pleasure dome?"

"That, freak girl, is why I was practicing my pop flies. We’ll get every celeb who ever played in a baseball movie – Madonna, Geena Davis, Kevin Costner, all of them. We could even get Ronald We’ll dress them in kicky little outfits – like the one I’m wearing – and sell tickets so people can watch them play a few innings against me. Either that or get the celebrities to pay me not do that, which might be more profitable."

"One question. Does your uniform really need the stiletto heels?"

The Lizard looks down at its feet. "You mean these aren’t what they mean by spiked cleats?"

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