SATURDAY AFTERNOON BEFORE THE A’S GAME, at a bar near Minute Maid Park, a short, fat man named Carlos Correa and his friend Jose Altuve, a senior citizen, were eating frito pies and talking to a busty redhead by the name of Jeff Bagwell. Or anyway that's what their jerseys said.
"You boys want anything else?" asked Bagwell, who was the waitress. Correa ordered his third Jack and Coke of the day.
"Don't you think you oughta slow down?" warned Altuve, once Bagwell had gone.
"Tell that to my wife," answered Carlos. Altuve looked at him with a quizzical face as the shortstop continued. "I think she's moving on."
"Is she cheatin' on you?" asked Jose.
"I don't know," said Correa, "but she is fixing herself up, dying her hair blonde—wait till you see her. And when we come to these games, she just goes on and on about Alex Bregman."
"Bregman? Third base Bregman?" wondered Altuve.
"That's the one."
"Well, he is kinda cute" said Jose.
"She's a grown woman," replied Carlos.
"Where is she, by the way?"
Correa started to explain that his wife had gone back to get her hat, which she'd left in the car. At that very moment, in walked the woman herself, George Springer, carrying an enormous orange Styrofoam cowboy hat. Her face was beet red from the heat, her hair an unnatural shade of blonde.
"I like your hair," said Altuve.
"Thanks, old man," replied Springer. "But it's pretty much ruined with sweat."
"Why is that?"
"Because even though it's 97 degrees outside, my husband still wants to park on San Jacinto and Lamar."
"Where it's free," added Carlos.
"Oh," said Altuve with a wink. "I thought maybe you ran into Alex Bregman." Correa glared at him, and Jose promptly excused himself to the bar.
"I will never understand why you spend time with that old coot," hissed Springer, once the old man was gone. "When's the last time he brushed those dentures?"
"You said his name in your sleep last night," said Carlos.
Lost, George just looked at him. "Whose name?"
"You're crazy with the heat."
"You said it. 'Brrr…reg….man,'" droned Carlos, imitating his sleeping wife.
"That's just me snoring," said the outfielder.
"And a Jack and Coke," announced Bagwell, who'd returned. Delivering the drink, she turned to Correa's wife. "I like your hair. Nice N Easy?"
"Natural Extra Light Neutral Blonde," replied Springer.
"Love it," said Bagwell and left.
"Now, see," George said, "if a total stranger, can compliment my hair, why can't you? It's like I don't even exist."
"Okay, but Bregman doesn't know you exist either."
"Well, if I'm gonna be ignored," snapped Springer, "I'd rather be ignored by a cute young ball player than—"
"Oh, so now he's cute," said Correa.
"Go ahead, let yourself be eaten up by that green monster," said Springer. Correa said he didn’t know what the left-field wall at Fenway had to do with this. "The other green monster," said his wife. "Jealousy. Afraid somebody else is gonna take me away, even though you ignore me half the time."
"You're the one ignoring me!" said Correa.
At that moment, the couple was interrupted by a young Asian man whose name, coincidentally, was Carlos Correa.
"Would you mind if we borrow one of your chairs?" said Correa No 2.
"Not at all, darlin'," said Springer.
"Did you wink at him?" asked Carlos, after the man had left. George sighed and shook her head even as another young man approached the table, another man named Carlos Correa.
"Can we take this one too?" he said, pointing to a chair.
"You can take whatever you want, son," said Springer.
"Thanks," said Correa No. 3. "Love that hat, by the way. Wish my wife hadn't left ours in the car."
"Did you park close by?" wondered Springer.
"Yeah, not too far," said the man.
"You're a good man," shouted George, shooting a glance at her husband.
"'Take whatever you want?'" said Correa No 1, still incredulous.
Springer ignored him. "See, that's what marriage is about. The little things."
"Okay, okay," said Correa, finally understanding. "We can park in the damn $5 lot next time."
"Thank you," Springer said softly.
At last, Altuve returned to the table. "I almost didn’t come back," he said with a mile-wide grin. "There's a fine filly over there."
"The brunette?" asked Carlos, looking over at the bar. "Biggio?"
"Perfect," said Springer with disgust. "You're both retired."
"Yeah, and she's a real hall of famer, if you know what I mean," laughed Altuve, winking again.
"Old man, the only killer B around here is your breath," replied Springer, shaking her head. "Let's get the check. I wanna get set up with my nachos before there's a line."
At which point a man in a loud voice announced to the crowd that it was last call for game-goers, before approaching Correa, Altuve and Springer. "Would you all like anything else this evening?" he asked. The trio looked up. The bald Hispanic bartender's jersey said it all: Alex Bregman.
A tense moment followed. Correa looked at Springer, Springer looked at Correa, Altuve glanced over at Biggio.
"Anything else?" asked Bregman again.
"That's entirely up to her," Correa said pointedly.
"No, it isn't," said Springer. "It's up to him."
"Y'all hurry up and decide," Altuve interrupted. "Game's starting."