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Exclusive Book Preview: ZOMBIE BASEBALL BEATDOWN by Paolo Bacigalupi

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Check out this exclusive excerpt from the new book Zombie Baseball Beatdown by Paolo Bacigalupi!

Losing sucks.

Don’t let anyone tell you it builds character or any of that junk; it sucks. It sucks that someone else is beating you. It sucks that you’ve worked so hard and it’s going to mean nothing. It sucks that you can’t hit the ball the way you want and can’t field the grounder the way you imagined—a thousand things about losing suck.

But it sucks worse when you’re stuck in the dugout on a 102-degree day in the humidity, and the heat index is 120, and sweat is pouring off you, and your team is losing—not because you suck at baseball, but because your baseball coach, Mr. Cocoran, sucks at coaching.

Mr. Cocoran won’t listen to you when you tell him he’s got the batting order wrong. He likes big hits and loves guys who hack at the ball and swing for the fences and all that junk, and he doesn’t understand about getting run- ners on base. He doesn’t know squat about baseball.

But you know the thing about losing that sucks even worse than that?

Knowing you’re the one who’s going to get blamed. When you’re finally up at bat, with Miguel on third and Sammy on first, and you’re down by two in the bot- tom of the sixth, and you’re the last and final hope of the Delbe Diamondbacks—you’re the one everyone is going to remember.

Maybe I could hit a single on my good days (and if the pitcher was off his game), but basically, for me, the ball just moves too darn fast.

My dad says I swing with my heart.

Well, he said that after I struck out once and spun myself all the way around and all the other kids were so busy laughing at me—even my own team—that nobody minded so much that we’d lost another game.

After that game, my dad came up to me and put his hand on my shoulder and said, “Don’t worry about it, Rabi; you swung with your heart. You were all in. We can work on your swing. As soon as I’m back from the rigs, we’ll work on it.”

Of course, baseball season was going to be over by then, so my swing wasn’t going to improve in time to save me from more humiliation. Dad works oil and gas rigs—ten weeks on, two weeks off—so I was on my own.

There was no way I should have been batting cleanup, I can tell you that, but there I was, sitting on the bench, watching the lineup come down to me, like a slow- moving train wreck.

Miguel was sitting next to me, chewing gum. “What’re the odds?” he asked.

I shrugged. “I don’t know.”

“Come on, Rabi.” Joe, who was sitting on my other side, poked me in the ribs. “Do that trick you do. With the numbers.”

A couple of the older guys, Travis Thompson and Sammy Riggoni, both looked over. Beefy dudes with mean piggy eyes who liked to hassle anyone who was lit- tler than them. I didn’t want their attention at all. I looked away.

“Nah,” I said. “There’s not enough numbers to do it. I need more stats. You can’t do stats with Little League. You need a lot of numbers before you can predict anything.”

“Come on,” Miguel said. “You know you can.”

I looked out at the bases, frowning. I studied the batters in our lineup, eyed the Eamons Eagles defense, their catcher and fielders and pitcher. And then I started setting stats. It was a trick I used. I could set stats over the different players’ heads in my mind, a little like health bars in World of Warcraft, and then I could figure out probable outcomes.

Numbers. Stats. I have a cousin in Boston who calls it my inner Asian math nerd.

But whatever it is, I’m good at it. The Eagles pitcher was still going strong, even after pitching most of the game. We hadn’t worn him down much. I’d read up on his stats and seen how he normally did after pitching four innings. I’d been counting how many times he’d actually had to pitch against all our batters, and I knew he wasn’t tired. Not a bit.

He’d just struck out Billy Freudenberg on three straight pitches. And now Shawn Carney, at the plate, had two balls and two strikes on him. But Shawn barely hit .225, even against a weak pitcher. Against the Eamons guy, he was more like .075. Shawn was always hacking at random pitches. When he hit, he hit with power, but the Eamons pitcher was smart enough to bait him into swinging at a mean little curveball.

Shawn was dead meat.

zombie baseball beatdown book cover