**Unedited Proof**

“I need some ice.” I said, tapping myself in the arm and leaving The Panther to search for it. When I arrived at the locker room, an athletic assistant serving the team as part of a college sports internship said that we could get it for me. What he got me was a plastic bag of ice and air, sealed with a knot. It was like trying to ice my arm with a bagged goldfish won at the county fair.

“Do you have wraps? I asked, motioning as if to lash the bag on my arm.

The trainer took the bag and popped a hole in it and shoved it up my jersey sleeve. Then he stepped back, hands wide, smiling as if he’d fixed it. I frowned and pulled it back out from my shirt sleeve and placed it on my back, on my scapula, where I needed it. Then I laid down on one of the old training tables and waited for the ice treatment to run its course.  

Players mixed in and out of the lockers as their respective hitting groups rotated. This is common in any country, with any league. However, in Italy, the players just finishing up the harrowing experience of taking batting practice came in to have a smoke. In fact, during the course of the practice, several players and coaches came into to burn one.

One of the smokers was a pitcher, older than me with a firm enough understanding of English to start a conversation between sucking on his menthol.

“[Luigi Vampa].” He said, clamping his cigarette in his lips and reaching out his hand.

“Dirk Hayhurst.” I said, reaching out mine.

“You play big leagues?” Asked Luigi.


“I play in minors. Years a go. For XXXXXXX.”

“Oh, yeah? Great. How long?”

“Mmmmm…”—toke, toke, exhale—“No long. I was no very good.” He laughed at himself. I chuckled at his chuckling. “Also, I miss Italy.” He said. “I have family. You have family?”

“I have—”

Another player walked into the locker room. He was one of the younger players on the Italian player age spectrum. He considered the fact that Luigi and I had only now just met and had so many exciting things to learn about one another. Elated by the prospect of sharing old stories with new ears, he interrupted and declared, “Ohhh! You know what he do?”

I looked back and forth between the pair, smiling stupidly in my confusion. Luigi’s eyes rolled back and he took a loooong drag off his cigarette, saying nothing.

“No…” I said at length, “What he do?”

“He fuck a… a… err… No sheep… no goat….uh… uh… “ The young, excitable player shook his head as if the word he was searching for were buried under so much mental trash that it just needed to be swept aside. Still he could not find it, so he snapped his fingers and stomped his feet and asked, “How you saw mooooo? Moooooo?”

“Oh, a cow!” I shouted.

“Si! Si, si, si, si, si, si, si. HE.”—both arms fully extended and shaking vigorously at Luigi—“FUCK A COW. He-fuck-a-cow.” Smile, head nod,  one more time for good measure, “He fuck a cow. Si.”

It took me a moment to process what I’d just heard. Obviously, this youngster was referring to sleeping with a fat woman, which, for the record, was nothing new to the baseball community. It was sexist and chauvinist, and real. Sadly real. Whether you call them “Slump Busters,” “Heavy Machinery”, “Big Love,” or Cows, baseball players sleep with them because of that reason.

According to baseball lore, when a fat woman is applied to a baseball player’s sexual organs, they are known to cure all manner of baseball-related ailments, including but not limited to; batting slumps, stretches of bad pitching luck, the dreaded Yips, and lack of a timely promotion. It’s hard to quantify the direct scientific connection a fat woman has to the health and success of baseball players (though I’m not really sure if science has tried), but there is enough of a correlation that the slogan “big girls need love, too” is held as a fundamental truth among ballplayers.

Still, it was rather amazing that the perceived curative properties of the obese female baseball fan transcended cultures. Who would have thought that fat girls would my Italian locker room Rosetta Stone?

“Atta boy!” I sad, clapping Luigi on the back. “How big was she?”

Luigi took a drag from his cigarette and held it pensively. He looked me over, unsure of my meaning, then glanced to the excited youngster who was also unsure of my meaning.

“No, no” said Luigi, “no big girl. Cow.

“Si. COW.” Repeated the youngster.

“I fuck a cow.” Said Luigi, smoke swirling lazily around his head.  

Apparently my thinking about certain similarities in the culture being transmitted through the medium of baseball where a little off. I’d seen and heard tell of a lot of crazy and wild shit in my playing days, but I had never played with a cow fucker.

“How? No,—” I stopped and shook my head and waved my hands frantically as if that question were a cloud of second-hand smoke I could make disappear “—for God sakes, why?”

“When I was a young boy my brothers tell me I need to break my bushel. You know this expression?”

“Yeah,” I said, my eyes closed tightly now, while I kneading the madness building behind my forehead with the butt of my hand, “I think I get your meaning.”

“So, I go out to barn, I go to cow, and I”—he made a series of pelvic thrusts punctuated with little puffs from his cigarette. The Italian youngster giggled impishly at this. “I break my bushel.” Luigi shrugged.

Jeessssuussss…” I said.

“Wha… it was was not big cow.” Said Luigi. “Small cow. Calf. Si: calf.”

“Ooohhhh….” I said, nodding along intensely. “It was only a calf. Now I get it.” Luigi and his depraved young Italian friend nodded at me as if all was now understood.

My mind immediately went back to the conversation Luigi and I were having before we got sidetracked onto cow sex. The one where we were about to talk about family. I envisioned Luigi and his cow wife, waiting for him back at home, with a bushel of little half cow half human centaur-like hybrids.

[Kempner] walked into the locker room while I contemplated. “Hey Kemp, this guy fucked a cow.” I said, flipping a thump at Luigi.

“Oh, yeah? How big was she?” Said Kemp, punching Luigi in the shoulder as he walked by.