Ahmad Abdul-Rahim #44
Character-Defining Quote: “It means a helluva lotta badass news for the Athletics.”
The Good News: Once he learned to swing with his eyes open, Ahmad Abdul-Rahim became one of the more promising young right fielders in the North Valley League. He’s learning to switch hit and can beat opponents with both his bat and his speed, the latter of which benefits from his strides not being restricted by wearing a cup. With all his older brothers having been multi-sport star athletes, there’s every reason to believe Abdul-Rahim has only scratched the surface of his athletic potential, sucka.
The Bad News: Abdul-Rahim brings a certain swagger with him to the ballpark (“Don’t give me none of your honky bullshit”), but he also puts a great deal of pressure on himself to live up to his family’s high standard of athletic prowess. After an embarrassing opening-day loss to the Yankees, Abdul-Rahim stripped down to his underwear, climbed a tree, and refused to come down. Unless he stops comparing himself to others and learns that being Ahmad Abdul-Rahim is good enough, that won’t be the last time he ends up being “the naked kid in the tree.”
Jose Aguilar #06
Character-Defining Quote: “No me voy poner esto. Esto duele.” Translation: “I will not put this on. This hurts.” [in reference to his athletic supporter]
The Good News: Jose Aguilar (the older of the two Aguilar brothers) could be the start of a pipeline of talented Mexican ballplayers funneling into the North Valley League. If dominating little league baseball in the future requires heavily recruiting Latin America, Aguilar being one of the trailblazers could put the Bears at a significant advantage when it comes to attracting talent from the region. Luckily, Donald Trump won’t be president for another four decades, so Jose and his brother, Miguel, should be able to stay in the country for the duration of their careers.
The Bad News: Being one of two Mexican players in a nearly all-white league — not to mention having Tanner Boyle as a teammate — could still prove a culture shock for Aguilar going into next season. Luckily, teammate Alfred Ogilvie has been brushing up on his Spanish to help ease the Aguilar brothers’ assimilation.
Projection: The league will crack down on its mandatory “cup” policy, and Aguilar will sue them for violating his religious beliefs and score a multi-million-dollar settlement.
Character-Defining Quote: “Es un bandido.” Translation: “He’s a bandit.” [in reference to Kelly Leak]
The Good News: Miguel Aguilar (the younger of the two Aguilar brothers) saw limited action last season, but you’d never know it from his enthusiasm. His jubilant celebrations after splash plays help bridge the language gap and make him a positive clubhouse presence. Also, given his short stature and crouching batting stance, pitchers find it extremely difficult to locate his practically non-existent strike zone. Plugged into the top of the order, he could be an OBP machine who effectively sets the table for Engelberg and other bigger bats.
The Bad News: Aguilar has a bad habit of throwing his glove while celebrating, which cost him at least one lost glove last season. Apart from Engelberg ruining baseballs with chocolate, Aguilar may eat into the Bears’ equipment budget more than any other player. He’s also expressed distrust of teammate Kelly Leak (calling him a “bandit”), a development that should be watched going into next season.
Projection: If he continues to be successful, Aguilar’s duck-and-cover style of batting may lead to an influx of shorter players and record highs for free passes league-wide.
Tanner Boyle #12
Character-Defining Quote: “Jews, sp-cs, n—–s, and now a girl.”
The Good News: While slight in stature and short on talent, Tanner Boyle brings a feistiness that any championship club requires. Anyone who picks a fight with the entire seventh grade won’t back down come crunch time in the playoffs. That scrappiness translates off the field as well, where Boyle is quick to defend his teammates against rivals. Underpinning all his actions is a pure love of the game. When asked if he wanted to quit, Boyle replied: “Crud no, I want to play ball.” He can also use the word “crud” as a noun, adjective, or verb, which, while irrelevant to baseball, is linguistically impressive.
The Bad News: The pint-size shortstop doesn’t get along with Jews, Hispanics, blacks, gays, or women (for starters) — attitudes complicated by the fact that he plays for the only team in the North Valley League that boasts any real diversity on its roster. While his never-say-die attitude on the field makes him a potential leader, his personal prejudices (and unspoken desire to segregate the league) make him a likely clubhouse cancer. It’d also be safer to pass John Rocker a microphone than to let Boyle tackle any post-game press conferences.
Projection: He’ll either mellow into a reliable, if colorful, shortstop who unknowingly says racist things on occasion (kinda like your grandma), or he’ll become chapter president of a local white supremacist organization and bring his co-members to ballgames. Cruddy California Nazis. I hate California Nazis.
Mike Engelberg #05
Character-Defining Quote: “Quit bugging me about my food. People are always bugging me. That’s why my shrink says I’m so fat.”
The Good News: While Toby Whitewood jokes that Mike Engelberg is “invaluable” because “he can play third base and shortstop at the same time,” the portly backstop has quietly become one of the biggest power threats in the North Valley League. Ironically, the catcher with a Babe Ruth-esque physique also happens to be a Yankee killer. In addition to his big bat, Engelberg has acted as a one-kid stimulus package for the local economy. Pizza Hut, McDonald’s, KFC, and the ballfield concession stand all posted record profits since the ravenous receiver joined the league. Also, thanks to his billboard-scale advertising all season long, Chico’s Bail Bonds (“Let Freedom Ring!”) has begun franchising.
The Bad News: Conditioning remains the key variable for Engelberg, and there are indications that he’s already experiencing heart issues. After running laps at one practice, he ate a candy bar with the wrapper still on and was overheard telling Alfred Ogilvie: “Any second now, heart attack time.” While Engelberg may never win any bathing suit competitions, he’ll need to shed some weight in order to ascend to the top tier of league catchers. Unfortunately, all indications point to him not changing his eating habits and umpires having to throw out a lot of chocolate-smudged baseballs.
Projection: If he can manage his weight, next season Engelberg might begin pounding sliders the way he used to, well, pound sliders.
Jimmy Feldman #8
3rd Base/Left Field
Character-Defining Quote: “Do we have to do that one [pregame cheer]? It’s so corny.”
The Good News: Little footage exists of Feldman at the plate, but he’s proven to be one of the Bears’ surest gloves in the outfield, having had plenty of additional practice from playing directly behind shortstop Tanner Boyle. He’s also one of the most coachable players on the team, always prepared to tweak his batting stance or fielding technique to improve results.
The Bad News: Feldman’s distaste for pregame cheers at times leaves onlookers wondering about his commitment to the team. Also, Feldman clearly doesn’t believe in dressing for success. His Harpo hairstyle and sloppily bent brim sure don’t make him look like a championship-caliber player. To borrow from Crash Davis: “If you win 20 in the show, you can wear your hair and hat like that, and the press’ll think you’re colorful. Until you win 20 in the show, however, it means you’re a slob.”
Projection: Feldman should continue to develop into a reliable outfielder, but he appears to have more Marx Brothers than Bash Brothers in him.
Kelly Leak #03
Character-Defining Quote: “We go a dollar a game here.”
The Good News: Kelly Leak is a five-tool phenom and the finest baseball player the North Valley League has ever seen. In little more than half a season, he took the bumbling Bears on his shoulders and brought them within a bang-bang call at the plate of a championship. Every time Leak steps on the field, the Bears have a psychological edge, and other teams know not to mess with them.
The Bad News: Half the league owes Leak money (he collects during his home run trots — all those “handshakes”), and he has a rap sheet as long as his tape-measure home runs. His penchants for chain smoking, chasing skirt (including starting pitcher Amanda Whurlizer), gambling on air hockey, and riding a motorcycle without a helmet also raise alarm bells. Leak could be the league MVP, but he could also end up a 12-year-old has-been, owing bookies, sporting a smoker’s cough, and paying child support to several different middle-age women.
Projection: Given a full year with the club, he’ll either lead the Bears to the pennant or join Rick Vaughn in the California Penal League for fixing little league games.