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The Real Offseason

There was no starfield.  No earth.  No dungeons and dragons.

"What is this place," asked Luis Rodriguez, floating through the void.  Glancing around he saw other Twins.  Torii...Lew...Johan...everyone was there.

"This is the offseason," sighed Brad Radke as he moved past Rodriguez at a quick pace.  Luis noticed how relaxed Bradke appeared to be, leaning back comfortably as if he were swinging in a hammock.

"Offseason?" squeaked Rodriguez.  "But, I have stuff to do!"

"Not anymore, you don't."  Looking over, Rodriguez saw Joe Nathan sitting one leg crossed, reading Moneyball.  "This is the offeason for us, rookie.  If you want something to do, you can read...but Moneyball is all they have."

Nathan continued looking over his reading glasses, expecting the young utility infielder to spout off with literally hundreds of questions.  Everyone was either confused or wanted answers, their first offseason.  Last year, Joe Mauer wept (but it was a manly weep).  The season before that, still in San Francisco, he watched as Barry Bonds benched all the rookies at the same time...the rookies "ooh"-ing and "aah"-ing all the while.  Even in his own first offseason Nathan was quite scared and confused, wondering if Bonds had pulled his yearly joke on a rookie by throwing Joe under his MVP-sized ballcap.  "Nope," J.T. Snow had laughed, "this is just the offseason.  Now start thinking about what new pitch you'd like to throw this spring, so that you can be an effective starting pitcher."

Nathan watched with amusement as realization swept over his friend's face.  "But in the minors, the offseason was...was," Luis trailed off.

"Real?" answered Nathan.  "I know.  But no one knew who you were, then.  Now that you're MLB material, you're public domain.  And since most of the public doesn't know what we do in the offseason, we're subject to majority thought.  This means, with no thought, we're nowhere.  In the offseason, Luis, we don't exist."

"Whoa," Luis breathed, just above a whisper.

"You're freakin' me out!" yelled Nicky Punto, somehow holding a stationary position below the two conversing Twins.

Just then, Lew Ford and Matthew LeCroy began to inch by at a snail's pace.  "Oh, stop," chided LeCroy, glancing down to Punto.  "I'm trying to concentrate."

Looking over, Rodriguez noticed the two were playing Dungeons and Dragons.  Lew smiled when he saw the 'How did you get that in?' look on Luis' face.

"I found a loophole in the system," chuckled Ford.  "There's a backdoor into everything."  He pushed up his wire-rimmed glasses with tape over the bridge.  "You're turn," he said to LeCroy.

Suddenly, before Lew could even say good-bye, LeCroy disappeared into thin air!

"Dammit!" whined Ford, pounding his fist into nothingness.  He turned the board around and began playing his opponent's turn.

A look of astonishment took over Luis Rodriguez before anyone could get to him.  "Mama Pajama!" he exclaimed, and began to coil into a ball.  Below him, Nicky Punto started screaming in fear.

Knowing what happened, an annoyed Lew turned toward his frightened teammates.  "Guuuuyys...I'm trying to play a ggaaaaaamme!"

"It's okay, guys, seriously," interjected Nathan, re-entering the conversation.  "He's just not with us anymore.  He's been designated for assignment.  It happens.  Nothing is going to hurt you here."

Off in the distance, Rodgriguez saw Torii Hunter and Jacque Jones begin to cry as they hugged.

"Take me with you, JJ!" cried Hunter, convinced Jones would soon be gone as well.

"You know I can't, Torii," consoled Jones, knowing how easily the Gold Glove center fielder became upset.  "Some things are meant to be.  It will all be okay."

Hunter continued to sob.  "B-B-But we've got a new hitting coach, and Dougie's gone, and Corey's gone, a-a-and..."

Seeing other vets upset calmed Rodriguez a bit, and he turned back to Nathan.  "Does it get like this every offseason?"

The closer nodded.  "I love those guys.  But you'd think after so many years you'd learn to keep your mouth shut in the offseason...y'know, keep some stuff to yourself.  But that's just me."

Luis nodded, and went to join Lew in his boardgame.