A hotel room, past midnight, blackout drapes drawn. The game is over, long over, the spread attacked, and the blue fluorescence of a television washes the dim walls. An announcer on the TV notices that Gwynn is well up in the batter's box, to take away the curve, obviously. "Interesting observation," says Gwynn. "I've only been standing there my whole life." The batter suddenly lines a shot up the middle that caroms off the pitcher, who recovers and throws the batter out. "Hits him in the shin and stays right in front of him!" shouts Gwynn. He calms. "Well, that was all you could do. I'm not embarrassed by that. Look, I'm rounding first base like I got a base hit."
The game is fast-forwarded, and, before you know it, Gwynn is at bat again, with a runner on third. The Atlanta pitcher has a 3-0 count on Gwynn. The papers the next day say Pedro Borbon fully intended to walk Gwynn. But it's hard to get anything hittable past a hitter who doesn't really acknowledge a strike zone. "It's a slider away," Gwynn says. "Not that bad a pitch for him, not that far outside. My whole assignment here is to go to left, don't even want to try and pull this guy." On TV, Gwynn swings inside out—contact!—and the ball is lined over short; the runner scores. The camera cuts to Brave manager Bobby Cox. Is he steamed! "That's exactly what I wanted to do," Gwynn says. "That was a good at bat for me."
Tony Gwynn hunches over, the remote in his hand, bathed in this unnatural moonlight. He fast-forwards the tape. Pauses, dubs, fast-forwards. He hopes to find another good at bat, where the guy's not lunging at the ball, not waving at some stupid curve, not looking like an idiot. All the guy on the TV has to do is get the barrel on the ball, make contact. And maybe nobody will remember how foolish he looks the other, well, two thirds of the time.