"We're not the cause of that," he said, as if personally hurt by the accusation. "The free-agent draft did that. We're just filling a need that came up. Why, before the draft all those oldtimers were complaining how tough it was trying to sign a kid. Now they're complaining it's no longer fun. I don't believe any of them. I bet you won't find one in 40 who would rather go back to the way things were before the draft—except, of course, those whose jobs we'll replace."
"Then you think baseball is a lot better off because of the draft and your organization?" I said.
He looked up quickly. "No, I didn't say that. I never said things were better or worse. I just said this is the way they are, that's all. And there's nothing that can be done about it. You have to learn to live with it."
It was the ninth inning now. Clements stood up, folded his chair and tucked it under his arm and said goodby. He was the last scout to leave. Even the fans along the first-base line were beginning to fold up their blankets and chairs in anticipation of the last out. Art DeFilippis had already fanned 20 batters, and one more would be a new career high for him. Mr. DeFilippis looked worried about his son, who was exhausted after all those strikeouts and the inside-the-park home run. As I walked past, I could hear him talking.
"I don't know who he'll sign with," he was saying, "but whoever it is, they'll have to meet our price. That's our only consideration now. I got a call this morning from a New York organization called Pro Scouts. They want to be Artie's agent for 10%. Maybe I'll let them do the dealing for us. Who knows? And if nobody comes up with the cash Artie can go to college on a scholarship and then step into my business when he gets out. He can make $20,000 a year with no problem, so why should he sign a contract for nothing, huh? Why?"
Art DeFilippis fanned his 21st batter, and his players mobbed him, as did the remaining fans. He didn't seem to notice that there were no scouts around now, until I mentioned it to him.
"When I was younger," he said, "I always heard stories about how the scouts took you to dinner and all. Every kid does. But none of that's happened to me. I've hardly said a word to them."
Most of the people had gone by now. I started walking across the Stamford Catholic football field toward my car, when I heard a voice call out my name. I turned around to see Jeff Jones walking toward me, a huge grin on his bushy-browed face. He didn't seem to have aged at all in the 10 years. When he stuck out his hand I hesitated for a moment, remembering all that bonus money he had sunk into me, and I felt that I should make some explanation or apology to him.
"I thought it was you," he said, and began talking as if we hadn't seen each other in a few days and he was eager to catch up on lost news. He asked about my parents. He said he'd always liked them, especially my mother. At first I thought it was strange he said nothing about my wife and kids, until I remembered, of course, he didn't know about them.
I asked him why he wasn't out to dinner with the DeFilippis boy right now, and he said he never did that anymore. "It used to be fun competing with the scouts, but now what difference does it make?" Then he added, prodding me lightly with his elbow, "And I was good at it, wasn't I?" I noticed he didn't stutter as much as he used to. "You know, I could never understand why you didn't make the big leagues," he said. "F thought for sure you would. What happened in the minors?"