FINCH'S entry into the world of baseball occurred last July in Old Orchard Beach, Maine, where the Mets' AAA farm club, the Tidewater Tides, was in town. Bob Schaefer, the Tides' manager, remembers, "I was walking by a park when suddenly this guy—nice-looking kid, clean-shaven, blue jeans, big boots—appears alongside. I think maybe he wants an autograph or to chat about the game, but no, he scrabbles around in a kind of knapsack, gets out a scuffed-up baseball and a small, black leather fielder's mitt that looks like it came out of the back of some Little League kid's closet. This guy says to me, 'I have learned the art of the pitch' and points out a soda bottle on top of a fence post about the same distance home plate is from the pitcher's rubber. He rears way back, comes around and pops the ball at it. Out there on that fence post the soda bottle explodes. It disintegrates like a rifle bullet hit it—just little specks of vaporized glass in a puff."
PHOTOGRAPH BY WALTER IOOSS JR.; ERICK RASCO (BACKGROUND); PHOTO ILLUSTRATION BY SI IMAGING
INSET PHOTOS: Al Tielemans (Wright); Keith Birmingham (Ramirez); Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images (Zambrano); John Cordes/Icon SMI (Morneau); Chris Livingston/Icon SMI (Crawford); Elsa/Getty Images (Pedroia)
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