Back home, bot sightings rippled through the county and state. The robot was seen on the floor of the Texas state senate, in the governor's office and at a regional academic competition in Abilene. Lyndon was becoming a voice for organ transplants and a face for sick, homebound children being brought back to life by the grace of cybertechnology. "Why, that robot," Grandma Lula heard her hairdresser, Vera Tomlinson, say, "has put little ol' bitty Knox City on the map!"
"Need to change those signs saying WELCOME TO KNOX CITY, HOME OF THE GREYHOUNDS," guidance counselor Christie Howeth told folks, "to HOME OF THE BATY BOT."
VGo lent the family a duplicate—Baty Bot 2—for Lyndon to use at nonschool activities. The bot got religion, appearing on Sundays at O'Brien Baptist Church, perched in the aisle next to Dad so he could throttle the avatar if it even thought about blurting out something while Brother Nelson was preaching. A half-dozen old ladies fluttered around it during the meet-and-greet part of the service, saying, "I don't know how this is going to work, but I'm going to hug you!" while white-haired Mutt Ivie opted for the more manly welcome, throwing uppercuts at Baty Bot 2 with his fingerless right hand.
It seemed there was nothing more that a gravely ill boy sealed off from the world could ask for ... but there was. His dad knew that a kid at Knox City High who wasn't involved in some extracurricular activity—most students juggled three or four—felt invisible. Now that Lyndon had a future again, what better way to feed his dreams than to make him the public-address announcer at varsity baseball games?
Mom tried, of course, to pull the plug. After all, the ballpark was on the far edge of town—out in cattle range, not Wi-Fi range—so the bot couldn't pinch-hit for Lyndon, which would mean exposing him to all those fans and bacteria. But it's open air, her husband countered, and most of the time Lyndon would be alone in the booth except for Rick Reid, the old volunteer operating the scoreboard. "I'd love it! I'd love it! Please! Please!" begged Lyndon.
Mom lost, and a legend was born: Lyndon Baty Live! Sleepless from anticipation, he bounded up the rusting steel stairway to the booth on March 1 wearing a Greyhounds T-shirt, took his seat as if he were born to it—right ankle casually propped on left hipbone—gazed across a ball field straight out of Shoeless Joe Jackson's dreams and clicked on the microphone alongside a bottle of antibacterial soap. "Batting firrrrrst...." It began as a deep growl from that 84-pound body ... "for yourrrrr Greyyyyy-hounnnnnds ..." then metamorphosed into a full-throated howl ... "nummmmm-berrrrr sixxxxx ..." that rattled the donkeys, horses, goats and chickens in Kevin White's pens behind home plate ... "BRANNNNN-DONNNNN ..." and soared over the stalks of Jimmy Tankersley's wheat field in left ..."BRAAAAAD- ..." and carried deep beyond Rusty Grimsley's cattle in right ... "LEEEEEY" ... and just kept going, going ... no one able to confirm that it was ever gone.
The effect was physiological. Shoulders lifted. Backsides edged away from the blare of the two loudspeakers. Heads turned, eyebrows rose, smiles spread. The home plate umpire's fingers plugged his ears. Coach Lawson started flashing a sign from the third-base coaching box that his Greyhounds didn't recognize, a scissoring motion that, they finally realized, was meant for the press box: Cut the damn thing shorter, Lyndon! But like the homer-happy slugger who never seems to see the bunt sign, Lyndon missed the signal and howled anew.
Strikeouts were monumental: "STEEEEE-rahk threeeee, he's OUTTTTTA there!" Walks were wry: "That batter's going to get a free pass to first base." Foul balls—thanks to Lyndon's adopted brother, Chance, a nine-year-old human retriever with the squeakiest of voices—were both transcendent and comical: "High ... HIGH ... HIIIIIIIIIIIIGH foulllllllll ballllllllll!"
Chance: "I got it!"
P.A. Announcer: "Chance Baty has it!"