Chance: "I love you, Lyndon!"
P.A. Announcer: "Chance Baty, verrrrry proud of himself!"
Everyone assumed that Lyndon would go galactic only for each Greyhound's first trip to the plate ... but everyone was wrong. Every at bat, even in this 25--7 drubbing of stunned Bryson High, was introduced as if the 'Hounds were bursting out of a locker room amid smoke, fireworks, Eye of the Tiger, a Blue Angels flyover and the roar of 60,000 fans. By the end of the third inning Lyndon had shot his wad and his voice. "Sounded like I had a hair ball at the end," he lamented. The visiting team's fans, seeing him emerge from the press box, were shocked to discover that that voice came from that waif. He exited to a standing ovation. "Man, he could do that for a living!" enthused Coach Steele. "All of his limitations disappear."
Yes, the kid was a marvel, but no one knew what to do with him. He was violating all three of John Wayne's laws for the Western male: Talk low, talk slow and don't talk too much. Dad, appointing himself censor the following week, seated himself beside Lyndon in the booth and tried to tone him down. Coach Lawson, fingers scissoring furiously in the coaching box, finally threw up his arms. "Would somebody go up there and tell him to shorten the names?" he cried.
But it was hopeless, and this time the kid went the distance, crowed the full seven innings. "C'mon, I'm supposed to be loud and long!" he argued. "That's what they do at professional sporting events. Besides, I can't shorten it. It just comes out that way. I love doing this. It feels like you're the only one there and you're amusing people and there are no rules and you can do what you want. Announcing the games gives me a sense of power. It feels like I'm part of the team."
By his fifth game he'd Googled up a list of big league slang terms, expanding his mandate from P.A. man to play-by-play broadcaster. "Heater for strahk two!" ... "Little chin music there!" ... "Threw him a deuce for ball two—that's a curveball in case you didn't know!"
The Greyhounds were getting pounded that day, trailing Seymour 14--0 as they came to bat in the fourth, when Kevin White's donkey began hee-hawing behind the stands as if its tail were on fire. "Sounds lahk we got a rally donkey!" Lyndon bellowed, then turned his cap inside out to aid the cause. And wouldn't you know it, the 'Hounds began slashing singles and doubles, sending six runners home that inning. "The rally donkey's working!" hollered the P.A. announcer.
"I need some duct tape," groaned the P.A. announcer's mom.
Most robot stories end badly. The genie escapes the bottle, the machines run amok, mankind loses ugly in the late innings. It's way too early in the game to know if that's where this one's headed, but the perfect play-by-play man for it is propped up in bed on a spring morning, daydreaming of what's next while Dad milks the cows. Varsity basketball P.A. man? No. That's indoors, too dangerous, too many germs ... but he could do the player introductions from home this winter if the gym gets Wi-Fi and a microphone is placed in front of the Baty Bot. Very cool. Football? Definitely. He's set to work the microphone for Sheldon's middle school games this autumn—"Ohhhh, do I have plans for Sheldon," he coos—and possibly the high school jayvee games, and Mr. Moeller, the P.A. man for varsity football, says he'll gladly turn over the microphone once Lyndon gets a little seasoning. Sheri can picture the day when her son sends his robot into locker rooms to get quotes as his sports journalism career expands ... and who among the toilers in that field, even those who are the picture of health, wouldn't happily choose to send a robot to do that dirty and cliché-ridden work once that's an option?
For it will be, have no doubt. Besides VGo, Anybots is marketing a robot perfectly named for the sporting set—QB—and Willow Garage has one out called Texai, while an MIT doctoral student named SigurÐur Örn has unveiled a MeBot that can track its remote controller's head movements and convey expressions with moving parts. In South Korea 29 robots—remote controlled by Filipinos—are teaching children English. The world robot population, including automatons working on assembly lines, has swollen to an estimated 8.6 million. Were they to form a country, it would have more citizens than Austria.