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Now King understands why the kid is batting seventh. Between innings, as Jonny runs out to rightfield, King calls him over and asks him to level out his swing.
Yes, sir, Jonny says.
King asks Jonny to run as fast as he can out to a sign on the fence in the right-center gap, plant one foot on the warning track and throw the ball back as hard as he can. Jonny takes off as if shot from a cannon. He plants and throws. The ball sails into the stands, 15 feet over King's head, and the scout feels the hair on his forearms standing on end.
Jonny comes up again, levels out his swing and lines one so hard over the shortstop's head that it whistles into left center. He beats the throw for a double and stands on second and gives King a look.
The night gets colder. King is gathering his things to leave when Jonny comes up one last time and cranks one over the scoreboard in left center.
KING: I swear the ball is orbiting the earth right now.
JOEY: They start exaggerating your story. That's when you know you've got a Forever Moment.
King goes back to the hotel, pours a glass of red wine and begins writing his first pro report. He calls Jonny an average major league player capable of hitting 20-plus homers. Next morning he goes back to the park. Santa Rosa is playing the 10 o'clock game, and the other scouts are back. King hopes no one will steal his prospect. But he needn't worry: When Jonny comes to the plate, a high fastball runs in and injures his left hand, knocking him out of commission for a month. No one else will see what King saw on the night he almost let Jonny go undiscovered.
After the tournament King waits for everyone else to leave before walking up to Jonny. The kid is lean and hard, and he looks as if he's done some living.
"Hey," King says. "Have you ever thought about being a professional?"