It’s July of 1984 and the Stark County Hot Stove Baseball season is winding down. It’s been simultaneously the greatest and most frustrating season of my baseball career. I’ve successfully whined myself out of having to play shortstop any longer, so that’s awesome. I’ve also matured into one of the best twelve year-old pitchers in the county, with superior velocity for my age coupled with what often feels like effortless control. I can tell from their reactions that I scare a fair number of batters, and given my otherwise slight stature and fairly nerdy glasses, being on the mound is the only time I’m intimidating anyone. It’s the combination of speed and accuracy that’s scary—I’ll put the ball wherever my catcher Mike Abbott tells me to put it, and that includes in close enough for the batter to have to duck out of the way. Stay off the plate, fatso from J & L Steel.
Most of the other teams in the league go by their sponsor names, but for some reason this doesn’t apply to the Canton South squads. Too classy for that, I suppose. Even though the name of our sponsor, Frank’s Excavating, is splashed in grey letters across the back of our blue polyester jerseys, we’re known as the Prairie College Dodgers. I’m no Dodgers fan, but we have no say in choosing the team name, so I’m a Dodger. There are, of course, no trolleys to dodge in rural Canton Township; there isn’t even bus service this far from the city. But we’re the Dodgers, and we’re mediocre at best.
I do what I can, but the rules of the eleven- and twelve-year old league state that the starting pitcher is only allowed to pitch four innings per start, and no more than eight innings in a week. That means that I start every game, but the final three innings are given over to a pitcher with considerably less ability than me. Often the result is predictable; I keep the game close or leave with a lead, but if the opponent is halfway decent, the reliever blows the game and we lose. That’s the source of the frustration. It was particularly bad in a game earlier in the season when I’d held our opponent hitless over my four innings. I was dealing, spitting BB’s as we might say, and I struck out ten of the twelve outs, even getting one kid to completely spin around with a pathetic swing as he whiffed on a third strike. Then Greg Kohler comes into the game and starts walking every kid in sight, giving up line drive singles and doubles, and all I can do is watch helplessly from center field as my lead turns into a blowout loss.
I’m on the mound in the second inning against Garner’s IGA, and like my PC Dodgers, they’re a mediocre team with one outstanding player. This guy is their right-handed first baseman who somehow bats left-handed, which is by itself enough of an anomaly to arouse fear and suspicion. He’s also a solid eight inches taller than the tallest of his teammates, with a face full of acne that most of us will be another year or two from acquiring. The seams of his red jersey strain under his wide biceps and barrel chest, and it’s possible that he drove himself to this game. There’s no way he’s only twelve years old, or if he is, then he sleeps in the supermarket storeroom of his team’s sponsor, where they keep him fed with their finest meats and cheeses and give him all-day access to the batting cage they purchased to hone this monster’s skills.
We play each team in the league twice, and on our visit to the home field of Garner’s IGA, this kid had his way with me. He had me rattled from the moment he stepped into the batter’s box, his height and huge arms causing me to change my arm angle and serve up a few meatballs that he promptly deposited either just in front of or over the home run fence. In his three trips to the plate, he tallied a double and two home runs, and it was easily my worst start of the season as a result. I’ve dreaded having to face this kid again ever since, but there’s no avoiding it now.
I moved through Garner’s first three batters in the first with relative ease, so at least I can start the inning from my full wind-up. Before the monster comes to the plate, I make sure to give full effort on my last couple of warm-up pitches so that he can see I’m in control today. It’s warm out and there’s been no recent rain, so the sometimes-crappy condition of the dirt on the mound thankfully isn’t an issue for this game.
After the final warm-up pitch, Mike Abbott makes his throw down to second base, where Aaron Ullman fields it and makes a swipe at the bag in the prescribed pantomime of tagging out the phantom would-be base stealer. Mike is a good catcher; he’s undersized but tough, and he and I have been on the same team since we were eight. I trust him, and he knows my strengths and weaknesses on the mound better than anyone other than my brother Steve.
My oldest sibling, Steve has taught me everything I know about baseball. He’s ten years older than me, and since our dad left when I was six, he’s acted more like a father figure than an older brother, which of course I resent but I also understand. I resent his tutelage a bit less in regard to baseball, as Steve was a pretty talented second baseman with quick hands and feet and good instincts as a hitter. He’s twenty-two now, so apart from some recreational softball, he’s past his playing days. As a consequence, over the past year or so he’s amped up how much baseball tutoring he’s been giving me, and in preparation for this season we were out in our neighbor’s flat field working on pitching when there was still wet snow on the ground. I’m not complaining, because I’ll throw a baseball anytime, anywhere and with anyone. It’s what I love to do more than anything.
Steve has taken his involvement in my season to its logical extreme by joining the coaching staff of the PC Dodgers. I see him standing at the chain link fence that guards the home team’s bench along the first base line. The field sits to the east of my former elementary school, also called Prairie College and named for the street that runs alongside. I remember a couple of years prior when a pair of burnouts at the arcade asked me where I went to school and when I answered, “Prairie College,” one of them disbelievingly replied, “You don’t go to no college!” Well, no, it’s not a college. I’m still not exactly sure why it’s called that. But I don’t go there any longer, as the start of the just-ended school year found me and the rest of my fellow Canton Local School District sixth-graders mashed together at Walker Middle School, which was over six miles to the east. Even though the baseball season-long allegiance to Prairie College was in name only, it was nice to be home.
The field, like our team, is decidedly mediocre. It’s not the nicest, plushest playing surface, but at least someone rakes the infield on occasion. There’s no glamorous home run fence, like my friends who play for the Amos McDaniel team get at their home field, but neither is it under constant threat of flooding from the waste-filled Nimishillen Creek (“the Nimi”) as is the Amos field. Down the left field line, encased in more chain link fencing, is the school’s gigantic septic system, which occasionally lends a foul stench to our games, especially on warm, sunny days like this one. It’s probably more troublesome for our opponents, though, as I’m pretty used to it. The rest of the outfield is an open expanse of several hundred feet of weedy grass, with center field sloping up until it ends in yet another chain link fence that surrounds a lone tennis court.
After making the swipe in the dirt at second, Aaron Ullman starts an around-the-horn toss through the infield, which eventually makes its way back to me. I catch it in my worn mitt, step off the mound and think about how I’m going to approach the monster. I know I have to get out in front of him, that if I can get ahead in the count I’ll feel more comfortable if I’m able to waste a pitch or two getting him to chase something in the dirt or too high out of the strike zone. There’s no room for error, because in addition to the size that living in the grocery store stockroom has afforded him, he’s also got the effortless, compact but powerful swing of a much older player.
Twelve-year-old aren’t really supposed to throw curveballs. For whatever reason or reasons, it’s even more dangerous for a youngster’s arm than throwing regular pitches. Steve taught me to throw curveballs, though, and I’m pretty great at it. But if I went to the mound snapping off looper after looper, the opposing coaches would almost certainly complain. So Steve and I have an agreement; I’ll throw no more than one or two curveballs in an inning, choosing my spots carefully. I generally use it as a strikeout pitch against a good hitter.
The monster has seen my curveball. It didn’t fool him. In our first meeting, he’d watched it bounce into the dirt before teeing off on my next pitch.
I kick at the rubber with my cleat to loosen some dirt and prepare for the first pitch. I hold the ball in my right hand inside of my glove, both of them in front of my chest. I check into Mike to see where he wants to set up, and he’s looking for something low and away. A good thought. If I can throw something close to the strike zone but out of his reach, maybe he’ll go for it. The meatballs I tossed during our earlier meeting were all up around the letters, so going low shows my catcher’s baseball smarts. I nod and start my wind-up, stepping back with my left foot and rocking my torso slightly backward, pulling my arms just over my head. Then I pivot on my right foot, moving along the rubber, pulling my left knee up in a kicking motion. My arms pull apart, my right dipping behind my back to hide the ball from the hitter, my gloved left pulling forward to maintain balance.
It’s a very unnatural motion.
My right arm whips around my head, hurtling the ball toward Mike’s mitt and the monster’s bat. It’s moving in a quick, straight line, its trajectory taking it just off the plate but level with the monster’s shoe tops. He rears back and swings late, trying to reach his long arms out toward the pitch, but in vain.
I didn’t know it then, of course, but the 1984 baseball season would be my last as a player.
It’d be preferable to have some sort of sensational reason for this; an act of teenage rebellion in which I chucked my ball and glove for a bass guitar, a new dedication to math and science that was a precursor to a rewarding career as a mathematician or scientist, or maybe a beatific romance that left me with neither the time nor inclination for something so pedestrian as sport.
The truth is far, far stupider.
I was in the seventh grade, my second year at Walker Middle School. I’d made an abrupt transition from under noticed nerdy kid in the sixth grade to burgeoning popularity, due almost entirely to replacing my eyeglasses with contacts. Girls were not into glasses in 1985, evidently. I was a an arrogant little shit, swaggering around with a detached superiority that I thought marked me as cool, but was obviously a misguided attempt to mask massive, deeply guarded insecurities. You know how some kids are.
I carried this strut to gym class, where my better-than-average athleticism kept any potential bullies at bay. The ability to perform at least partially from muscle memory also allowed for the possibility for plenty of daydreaming during gym, of which I often took full advantage. The daydreaming usually involved girls. Puberty had hit me pretty hard, at least in regards to percentage of waking (and sleeping, for that matter) moments devoted to the opposite sex, their anatomies and perceived level of interest in my swagger.
I was probably doing exactly this sort of daydreaming during a late-Winter, early-Spring gym period devoted to various track and field events. It was still too cold to get outside, so there were stations set up around the gymnasium featuring different accoutrements of high and long jumping, discus, hurdles and whatnot. Our gym teacher was notoriously inattentive, so mostly we were just wandering around socializing, with the occasional seventh-grader running into the hurdles or attempting a high jump.
I was aimlessly milling about, attempting to exude my trademarked aura of coolness but really just constantly looking around to see who might be looking at me. Feeling no one’s eyes on me, I noticed a shot put station with a couple of the large balls at one end and a few wrestling mats with which to catch the throws at the other. I’d never actually watched anyone throw a shot put, so I had no idea about anything resembling the proper form or technique. The only throwing motion with which I was familiar was the one that I was looking forward to utilizing in just a few weeks when the new baseball season was underway. I figured that a baseball throwing motion was how one got this thing from Point A to Point B.
Now, I can’t be sure if this was a standard high school twelve-pound shot put or some undersized junior version since we were a couple of years away from HS competition. That doesn’t really matter, as either way throwing a shot put like a baseball with all of my might was an extremely poor decision and, as evidence by the odd combination of tearing and popping that came from my right shoulder as I whipped the thing around, also an immediately deleterious one. My entire arm promptly went numb, and the fingers of my hand stung with the pricks from what seemed like thousands of pins and needles. I grabbed my shoulder, looked around to see if anyone had watched me make that stupid move, and walked away from the shot put station with a pathetic whimper.
It was obvious to me that I’d done real damage to my shoulder. This didn’t take precedence over my embarrassment, however, and I didn’t tell anyone what I’d done. I suffered in silence over the next couple of days, and eventually the pain in my shoulder diminished and I began to believe with hope that the injury was only temporary. This was a comforting idea, as the thought of potential surgery was enough to cause miniature panic attacks in my teenaged brain. The fight or flight response called for in this instance went squarely to the side of flight.
As the start of baseball season drew nearer, I was filled with dread and fear at the prospect of revealing my injury. I figured if I wasn’t in the sort of pain that immediately followed the shot put incident, then I wasn’t really hurt. Maybe I’d be able to take my rightful spot on the pitcher’s mound without further complication, and it would be like nothing ever happened. In addition, Hot Stove ended at twelve; I’d be joining a new league. My days as a Prairie College Dodger were over, and the new team featured the best of the best from the various district Hot Stove leagues, so there’d be no resting on any laurels. I’d have to prove myself.
On the first day of practice, I made it through my warm-up tosses pain-free. As my arm loosened up, I began to feel confident that I’d be able to pitch again after all. My mind was heavy with apprehension at each throw, but I relaxed as the moments progressed. As the warm-up period drew to a close, the coach called for me to take the mound. It appeared that my reputation and performance during the previous season preceded me, as I was the first pitcher to get to show his stuff.
I panicked internally, but I did my best to hide my fear and appear stoic. I toed the rubber and threw a pitch at about half-strength to protect my shoulder. My arm felt fine. The ball came back to me, and I threw another pitch and then another and another, increasing my effort with each successive throw. Still fine.
It was time to burn one in, lest the coach think that my abilities had been exaggerated. I rocked into my motion and threw a fastball with everything I had. My shoulder felt great. I’d avoided serious injury after all. The pitch was a good one, maybe an inch or two off the plate with excellent velocity. The catcher threw the ball back and I reared back to throw another strike. As my shoulder whipped around, it made the same sickening tearing and popping that I’d heard a few weeks before; the ball sailed ten feet to the left of the catcher, my arm again went numb. I grabbed my shoulder with my glove and walked off of the mound.
I sat on the bench. The coach walked over to me and asked what was wrong.
I looked at the ground, still too embarrassed to come clean. “I don’t think I’m up to playing this year.”
As the years passed, each Spring was invariably accompanied by the thought that there was something missing from my life, and the something was baseball. I never felt as in control of the world as I did when I was on the mound, where I could do what I wanted when I wanted. The game was in my hands; if I wanted to pitch quickly, I could. If I wanted to slow the game down and be more deliberate, I could do that too. High or low, inside or outside, fastball, changeup or curveball, it was all up to me. I was good at it, almost effortlessly good, but now that was over, a victim of my swagger and pride.
I never did go to the doctor for a diagnosis. Even as I matured, I assumed a fix would have to come in the form of surgery, and since I didn’t intend on pitching competitively again, I didn’t see any real benefit. It wasn’t until my college girlfriend Jessica started medical school that I knew what had happened. In her first year, as she and her classmates studied anatomy, the bones and ligaments and tendons, she had her nose in a textbook one weekend when a light bulb went off in her head. She’d heard me tell the shot put story many times, so when she began studying the physical makeup of the shoulder, my injury became obvious to her. She called me over, directing me to hold my right arm out at shoulder length with my thumb pointed at the ground. She applied some pressure on my forearm and instructed me to push against that pressure. The pain was immediate and excruciating. Jessica smiled, proud of her eureka moment, and I was happy, in a way, to finally understand what had happened. It was a glenoid labrum tear, and without the necessary surgery to fix it scar tissue had more than likely formed and ensured that my range of motion would be forever limited and there’d always be mild pain that would turn major whenever I’d try and pitch.
The odd thing is that, over the years, I’d noticed that the motion required by my shoulder to snap off a successful curveball placed less strain on my shoulder. I can stand around throwing curve after curve while playing catch with no ill effects. In fact, because this has become my more natural arm action while tossing a ball around, I’ve gotten even better at throwing curveballs than I was when I was twelve. I’ve often joked that this has given rise to my “Major League looper,” even as my fastball has never risen above the velocity expected of a sixth-grader. It’s funny because it’s true—I really can still throw a perfect “Noon-to-Six” curveball, a pitch that starts up at a batter’s letters then tumbles off abruptly to the tops of his shoes. When I lived in Chicago, my baseball nerd friends and I would occasionally head to a city park to play catch. They loved (still love, really) to bust my chops about any and all available chop-bust-worthy things that pop into their heads. Before we’d ever slung the cowhide around, I’d made mention once, or maybe ten times, of my “Major League looper,” which was met with predictable derision. Even they had to admit the truth of the matter as I threw curveball after perfect curveball all summer.
It might not have been competitive baseball, and I certainly never fulfilled the potential that I had as a ballplayer. But damned if there still wasn’t a bit of control there, even if it was just in being able to control how my friends poked fun at me.
Mike Abbott pumps the ball into his catcher’s mitt and gives me an encouraging nod before he throws the ball back to me.
Normally I work pretty quickly between pitches, but I want to take a beat or three to think about my strategy. The first pitch was perfectly placed. It obviously looked good to the monster, but was out of his wheelhouse. Down and away. It had good velocity on it, more than he was ready for. He swung right through it, too late to even foul it off had he been able to reach it.
I wish Steve could come out to discuss strategy, but the coaches are only allowed to come in to the mound once an inning, and it’s not as though I’m in any sort of trouble. Mental trouble, maybe. He’s just standing at the fence, watching, waiting. I don’t look over, but I know my mom is sitting in a lounge chair with the other family members, further down the first base line. She never misses a game; she even came last season when PC politics kept me mostly on the bench while my dick of a coach played his son and all his little friends regardless of talent. She’s probably sitting with George Rothenstein’s mom, they always got along fairly well. Now that George’s parents are divorced, I guess they have something in common.
I’m having a little trouble deciding what to do with this second pitch. I’ve gotten ahead of the monster in the count, so I can waste one if I want. Maybe throw something really high, get him to change his eye level and try to extend his arms up and out of the strike zone. I remember one of the pitches he crushed in our first meeting was pretty high, though, and I’m not confident I can get a high fastball by him again. This guy has preternaturally quick hands, and the mental image of him reaching up and around on my pitch and depositing it over the fence is still fresh enough to make me think thrice.
I’ve resigned myself to the fact that I’m not going to get this guy out through physical ability. It’s going to have to be a battle of wits. How smart can this guy be, anyway? Doesn’t big almost always equal dumb? Looking in at the monster, who is impatiently taking warm-up swings while he waits for me to take the mound, I can easily envision him being pictured in the dictionary next to the word “galoot.” A galoot isn’t smart, and the monster is a big galoot. He couldn’t get to that first pitch, so maybe now I’ve got him thinking. If he’s trying to guess what pitch I’m going to throw next, there’s little chance that he’s guessing the same thing.
I toe the rubber and look into Mike to see what he’s looking for. He sets up low and away. I nod; we’re in agreement. I go into my wind-up, rear back, and throw the exact same pitch a second time, this time with just a little extra oomph. The monster swings and misses.
Sad as it is that my glory days as a pitcher took place entirely at the age of twelve, I did have one more moment of splendor in the grass, no matter how brief.
In my early thirties I got a position with a Major League baseball team. It would have been a dream come true, had the gig been something other than the glorified retail job that it was. Still, I did get free season tickets, the same benefits as the rest of the front office, and I eventually qualified for an MLB pension. That’s pretty cool; hardly anyone else I know has a pension, and I suppose it’s unlikely that MLB will go out of business before I retire.
During the 2004 season, I was managing the Indians Team Shop at the Great Lakes Mall in Mentor. The team got off to a pretty lousy start that year, and found themselves almost exclusively ensconced in fourth place throughout April and May. In response, the merchandising department higher-ups hastily arranged a sales contest for the stores in the hopes of trumping up the enthusiasm that the team had been, to that point, unable to. Among the usual prizes of gift cards or access to a suite for a game was something that really intrigued me.
Throwing out the ceremonial first pitch.
I put my head down and motivated my staff to make the extra effort. I begged, pleaded and cajoled until, whether through weary resignation or just the simple desire to shut me up, my store won the contest. I parceled out the suite tickets and the gift cards, but kept that first pitch for myself.
I was unbelievably excited. The date was chosen; July 26, 2004. The Tigers were in town. I was also given extra VIP tickets, so I was able to bring along a few family members, including my mom and Steve. Even if it was just one pitch, and even if only a third or so of the ticket holders would be in their seats to witness it, they’d still get to see me toe a Major League rubber.
The weeks passed unbearably slowly. I wasn’t able to practice much, and as a result my arm wasn’t exactly in prime shape. I couldn’t go a day without thinking or talking about the event, and of course that included informing my Chicago friends. Down the line, each of them asked if I would unveil the “Major League looper” as my first pitch. I assured them that I would.
My mom and brothers and their spouses and my then-girlfriend met on the plaza between Jacob’s Field and Gund Arena. I was nervous. It was an unseasonably cool late afternoon, and the sky was overcast. I hopped around from foot to foot, unsure of what to do with myself. No one else had thought to bring a glove so that I could warm up. This could be bad.
After entering the ballpark, I was met by an escort and then ushered underneath the field into the maze of catacombs and pathways and Cushman carts that pulsate with activity on a gameday. We passed a final security checkpoint that I’d never been through and made our way outside to behind homeplate. I looked a few feet over to see my fans seated closer to the field than any of them had ever been.
As we walked onto the field, it felt somewhat surreal. Or maybe hyperreal. Whatever. Bear in mind that, as an employee, this wasn’t the first time I’d been on the field. However, none of those previous steps onto the grass were on a gameday, and I’d never been ushered to the mound with a fresh ball in my hand with my name and face splashed on the Jumbotron.
My escort tried to get me to take a spot in front of the mound in order to make the throw a shorter, easier one. I waved off the suggestion. Behind the plate ready to catch the throw was outfielder Grady Sizemore, who had just been called up from AAA and wasn’t in that day’s lineup. I guessed that catching the first pitch was rookie duty. I toed the rubber as my name boomed over the PA, the Indians’ ridiculous mascot Slider prancing around to my right. I gave a quick wave to my family, my heart located somewhere between my chest and lower intestine.
I nodded at Grady; he nodded back. I started my wind-up, stepping back with my left foot and rocking my torso slightly backward, pulling my arms just over my head. Then I pivoted on my right foot, moving along the rubber, pulling my left knee up in a kicking motion. My arms pulled apart, my right dipping behind my back, my gloved left pulling forward to maintain balance.
I snapped off a perfect “Noon-to-Six” “Major League looper” that split the plate in half and would have been a called strike had it been a real pitch. Slider patted me on the back. Grady trotted out towards me with the ball, then autographed it and handed it to me. “That was a pretty nasty little cutter you just threw me,” he said as I beamed. I wondered for a moment if I could have gotten it past him had he been carrying a bat, trying like the monster to deposit it over the fence.
Two fastballs, low and away, that the monster couldn’t reach. I put the ball in my glove, step off the mound and remove my mesh cap to wipe away some sweat from my brow. I move a few steps and put the ball in both hands, rubbing it vigorously in pantomime of something I’d seen countless Major Leaguers do. I don’t know what it’s supposed to accomplish, but it feels good and it buys me a few seconds to think.
I’ve got the feeling that a curveball is exactly what the monster is expecting here, and that he’ll just watch it bounce in the dirt and I’ll have wasted a good pitch in a futile effort. Maybe I’ll need to save it for an easier-to-fool batter, because memory tells me that he won’t bite.
I have what seems to me a brilliant idea. No batter in this situation is looking for the same pitch a third time in a row. No pitcher in his right mind would try and go to the well again, and this is why it’s a brilliant idea. Knowing that I have to outwit this guy, and with him knowing that’s what I’m trying to do, he’s certainly looking for a different pitch. It’s almost a breech of protocol to do what I’m going to do.
I step back onto the mound and look in at my catcher. We don’t really use signs unless he thinks it’s a good spot to use the curve. He needs to know that’s what I’m throwing so that he can anticipate the odd action from the ball, and be prepared to block it if it’s in the dirt. Mike calls for the curve, but I shake him off. He calls for it a second time, but again I shake my head. He moves him mitt up and inside, looking for a fastball that’s higher and closer to the monster. We move back and forth like this until he puts his mitt where I want it: low and outside. Again.
I go into my motion and fire the same pitch toward the same spot. I swear I see a cartoonish twinkle in the right eye of the monster, a huge grin splitting his acne-covered face. I’ve done exactly what he wanted me to do, taken the bait, walked willingly into the trap. He rears back and takes a big cut at the ball, reaching over the plate and connecting with a resounding thwack.
The ball sails high and in a hurry toward center field. I turn around quickly to see Steve Daugherty, the center fielder, sprinting away from homeplate, but there’s no chance for him to catch this one. It is maybe a hundred feet over his head. If we’d had a home run fence, perhaps I’d be spared the humiliation of watching the outfielder’s interminable dash out to the ball, which has finally landed and is rolling up the incline toward the tennis court. As Steve eventually catches up to it, grabs it and whirls around to fire the ball back in towards the infield, the monster is half-running, half-jogging around third base. There’s no need for real exertion on his part, as there’s exactly zero chance the ball will be back in time to stop his progress toward home for what is nominally an inside-the-park home run.
I get through the rest of the inning without further incident. As I head towards the bench, my brother Steve grabs my arm.
“Tried to fool him with the same pitch, huh?”
I nod dejectedly. He only shakes his head in disbelief at my stupidity. I couldn’t even outsmart the monster.
Should’ve thrown the looper.
 These benefits would have included an American League champions ring and free plane trip and World Series tickets had the Tribe been able to finish off the Boston Red Sox in the ALCS in 2007. Fucking Sabathia. I do still have my unused 2007 World Series tickets as a sad sort of souvenir.
 Slider isn’t supposed to talk, but since I knew him out of costume as Danny Kilday, I guess he felt comfortable enough to tell me “That was fucking awesome, you should try out.”
Chris Drabick is a graduate of the NEOMFA (the Northeast Ohio consortium) whose publications include Stoneboat, Prick of the Spindle and Eunoia Review. He was a 2012 Juniper Summer Fellowship winner, as well as winner of the Marion Smith Short Story Prize. He teaches English at the University of Akron, where he lives with his wife, their two sons and too many vinyl LPs.