The ‘Natural’

This article was written by Marty Resnick

This article was published in The National Pastime: The Future According to Baseball (2021)

Here we go. Logan was all nerves, with a touch of relief, as he walked from the on-deck circle to the right-handed batter’s box. Styx’s Mr. Roboto began playing over the PA. Logan smirked and accepted his new walk-up song and apparent nick-name courtesy of his team, the Nashville Stars.

He had been playing this game for sixteen seasons, but it felt like his first at bat in the major leagues. Sixteen years ago he had been a lanky, olive-skinned twenty-year-old—a five-tool prospect. Now he was thirty-six, with a body that was more ripped than ever before, with one single tool—pure bionic power.

He completed his usual pre-bat routine, loosening and tightening his grip on the bat with his natural left hand below the hand of his synthetic right arm. Logan stood in, slightly bent his knees with a wide stance, and stared intently at the pitcher. Logan’s natural left eye was transfixed on the pitcher, while his augmented right eye had one goal: track the ball. Most people couldn’t tell the difference between the new eye and the one he’d lost, unless they caught a glimpse of the slight glow as the tracking software kicked in.

Logan needed to clear his mind, not think about what happened in the past, and focus on the at bat, but that was near impossible. Two men on, two outs, bottom of the ninth, last chance to get two runs in, he thought to himself.

Unfortunately, Pete “Predator” Perez was pitching and he was well known for throwing the fastest ball in the major leagues, especially because he threw up and in. Predator had put three batters on the Injured List this season already.

“Strike One!” the umpire exclaimed.

A fastball clocked at 106.5 MPH pounded the catcher’s mitt. Logan had just stared at it.

What am I doing here?

A little over a year ago, Bridget had been by his side in the hospital. Pieces of their car had been removed from his eye, while his arm had been removed from his body.

Only to be replaced with cybernetic parts. He hadn’t been sure he’d even make it back onto a field, much less to the big leagues. Now he was here and… “Ball!” The umpire’s hand signaled the pitch was high.

Ten months of the team executives, the commissioner’s office, and the MLB Players’ Association debating if he was even eligible to play. Some felt strongly that he wasn’t, throwing around words like Freak, Cheater, and Has-been. Logan had felt in his bones that his career was over.

“Strike two.” The umpire looked at him as if wondering if Logan was actually going to swing at a pitch.

I’m wondering the same thing, Blue.

Logan had spent a month on a rehab assignment at Double-A Mexico City. Every day he’d stepped into the clubhouse, he’d expected to be told it would be his last. Most of his teammates accepted him. Some weren’t sure what to make of a “part man, part machine player” but, to those minor leaguers, Logan was a legend. His opponents, on the other hand, seemed to protest every hit, every play, every game. It was exasperating.

Meanwhile, lawyers and the powers that be fought over whether he was ineligible by dint of his unfair advantage, or for liability concerns, or whatever other reasons they cooked up. They seemingly had so many options to put a stop to it, but they hadn’t—yet.

“Ball!” the umpire declared, with another emphatic indicator the pitch was outside. “Two-two!” He was enjoying calling balls and strikes a bit too much.

Logan looked over his shoulder and saw the group of kids from the hospital rehabilitation center who encouraged him through his recovery. Logan had arranged tickets for all of them as a thank you. They were all clapping and yelling—still encouraging him right to this moment.

“Ball three.” Logan barely heard the umpire as he hit the deck; the ball had nearly grazed his face. Predator clearly wanted to make Logan his fourth victim of the season.

This guy is insane! The crowd must’ve thought so, too, as an angry murmur spread through the stadium.

Logan climbed slowly to his feet.

Then he heard what the rehab center kids in the stands had started chanting: Hero. That’s what Bridget had called Logan. That’s what the doctors called him for agreeing to take part in the experimental tests, for going through with the life-altering technologies for “architecting athletes” they’d been developing. Hero was how minor league teammates had referred to him.

The rest of the crowd was starting to pick up the chant from the kids. “Hero! Hero!” they cheered in one voice.

Full count. Time to focus. Logan looked to his third base coach. The sign was clear. Swing away.

The Predator’s wind-up was a bit exaggerated, but Logan knew the heat was coming.

As the pitcher released the ball, Logan’s augmented eye locked on to it. The 150 milliseconds any hitter has to respond to the pitch seemed like plenty of time, like the ball was in slow motion. The brain-computer interface coordinated Logan’s eye and hands perfectly. The trajectory of the bat was right on. The launch angle, perfection.

The bat on ball made a sound that could be heard in the farthest reaches of the upper deck.

The pitch came in at a record 108.2 MPH. The ball left the building at a record 135.4 MPH. 

MARTY RESNICK is an avid, lifelong Dodgers fan living in Braves Country. He is an expert in future studies, continuous foresight, and combinatorial innovation. Marty’s background in strategy, innovation, emerging technologies, trendspotting and human augmentation gives him a strong perspective for understanding the potential impacts of disruptions on the future. He is best described as a futurist but is a storyteller at heart. Marty specifically enjoys telling stories visually through photography and envisaging the future through writing science fiction.