Baseball's renaissance man sits facing his locker, his back to the usual clubhouse frivolity going on behind him. In front of him is his laptop computer, the screen filled with words, sentences and paragraphs.
09/13/2011 9:54 AM ET
Batista has career beyond baseball
Mets right-hander is working on his second novel
By Hal Bock / MLBPLAYERS.com
Miguel Batista, the poet pitcher, is writing.
Batista is working on his second novel, titled "DNA18," a mystery thriller involving the United States government and the United Nations and experts from both working to fix an ominous problem. The Mets clubhouse, though, is not the most serene place to get the creative juices flowing.
"I don't have time to do it elsewhere," Batista said.
So he steals a few minutes, maybe even an hour before games, to weave the tale. On another day, he might be writing poetry.
"They are two different things," he said. "Martin Luther King's 'I Have a Dream' speech for what it was, in its way was poetry in a moment in time."
In his 17th Major League season, pitching for his 10th team, Batista thinks about lots more than runs, hits and strikeouts. Before this season he had made baseball stops in Pittsburgh, Florida, Chicago, Montreal/Washington, Arizona, Seattle, Kansas City and Toronto.
Signed by St. Louis last winter, Batista had a 0.56 ERA in 14 appearances over the first six weeks of the season. Released by the Cardinals in midseason, he signed a Minor League deal with the Mets and, after he was called up, earned his 100th career victory and 1,200th strikeout. They are signposts in a long career, milestones shared by only a handful of pitchers. He has been a starter, and he has been a reliever. But at this point in his life and career, he seems to get as much satisfaction from his writing as he does his pitching.
"The game is getting faster, younger and stronger," he said. "Pitching? I don't know how I do it, but I know I can. Writing fiction is the biggest challenge in the world. Fiction gives a lot of wide areas to create images and characters."
Batista has written ever since he was in junior high school. He had never published anything until his journey though baseball brought him to the Cubs in 1997. His roommate was another pitcher, Amaury Telemaco.
"I would write at night," Batista said. "One night, I left some writing on top of a table. He saw it and said, 'Do you have more of this?' I asked him why, and he said he wanted to see more."
That convinced Batista to write seriously. What followed was a book of Spanish poetry, "Sentimientos en Blanco y Negro." Then came his first novel, "The Avenger of Blood," about a serial killer.
"When you publish a book, when you hold it in your hands, you know you didn't do it in vain," Batista said. "You know you have made an impact. Books are windows into people's minds. You can know how important writing is in one phrase. Writing is the most powerful weapon in the world. That's what I want to be remembered for."
At 40, Batista knows his baseball career is in the home stretch. As effective as he has been, the game eyes players his age suspiciously.
"Experience can't be overvalued," he said. "And I have plenty of experience.
"When I came up in 1992, I was the youngest player in the big leagues. Now I am one of the oldest."
At season's end, he will shop around searching for a team that can look past his age for an experienced pitcher who comes equipped with his own laptop computer.
For perspective on age, Batista offers the Bible.
"Moses was 70 when he led his people across the Red Sea," the pitcher said. "Abraham was 90 when he launched Judaism. Forty is not old."
Hal Bock is a freelance writer based in New York.