Published  October 15, 2022 by Grinning Skull Press M artin "Wags" Wagner, an aging catcher relegated to a minor-league affiliate ...

Feature Fiction || Effectively Wild by Aeryn Rudel

Published October 15, 2022 by Grinning Skull Press

Martin "Wags" Wagner, an aging catcher relegated to a minor-league affiliate of the San Francisco Giants, is offered a new assignment—take a promising young pitcher under his wing and show him the ropes. Martin's manager is cagey about the new player, giving only his name, Andrei Dinescu, and his country of origin, Moldova. Despite the mysterious circumstances, Martin accepts the assignment, hoping to earn a return to the big leagues.

After his first bullpen session with the new pitcher, Martin is stunned by Andrei’s lack of physical ability and his unfamiliarity with baseball. However, with each passing week, Andrei’s strength and skill grow exponentially, and his miraculous leaps in both ability and pitch velocity frighten Martin. His fear is compounded by the organization’s obvious attempts to keep Andrei separated from the rest of the team.

When Martin discovers the shocking truth about Andrei Dinescu, he realizes his path back to the big leagues is one stained with horror and blood.

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Know a catcher by his knees, Martin Wagner thought as he taped bags of ice to his. He'd become an expert in the application of cold to torn ligaments and inflamed joints. As he ministered to his aching knees, he watched young men in their prime strut around in perfect injury-free bodies, laughing and joking, utterly confident in their indestructability. Martin tried not to hate them. Not easy for a thirty-seven-year-old catcher at the ass-end of his career who had to pop two Percocet to even get on the field, let alone play at something resembling a professional level. The aging athlete is a resentful creature.
Martin leaned against his locker. It was too small and too close to the others. Not like the cavernous, walk-in closet-sized joints in the big leagues. But he was not in the big leagues anymore. He'd been relegated to the minors last season, and in the minors, you made do with less. His head brushed the black-and-gray Sacramento Stars uniform hung above his locker. The Stars were a minor-league affiliate of the San Francisco Giants. Not so long ago, he'd worn the black and orange of the big team. Not so long ago, a big-league salary helped alleviate the pain in his knees, back, and neck. League minimum, sure, but that six-hundred grand let him pay his alimony and hang on to enough to live comfortably. Now, exiled to Triple-A, he made a fraction of that. He was two payments behind on his alimony, living in a one-room shit box—he couldn't bring himself to share a place with one of his embryonic teammates—his big-league career a swiftly fading memory. Veronica, his ex, was sympathetic to his predicament and let him slide on the alimony. Her magnanimity somehow made him feel worse about himself. The aging athlete is also a dumping ground for toxic male hang-ups

Aeryn Rudel is a writer from Tacoma, Washington. He is the author of the baseball horror novella Effectively Wild published by Grinning Skull Press and the Acts of War novels published by Privateer Press. His short fiction has appeared in Dark Matter Magazine, On Spec, and Pseudopod, among others. Aeryn is a heavy metal nerd, a baseball geek, and knows far more about dinosaurs than is healthy or socially acceptable. Learn more about his work at or on Twitter @Aeryn_Rudel.