Swing for the Fences

Posted On August 13, 2014
by Jake Burke

The following is an excerpt from Pat Burke’s book Swing for the Fences: An Economic Tale. Look for it in bookstores everywhere or on Amazon


Tommy loved riding his bike home from school, particularly on Fridays. This Friday was especially good not only because it was a warm sunny day for March but also because it was the start of a three-day weekend and the day baseball practice would begin. As he coasted down the long hill into town, watching the changing diamond patterns his front spokes made as they reflected the sun, he daydreamed about hitting the winning home run in the Little League All-Star game. The annual game pitted his Hillsdale Bruins against their archrival, the Riverside Colts, and it was the biggest event in town on Independence Day.

While waiting at a stop sign for his turn to go, Tommy noticed a new display of baseball bats in the window of Haney’s Sporting Goods store. He parked his bike at the curb and went in to see if the display included the Z-Comp Inferno, the new hot bat everyone was talking about. He just knew that bat was all he would need to be the starting shortstop for the Hillsdale All-Stars. His fielding was always top-notch, but his hitting lacked pop. His bat, the aged Moonshot he had inherited from his older brother, Grant, was the culprit, he just knew it.

Tommy grabbed the Inferno from the display and took a couple of full-speed cuts. Mr. Haney was, as usual, all smiles as he walked from behind the counter and said, “That’s a beauty isn’t it, Tommy?”

“Oh hi, Mr. Haney. It sure is.” As Tommy said this he scanned the bat for the price tag. Not finding one, he said, “Mr. Haney, I don’t see the price—how much is the Inferno?”

“Yeah, I just put those out and I didn’t get a chance to put the tags on them. Let’s see, it’s right here . . . two twenty.”

“Wow, I know my dad won’t go for that,” Tommy said as he carefully placed the Inferno back on the display.

“I’ll tell you what, Tommy, since you and your family are such great customers, I’ll let you have it for two hundred, but don’t tell anyone, okay?

“Sure, my lips are sealed. Thanks, Mr. Haney, I’ll talk to my dad tonight.”

Tommy had to leave his bike seat to get up the long hill to his house. As he pedaled, he replayed the discussion with Mr. Haney in his head and decided the discount might be enough incentive for his dad to okay the purchase . . . or maybe not.

That afternoon at practice everyone was enjoying the unseasonably warm day and the optimism and hope that come with the start of a new season. “Hey Walt, think you’ll make the All-Star team this year?” Tommy said to his best friend, the team’s best player and hitter.

“Hope so,” Walt said modestly.

“You’re a shoo-in, Walt.”

“Not according to my dad. He said every player starts the year with a blank slate.”

“Dads and coaches always say stuff like that, but I hope it’s true. I spent a lot of time hitting balls off a tee in my basement this winter and I really think I’ve improved my swing.”

Walt, encouraging as always, replied, “I bet that’ll pay off big time. I haven’t touched a ball or bat since last year; too much football and basketball.”

“I hope the practice pays off, and I think it will, but I think I’m going to need a little something extra . . . the Inferno,” Tommy said as he took a couple of batless swings. “I went to Haney’s today and it’s in and—it’s so cool. It’s mostly black with orange and yellow flames, a drop nine sounds about right. I took a couple of cuts with the thirty-one-inch, twenty-two-ounce model and it felt awesome.”

“Are you going to get one?”

“I don’t know—it’s two hundred dollars.”

Tommy and Walt’s conversation was stopped when the coach called for infield practice. Later, on the short bike ride home, Walt said, “During infield practice I was thinking . . . what if you and I split the cost of the Inferno?”

“You don’t have to do that, Walt. You’d hit four hundred with a broomstick.”

“Let’s buy it together. I already have twenty bucks saved up, so I only need another eighty. Maybe my dad will help out.”

Tommy rode in silence for a minute, extended his hand to Walt as they pedaled, and said, “Okay, it’s a deal, if I get the okay from my dad. But I’ve got a feeling he won’t spring for a hundred bucks.”

“Don’t you have any money saved up?” Walt asked.

“No, I blew it all on my basketball shoes.”

“The way you played this year, I wouldn’t call that a waste.” Tommy had had a good basketball season, but it was over, and as his dad always said, “Yesterday’s gone; it’s what you do tomorrow that’s important.”

Tommy replied, “I guess. I’ll talk to my dad at dinner tonight and see what he says. I’m not too hopeful. He’s a CPA, you know, so he’s real tight with money and he loves using it to teach us kids what he calls ‘life lessons.’”

“Yeah, my dad is pretty tight too. He says it’s all part of his job as a banker.”

“You know,” said Tommy, “it’s too bad our dads aren’t professional athletes or rock stars who blow tons of money on all sorts of cool stuff.”

When they got to Tommy’s street, Tommy and Walt stood over their bikes and shook again on their deal. Before Walt rode away, Tommy said, “I’ll let you know how the negotiations with my dad go tomorrow morning at practice.”


Pick up your copy of Pat’s book Swing for the Fences: An Economic Tale in bookstores or on Amazon.