Mike Piazza stood before the microphone, just a little terrified. It wasn’t that he hadn’t done that many press conferences, it was just the momentousness of what he to say weighed on him so heavily that he wondered if he could really pull it off. If things didn’t go as he planned, this could very well be his last press conference.
“Ladies and gentlemen of the press,” he said, sweat forming on his brow and his voice a little shaky. “I’ll try to make this short and sweet. I am gay.” Cameras flashed and reporters hands already flew up. “And on steroids. I will now field any questions you might have.”
A hand shot up. “What motivated you to come forward about your lifestyle choice now?”
Mike sighed. “I’d like to say that it’s because I thought it was the right time in baseball history, or because I feel the need to provide a positive role model for other homosexuals. But in reality, it was simply the fact that the love that Big Mo and I share just could not be denied any longer.” More cameras flashed. More hands went up. “Yes?”
“Coming back to the steroid issue,” said one half-flabbergasted journalist. “Jose Canseco has said that he will name names of players who he knows have taken steroids. Will you do the same?”
“Oh, absolutely,” Mike answered. “You want some right now? How about Alex Rodriguez. Randy Johnson. Rickey Henderson. Roberto Alomar. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.”
“Mr. Piazza,” a female reporter’s voice called out. “As the first major league baseball player to come out of the closet, will you encourage other players to do the same?”
The catcher paused in thought. “Yes, but I won’t make that decision for them. It’s everybody’s individual choice and I have to respect that. I mean, hey, I’ve never asked Al Leiter once about all those tutus he keeps in his locker and we’ve gotten along great.”
“Oh, c’mon, not even one name?” another reporter replied playfully.
Piazza sighed. “Alright, one hint. Let’s just say that there’s a reason Rafael Palmeiro takes Viagra.”
The four sliders watched the television screen in disbelief. “Oh, man,” Remmy said as he shook his head. “This is bad.”
“He’s endangering the careers of a half dozen other players,” Quinn noted. “It’s bad enough he has to take himself down, but did he have to go that far?”
“This is just so typical of him,” Wade complained. “He can’t stand it if the cameras aren’t on him at all times, he just has to grandstand.”
Professor Arturo only had one concern. “Well, there goes our nice quiet slide out.”
After a few moments of letting it all sink in, their fellow slider walked in with several bodyguards in tow. “Hey, guys. You catch the show?”
“Yeah,” answered Quinn in a deadpan voice. “We caught it.”
Rembrandt decided to weigh in. “Man, I’m all for reaping the rewards of your double’s fame, but this is just downright cruel.”
“No way,” fifth slider Mike Piazza told his longtime companions. “It’s all in fun. Besides, there’s no way to know for sure that this world’s Mike Piazza isn’t gay and on steroids.”
“Yes,” Professor Arturo replied. “What of your double? What happens when he realizes the stunt you’ve pulled?”
“Hey,” he answered, “he was the one who approached me about subbing for him for a week so he could go on a glue-sniffing binge. I don’t think he’s in a position to criticize me.” He smiled wickedly. “Especially since I’ll be on the next world by the time he comes out of his Elmer’s-induced stupor.”
“What do you have against this double of yours, anyway?” Wade asked.
“He’s a Met!” the man exclaimed. “Every self-respecting baseball-playing double I’ve come across was traded from the Dodgers to the Giants in ‘93, just like in the real history. As far as I’m concerned, I did him a favor.”
Professor Arturo rolled his eyes. “At this point, I’m praying for a nice Kromagg world, where playing baseball is punishable by having your eyes eaten.”
Rembrandt thought back to the first day he slid, driving along in his Caddy with his unexpected companion, Piazza. The Giants catcher had been visiting a fan as a promotion when his car broke down. He “lucked out” when he managed to remember that Rembrandt Brown was singing the anthem for the game just as he was driving by. The rest was history.
“You’re just sore cause you weren’t a big movie star like on the last world,” Mike told him. “Well, if you call third billing in Indiana Jones 4 big...”
“Calm down, children,” Wade told them. She often regretted that she was the only female of the group and wondered if maybe they had picked one up somewhere along the line the gang would be a lot more civil to each other. “We slide in a few more minutes. Thanks to Mike’s antics, we’ll have to do it from inside the room.”
“Good,” the only slider to have played on an MLB team responded. “Then I’ll have time to watch the talking heads dissect my announcement.” The other sliders ruefully consented. Mike cackled with glee as he watched the mystified commentators try to make sense of all he had said.
“Less than a minute,” Quinn reminded him as he tried to watch several channels at once. He finally paused on one.
“And now we’ll get a live reaction from Mets’ First Baseman Mo Vaughn, who is now storming towards Piazza’s hotel room.”
Mike turned to Quinn in horror. “How long?”
Quinn smirked. “Fifteen seconds.”
“I have to be first through the vortex,” Mike told the physics genius emphatically. “Come on, Quinn, have a heart.” A serious lot of pounding and not a few unkind epithets were drowning out his words.
“I don’t know,” Quinn told him. “You did bring it on yourself.”
“Please,” he begged. “I’ll be good for the next five worlds. Ten. I won’t mess with my double’s life again, I swear.”
Quinn opened the portal and allowed their prankster companion to enter the vortex first. Wade, Quinn, and then Arturo followed. Rembrandt saw the door shatter just as he stepped into the portal. He landed in the dirt on the next world.
All five of them watched the wormhole to make sure nobody followed them. It closed without incident, to their relief. “Remember what you said. No meddling,” Quinn reminded Piazza. At that moment, however, a young boy came up to him.
“Excuse me, mister,” the boy said. “Aren’t you...” he trailed off.
“Why yes, yes I am,” he responded without thinking.
“Michael J. Piazza from TV’s ‘Bill and Stace’!! Alright! I can’t wait to tell all my friends!”
Rembrandt sighed. “We should have left him with Big Mo.”