Injuries to Pitchers

The below is a sample of some of Evan’s journalism work.

Today’s a special day because the pitching prospect that the team has been extolling for three years is finally making his major league debut. This player is going to save the team from mediocrity, maybe even send it to a World Series championship over the next decade. He can strike batters out at will with that powerful arm of his and other teams tremble in fear, wary of his potential.

He dazzles in his first start and for the rest of the year, is a beacon of hope. Fans flock to the park to see him go the distance, notching win after win. Every pitch that comes out of that arm is another step to the World Series and not one person, not even the manager, dares to consider removing him from the game. The team doesn’t make the playoffs, but everyone knows that it’s only a matter of time. The pitcher is too good to not lead them to the promised land.

Spring training rolls around the following year and as occurs every spring training, expectations run high for the team. The welcoming sun, in hibernation for months, shines on the baseball diamond, with the promise of long summer nights spent at the ballpark chowing down hot dogs and cheering on the young ace on the cusp of realization.

Then the young pitcher starts complaining of arm trouble. He’s babied in spring training and people say it’s only a precaution. The regular season comes, but he’s not himself – still good – but not the lights-out pitcher he was last year. Then he goes on the disabled list with an injury. He comes back and gets injured again as the team misses the playoffs. He’s plagued by arm injuries for the next three years and he slowly slips away from baseball, as the hopes of the team slip from playoffs to “wait ’til next year.”
Every team can think of at least one heralded prospect ended up like this. The Chicago Cubs had Kerry Wood, the Detroit Tigers had Justin Thompson, the New York Mets had Bill Pulsipher. It doesn’t stop there – the New York Yankees had Bob Tewsksbury and Al Leiter, the Seattle Mariners had Ryan Anderson and the Tampa Bay Devil Rays had Tony Saunders. The Texas Rangers currently have a minor-leaguer named John Hudgins who was abused in the College World Series in 2003. Hudgins is still feeling the effects. They had the future of their franchise in their hands and then they let the potential of the pitcher slip away, all because they rode him too hard and wore out his arm.

Glenn Fleisig, a doctor at the American Sports Medicine Institute, based in Alabama, takes it one step further. At ASMI, whose mission is to improve the awareness and treatment of sports-related injuries, Fleisig explains that injuries suffered by pitchers are due to quality of mechanics, amount of pitches thrown, types of pitches, physical conditioning and genetic make-up. He continues, saying that a pitcher cannot just deal with one of the causes of injury and ignore the others. “There are interactions between these issues,” he says.

Will Carroll, considered by many to be the injury expert in baseball and a writer on Baseball Prospectus, says that “pitching arm injuries are cumulatives. Ligaments and tendons break down and fray, labrums tear, muscles break down when not allowed to recover. It’s like driving a car too hard with bad maintenance.” Fleisig agrees, saying that most serious injuries come from the cumulatives, which, when he reviews surgical findings, always look ‘worn’. As coaches and instructors become more aware of what causes injuries, especially to young pitchers, more pitchers are finding themselves treated with kid gloves as their pitch counts have become limited.

In 1988 – which was not so long ago – 151 pitchers threw between 121-130 pitches when they started a game. Compare that to 2004, when only 11 pitchers threw from 121-130 pitches. This is a marked change, even more so when one considers that even in 1988, old-time baseball greats were complaining that pitchers weren’t throwing as much as they used to. If someone pitches 200 innings nowadays, he’s considered to have good endurance. Contrast that to the early 1900s, when pitchers routinely threw twice as many innings as that. Steve Treder’s study, featured in “The Hardball Times,” found that baseball pitchers today routinely throw 10 percent less pitches than they did in earlier decades.

This is not to say that sometimes a pitcher can go beyond his fatigue threshold. A scout for the Washington Nationals, Mike Alberts, also a hitting and pitching instructor in Worcester, Mass., mentioned that there have been times when he or other coaches have pushed a pitcher past his threshold to get a “big win.” Alberts, a former professional catcher as well, continues, remarking that he remembers “a game in college we won 14-0, and I threw a complete 134 -pitch game. I was on cruise control, so I didn’t really fatigue my body or arm. There were times when I threw 60-70 pitches in a playoff situation and my arm and body were cooked. Pitch counts depend on the situation, but as a rule they should stay within reason.”

The rule within reason has been found to be between 100-110 pitches. Baseball Prospectus, a company which does extensive statistical research on every aspect of baseball based in San Diego, conducted a study in the book titled “Mind Game” in which it looked at a chart of the number of pitches per game a pitcher threw, which focused on the 1988, 1992, 1996, 2000 and 2004 seasons. Some interesting trends are that in 1988, 60 pitchers threw more than 141 pitches, while that number is three today. Another set of pitches is dropping slowly, the 131-140 set. The watershed year was 2004 as 131-140 pitches per game decreased from 60 to 11. From 121-130 pitches, a decline from 2000 to 2004 has been noted at 56 percent. Nowadays, pitchers hover around 100 to 120 pitches. The reasoning for this marked decline has to do with simple research.

Prior to 1988, pitch counts were not kept as a statistic, so it took a while after 1988 to realize how important pitch counts were to maintaining the health of a pitcher. In 1989, Orel Hershiser, the defending Cy Young winner for the Los Angeles Dodgers, threw 170 pitches in one game. The next year, he blew his arm out. Also in 1989, 23-year old pitcher Al Leiter threw 174 pitches in a game and had arm injuries for the next three years, limiting him to only nine innings over eight games. This was two years after yet another heralded Yankees pitcher, Bob Tewsksbury, was throwing 97 mph and then blew his arm out. He topped out at 89 mph after the injury. Former director of baseball operations and interim general manager for the Cincinnati Reds’, Brad Kullman, says that there have been studies done which “found correlations between heavy workloads in years prior to turning 25 resulting in career-limiting or threatening injuries.” Leiter has since retired, bowing out after he participated in the inaugural World Baseball Classic. While he will be remembered as a solid pitcher, he could have been so much more, fans will always say.

A contributor to this data becoming available was Baseball Prospectus’ Keith Woolner, who created a statistic called Pitcher Abuse Points. Woolner found that pitchers who throw more than 100 pitches and especially 120 pitches, show a decrease in effectiveness the weeks following that effort. Pitcher Abuse Points, now charted regularly, shows which pitchers throws the most pitches in baseball past the accepted limit, which is 100.

In the last three years, Livan Hernandez of the Montreal Expos/Washington Nationals has placed in the top three for Pitcher Abuse Points. Two Cubs pitchers also have made appearances in these years – Kerry Wood and Carlos Zambrano. Wood has long been a lightning rod for those who cry against abusing pitchers, as he blew out his elbow in 1999, a year after he averaged 112 pitches a game and as many as 137 in a start. His arm injuries, contributed to by being overworked, are well documented. Zambrano, 24, has been ridden hard the last two seasons, and red flags are sprouting everywhere from his workload, as he had arm trouble in the beginning of the 2005 season. Hernandez, who just completed his age 30 season, has avoided injury in the years he has been throwing, but as Carroll explains, Hernandez is the exception, not the rule. “Pitchers that break down young don’t often make it to their age 32 or 36 seasons. Pitchers that make it to those ages are special, beyond the specialness that being a major leaguer entails.”

Carroll, Fleisig and Kullman all agree that fatigue is the more important barometer to measure, not pitch counts. Kullman says that “pitch counts are the antiquated way of attempting to measure fatigue.” Kullman goes on to explain that he means antiquated because with the current technology available, “somebody is going to come up with a much better way that will make pitch counts virtually obsolete.” Pitchers consistently suffer micro-tears within their muscles, tendons and ligaments, leading to pitchers feeling sore. This is normal, because when the body detects micro-tears, it repairs the tears, making the repaired site stronger to withstand future tears. This is the basic concept behind exercising and then resting after the exercising to allow the body to repair itself. As Fleisig goes on to explain, “pitching injuries happen over the course of time when a pitcher gets micro-tears, doesn’t have sufficient rest for the tears to completely repair and then gets more micro-tears the next time out. If a pitcher pitches past the point of fatigue or pitches with poor mechanics that apply larger loads, then he will have more tears than typical and will have his micro-tears add up to larger tears sooner.”

Every pitcher has a different limit at which point he starts experiencing fatigue. This is based on various issues, such as previous workload, build, stamina and off-field issues. The simple thing to do, according to Fleisig, is to remove the pitcher when he becomes tired. Professional baseball teams are moving towards this conclusion, as they pay close attention to visible fatigue signs to craft individualized pitch count limits. The Reds organization is attempting to change conventional thinking around baseball with regard to starting pitching and Kullman was at the forefront of it all. He oversaw a unique system in the Reds’ minor league system at the Class-A level and below. Instead of one starter going as long as he can, the Reds pull their pitchers after three to five innings and replace them with another pitcher who then goes a maximum of three to five innings. The former general manager of the Reds, Dan O’Brien, hired prior to the 2004 season, implemented this strategy. The reasoning was that if pitchers were to continually decrease in endurance to save their body from injuries, why not decrease it significantly, to three to six innings, so they can exit while their arm is fresh and bounce back quicker? “If we, as an industry, are going to continually limit starting pitcher workloads with arbitrary pitch and inning counts, why not at least get them out there one day sooner?” asks Kullman.

Critics say that this method is not utilizing the talents of a great starting pitcher correctly. However, as Kullman argues, what is the difference between a starter giving you seven to eight innings every fifth day, or five to six every fourth day? In addition, those great pitchers who can go eight innings consistently without significant harm to their career is a list so small that it can be denied in favor of the more advantageous system the Reds are slowly implementing. Kullman believes that this system should one day reach the major league level, for it will lessen the risk of the pitcher becoming fatigued, which leads to injury. University of North Florida’s Joshua Papelbon, a junior and brother to the Boston Red Sox’s young pitcher Jonathan Papelbon, says that “your arm and body can only take so much. The longer you continuously throw in a game the more and more you put yourself at risk of getting injured.”

Papelbon, 22, did not start pitching until senior year in high school, which he believes has impacted his arm. According to Bill Thurston, Amherst College’s head coach since 1966 and the winningest coach in any sport in college history, Papelbon is on the right track with his theory. “Pitchers under the age of 12 or 13 have poor mechanics as the No. 1 cause, while ages 14-18 are probably over-use, or over-load, poor mechanics, poor conditioning and preparation,” said Thurston, who is also a consultant with ASMI.

Papelbon takes care to properly warm up prior to each game and is a proponent of long-tossing, where baseball players play catch with each other, gradually increasing the distance until they are throwing hundreds of yards away. “I learned that long tossing and keeping your arm and body in shape helps you stay strong,” says Papelbon. He also believes that his pitching style, which is submarine, has helped keep his arm healthy but says his hips and lower back become sore, so he needs to keep these areas healthy as well.

Fleisig notes that there have been some specific “anatomatical realities” found about pitching mechanics that every pitcher should follow to minimize injury. The most important is abduction (the angle of the arm is lifted from the side) of the shoulder joint, which is the most effective when it is at 90 degrees. Thurston includes attempting to throw too hard too early in the season, for the arm cannot handle the sudden increase in what it is being asked to do. In addition, throwing a curveball or a slider incorrectly can impact the arm, as well as lack of game preparation.

There are also realities dealing with physics, says Fleisig, such as the “proper timing between pelvis rotation and upper trunk rotation [which] maximizes the energy passed up the body to the throwing arm. With poor trunk timing, the energy produced to rotate the trunk is not passed up to the arm and the arm must generate a greater portion of the torque.” If any of these realities are not met, it then becomes much easier for pitchers to get injured.

Colleges are becoming more attuned to these issues, as Papelbon was taught in college that legs were vital to a pitcher’s health and effectiveness. He now spends a lot of time maintaining and building his leg strength. Papelbon also believes that colleges take good care of pitchers, as they have medical trainers, planned exercises, and other precautions to ensure the player remain healthy. Colleges also take care to rest players should they become fatigued.

Common injuries among college pitchers, according to Thurston, are a lack of long-term throwing and conditioning programs, over-use (throwing too many pitches in one game), over-load (lack of recovery time), improper pitching mechanics and over-exertion. The most important element of preparation is the training done in the off-season. “You need at least a month without pitching, then be built up slowly for the season,” Thurston says.

Young pitchers need good training, for they often do not know the effective way to pitch. After Bob Tewsksbury recovered from injury, he was able to remain an effective pitcher for the Minnesota Twins, despite the drop in speed. Tewksbury started to pitch more efficiently and pitch with his smarts and not his physical ability. This is the same reason why Greg Maddux, a future Hall of Fame member on the Atlanta Braves and Chicago Cubs, has been able to remain so effective for so long.

Roland Carlstedt, the chairman of the American Board of Sport Psychology, says that if “clear reductions in performance can be established based on late inning fast-ball speed reductions and a pitching coach’s evaluation of “stuff,” then it is entirely justified to rely on [relief pitchers].” Carlstedt then goes on to explain that one thing relievers have going for them is the fact they have fresh arms – they are not expected to pitch around seven innings every five days. This is similar to Kullman’s thinking about getting pitchers out there one day sooner.

Injuries in baseball refuse to go away, not even with the evolution of the five-man starting rotation nor with pitch count reduction. However, as Kullman points out, medical technology has advanced to the point where injuries are diagnosed quicker and more specifically, allowing the pitcher to successfully rehabilitate his arm. He also believes that too much rest may contribute to injuries. An example Kullman uses is pitching one single pitch every day for 162 games. He believes that such a strategy would cause less harm and fatigue to the pitcher rather than having the pitcher throw 200 pitches every 20 days, a reason why he believes the system implemented by the Reds will be effective.

Carroll offers simple guidelines that baseball organizations should utilize to reduce injuries to pitchers. Organizations should “draft with an eye to work ethic, past injury and usage. Err on the side of caution with pitches and innings and have early and consistent instruction with focus on correct mechanics and pitching theory. The organization should also build stamina using an interval approach, abandon usage patterns and roles that don’t work and lastly, promote success.”

Alberts takes this a step farther, saying that a good pitcher needs good instruction from a pitching coach who knows mechanics, a year-round throwing program, and a general exercise program, focusing on cardiovascular exercise. “[A pitcher should] meet with someone in physical therapy and learn a complete rotator cuff strength program,” Alberts adds. A good sports doctor is also a must, for when a pitcher is injured, he needs to trust the doctor who is in charge of rehabilitation. Reading up on the subject can also be beneficial to pitchers in learning what to do and what not to do.

Young pitchers are more susceptible to injury and have to exercise caution to make sure they do not get injured. It is vitally important for a pitcher and everyone around him – from his parents to his coaches – to make sure that what is being done is keeping his arm as healthy as possible. One single game can change the course of a pitcher’s career. Baseball and its students may not be close to an answer, but they work every day to find ones. Glenn Fleisig will continue studying injuries caused by baseball to find out where the line between health and injury exists. Will Carroll will proceed with putting all the pieces together to find out how fatigue can be measured. Mike Alberts hopes to continue scouting for that perfect pitcher who never gets injured. Joshua Papelbon has plans to continue figuring out how he can remain healthy. Brad Kullman will keep implementing new strategies in the minor leagues. As he says, the Reds are working on more studies, and while nothing is implemented yet, “when it is, it is going to rock the industry. Mark it down.”

College Activism on Campus

The below is a sample of some of Evan’s work conducted while an undergraduate in college.

College activism is alive and healthy today on campuses, contrary to the belief of many. Students are merely taking old forms of activism and transforming them into a new type of activism where they, instead of complaining for changes in the system, go about creating their own changes in the system.

This may come to a surprise to many people who believe that college activism is a thing of the past. Just ask Walter Bouzard of Wartburg College in Iowa, who related his experience with activism on his campus, and as a whole across the country. “Two years ago, as President (Bush) was beating the war drum loudly, I joined a bus load of people to go to Washington to protest. The bus was full, but there were no more than a half dozen university students.”

College activism has long been a dominant force on the political scene. Many people recall the force college students were during the Vietnam War. They marched in protest, they cried and they debated loudly so the people in positions of power would hear them. Nowadays, the voices of college students are disappearing. As Allan Saxe, professor of political science since 1965 at the University of Texas says, “today’s college students, by my anecdotal evidence, care primarily about their jobs, love life, cell phones and academics in that order.”

However, some experts caution against overstating the degree of involvement of students in the 1960s when comparing them to activism today. Professor Richard Stackiewicz of Oakton Community College in the suburbs of Chicago says that “throughout most of the ’60s, most college students supported escalation of the U.S. war in Vietnam and most never participated in any significant way in the movement. In that sense, the minority involved in antiwar activity is no different than it was 40 years ago. Of course, the movement on campuses did expand from 1970 to 1972 but that was in response, in part, to the greater disillusionment in general caused by revelations of secret bombings in Cambodia and Kent State,” he says.

Saxe, who also hosts a local cable television program on current affairs, agrees with Stackiewicz’s contention that the activism in Vietnam is overblown. “I was skeptical of some students’ moral reasons for opposing Vietnam because the protest movement really began to wind down after the draft was ended by President Nixon. Many protested because of the culture, it was the thing to do – good protest music, Joan Baez, (Bob) Dylan, and Woodstock. Also, the Vietnam protests were in the context of the counter-culture movement that gave it added vibrancy.”

Chuck Tripp, Professor of Political Science at Westminster College in Salt Lake City, adds that the civil rights movement of the 1960s had a lot to do with the protests of the Vietnam War. These civil right activists helped pave the way for Vietnam War activism. “There is no similar ‘climate of protest’ today,” Tripp notes, which may contribute to the relative lack of activism today.

Saxe also notes that there certainly were students who felt very strongly about the Vietnam War, but for many it was peer pressure, culture and conscription. Military conscription may have had a lot to do with activism and it is the key ingredient missing today. “I believed a great many, though certainly not all, were really motivated by the draft, with the rally cry ‘Hell No, We Won’t Go!’” says Saze.

Karen Holt, executive director of Project Pericles, Inc, a non-profit company based in New York City which promotes education of social responsibility in colleges and universities, says that activism is flagging “with respect to the war, because there is no draft and because so far it has been relatively easy to avoid a personal sense of or threat of sacrifice. It is much harder to mobilize a widespread groundswell.”

Alan Leffers, dean of students at The University of the Arts in Philadelphia, expands on the relative lack of concern about the Iraq war and possible conscription: “This generation of college students have largely been sheltered by its parents and other adults and, arguably, overprotected in most aspects of their lives,” he says.

“While they oppose the war in a general sense, it poses no immediate threat to them personally because there is no draft ready to put them in harm’s way. Were the government to impose a draft, I think you’d see a more activist reaction from students, though I’d anticipate their overprotective parents being more vocal than the students!”

Parents of children today were active during the Vietnam era, and come from a different perspective than their children, leading to intergenerational conflict, Tripp says. “Intergenerational conflict worked in favor of protests against the Vietnam War and works against activism protesting today’s Iraq war. Parents of Vietnam college and university student protesters were part of the Depression, World War II and 1950s generation whose conservatism, pro-government attitudes and conformity to authority were rejected by their protesting children,” he says. “In turn, today’s college/university youth are children of the Vietnam and 1960s generation who reject their parents’ anti-establishment views in favor of supporting governmental authority and more conservative politics in general.”

Contemporary college youths are missing one key ingredient needed for activism, and experts agree it is the lack of a draft. However, several professors argue that students now are just as involved. As Leffers notes, upbringing has caused students to take a more conservative tack, to accept decisions made by those in power, and to look at other ways to make a difference.
Meg Mott, a political theory professor at Marlboro College in Vermont, presents a different take on activism in the 1960s and the activism of today. She calls her students anarchist, in the sense of being anti-politics.

“They attend demonstrations against the war in Iraq, and for a fluid understanding of gender. They boycott Wal-Mart and eat soy-products. They distrust formal politics, not because they are without ideals, but because they see all political institutions as corrupted by the insatiable desires of imperialism,” she said.

Spokesman for Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania, Tom Krattenmaker agrees with students looking at different forms of activism, saying that “it’s not that activism has gone away, but that it’s changing. Instead of protesting or lobbying, students are taking direct action and in many cases more sophisticated action. It’s clear that students just don’t find (activism) as useful as other forms of action.”

Holt notes these forms of actions as including “phenomena such as moveon, Howard Dean’s campaign, blogging, message boards … you will find that there is a great deal of participation by young people. The problem may be that it’s older people who are applying older definitions of activism.”

One such example of alternative methods taken by students can be found at Oakton College. Students conduct activities such as counter-recruiting when the military sets up tables on campus, raising money for Katrina victims by selling fair trade coffee and going to Washington for the Iraq war protest. Swarthmore’s students have launched an organization to raise funds to finance intervention by the African Union and are spearheading a radio program called War News Radio.

All these different organizations students are part of may be another reason why college activism with regard to the war is considered so low – there are so many other issues that take their attention.

Tripp speaks more about the students’ possible redirection of passion. “Today’s anti-war protest movement has many competitors compared to the Vietnam War protests. There are many more issues that divert college/university student attention away from the Iraq war whether it be gay rights, animal rights, feeding the poor, minority rights, the anti-nuclear movement, environmental problems, service learning projects and the list goes on.”

Jeanne Jackson of Birmingham-Southern College in Alabama notes that volunteerism is very high in today’s age. Activism is simply being redirected to many more causes and in ways that students feel they can make more of a difference. As Ketterman says, “today’s students prefer to work within the system and see that as the more effective route.”

Jonathan Papelbon Interview

The below is a sample of some of Evan’s work conducted while an undergraduate in college.

Jonathan Papelbon was born Nov. 23, 1980, in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. When he was 10 years old, the family moved to Jacksonville, Florida, for his mother’s job. He attended Mississippi State University, and currently lives near MSU in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, with his fiancée and her family.

In Hattiesburg, he is training with former MSU teammates. His MSU roommate, a pitcher, is originally from Hattiesburg, and he and another friend of Jon, a catcher, were both drafted last year.

Papelbon is currently lifting weights to work on various parts of his body, and he also works on his arm mechanics. “I long-toss [a baseball exercise in which you throw the ball over a long distance to build up arm strength], and I have been throwing,” Papelbon said. “I did not throw the first month or so, and I rested my arm and worked on endurance.”

When not training in Hattiesburg, he lives in Jacksonville, where he owns a home in which his twin brothers currently live. His two brothers pitch for the University of North Florida baseball team. Jeremy is a left-hander, while Josh is a submarine right-hander.
For Papelbon, pitching was not new, although he never did it full-time. He was originally recruited to be a first-baseman for MSU, but became a pitcher during his freshman year at college, when he threw on the side during practice.

“I guess they were pretty impressed because afterwards the pitching coach asked me if I’d like to learn how to pitch. He said if I wanted to play in the big leagues pitching was the way to get there,” Papelbon said. “In Little League, I caught, played some infield and pitched a little. In high school, I didn’t really pitch. As a freshman, I caught on [Junior Varsity], I think I pitched a couple of times, nothing that I remember. As a sophomore, on Varsity, I again caught some, and played first base. I don’t remember pitching as a sophomore or junior. My senior year, I asked to pitch and got a shot towards the end of the season, but I was told I was needed badly at first. I remember I got to start one night for the first time and threw a no-hitter.”

Papelbon preferred to start, but the team desperately needed him to be their closer, thus he decided to close. “At MSU, the team really needed me to close and I told the coaches I wanted to do whatever was best for the team. I believed I could do either (start or close) but again the team needed me to close,” he said.

When Papelbon’s favorite team, the Boston Red Sox, drafted him, they decided to convert him to a starter. “The Red Sox told me that they thought I had a good arm and to get the most out of it, they felt I could be a starter,” he said. The fact that the Red Sox had drafted Papelbon came as a surprise. “I wasn’t hoping for any particular team to draft me, I just wanted to get drafted. The Red Sox came from nowhere on draft day. I had not spoken to anyone from the organization.” Papelbon continued, talking about how he signed with the Red Sox.

“I did the negotiating with them, at that time I did not have an agent. My parents helped me with the decisions but I was the one who talked with the Red Sox. I flew to Boston one week after the draft to sign, get a physical and report to Lowell (Massachusetts). I wanted to sign quickly so I could start working right away – I didn’t want it to drag out. I signed the typical Minor League Contract.”

After he signed the contract with the Red Sox, he reported to Low-A Lowell, where he amassed a 6.34 ERA, relieving in seven games while starting six. Papelbon attributed this rough start to the transition from pitching in college before making the jump to professional baseball just a few months later.

“It was tough going from college ball to the pros. You have already played a whole year of nonstop ball and to keep playing was hard, and the competition was a lot better,” Papelbon said. “Instead of facing a strong two, three, and four hitters in college, everyone is a two, three or four hitter in the pros. You can’t let up at the end of the order. Playing in Lowell, as far as the crowds and fans wasn’t hard – I was used to that at MSU, where we would draw 10,000 at SouthEastern Conference games – but getting acclimated to being a pro and then being a starter was difficult.”

He finished up a stellar 2004 campaign with the Sarasota Red Sox, a High-A affiliate. He started 24 games and finished 12-7 with a 2.64 ERA, striking out 153 in 129.2 innings. He will report to the Portland (AA) Sea Dogs for 2005, only two levels away from the major leagues.

During the 2004 campaign, Papelbon experimented with his pitches, and had abandoned his slider. The slider made a comeback near the end of the season, though. “I started throwing a cutter variation to get a better feel for my slider, once Nip [Red Sox pitching instructor and former professional pitcher, Al Nipper] thought I had that, we went back to my slider so it would be more effective. I guess I threw it to make my slider better than it was.”

Papelbon won the 2004 Red Sox Minor League Pitcher of the Month in April and July. He also was an All-Star in the Florida State League, and the Sarasota Pitcher of the Year. He still has plenty of room for improvement, though, especially the mental aspect of the game. “I think this is where as a starter you have to be stronger than as a reliever,” Papelbon said. “The mental preparation is what I’m working on a lot. As a closer, you never know when you were going in, as the game got closer I’d know, then I’d go to the bullpen preparing to go in and the game would change and I’d never go in. Now, I know exactly when I’m going in and need to learn how to prepare for that.”

Papelbon credits his own work ethic for getting him to where he is today, but he also credits Nipper for the hard work he has put in to instruct the young pitcher. “I was never handed anything in high school or college and had to work extremely hard to get to where I am today,” Papelbon said. “I’ve pushed myself to be better and to beat out all the superstars. I’ve faced tough competition throughout my baseball life and it’s made me better. If you were looking for me to give someone besides myself, I’d have to say Al Nipper. If I make it to the bigs, it will be because of him also.”

Papelbon speaks very highly for two heralded fellow Red Sox minor leaguers—shortstops Hanley Ramirez and Dustin Pedroia. He thinks they are both very hard workers, love to compete, and have great potential. His highest praise is reserved for minor-league pitcher Abe Alvarez. Papelbon believes that Alvarez has the best chance of becoming a star or at least a solid player in the majors because “he has a certain poise about him, he’s left handed, he can throw all his pitches for strikes, and he came from a great college program.”

In the final week of January, the Red Sox flew up their best minor league players, Papelbon included, to Fenway Park. There, he participated in the Red Sox’s second annual rookie development program in which they learned about how to deal with the media, the fans, and everything that a Boston Red Sox major league player will have to handle. Papelbon said that he really enjoyed the program and learned a lot, but was not a fan of the cold and the snow. Fortunately, Spring Training is only a week away, which will see the Red Sox head south to Fort Myers, Florida.

Papelbon is very determined to make a name for himself in Spring Training, less than two weeks away. “[I want] to report in the best shape I can. Work on aspects of my game for the 2005 season – fastball location and my change up. I want all my pitches to be plus pitches.”

Mission: Cup

The below is a short story penned by Evan.

7:32 AM, The Police Precinct
All was well in Dusty City today. There had been no crimes called in for eleven whole hours. Police Sergeant Glaze Donnut sat at his desk, breathing in the sweet, sweet scent of his black coffee (stirred, not shaken). He drank the coffee slowly, enjoying the fact that there was no crime. And no crime meant no going out on the job. And no going out on the job meant sitting on your butt doing nothing while earning money. And sitting on your butt doing nothing while earning money is always a good thing.

But there was something missing. Something vital was missing from this picture. Glaze (as everyone called him) narrowed his eyes and set his sleuthing brain to work. The brain churned, trying to think of what was missing from this picture. Let’s see. He was sitting on his butt doing nothing while earning money. Check. He was at his desk, which had everything that he wanted inside it. Check. He had a steaming cup of coffee in his hand, slowly burning him, even though he didn’t realize it. What was – OW!

Glaze set down the coffee hurriedly. He knew what he had forgotten! A cup to put the coffee in! Glaze shook his head in frustration. Of course! He had forgotten to put the coffee in a cup and had just left it in his hand. Of course!

His eyes suddenly narrowed. So where exactly was his cup? He looked all over the place, growing desperate with every move. It was definitely not on his cherry wood desk. It was definitely not on his cherry wood chair. It was definitely not on his cherry wood cabinet. And it was most definitely not in his cherry wood cruiser.

There was only one thing to do, Glaze knew. He needed help – fast. And he knew just the person. He dialed the number that he knew by heart. This guy was better than any detective on the police force. He got what was needed without any trouble. He was the best of the best. If anything was missing, this person would find it – and fast. And what made it even better was that he was a nobody. And nobody is perfect. So the perfect person to find it is an person who is a nobody, because they clearly are going to be perfect. So the best person to find his cup would be someone that was trained to find his cup. After all, he was the best of the best.

The phone rang.

He picked up.

“Hello?”

Glaze’s heart skipped a beat. He was speaking to perfection.

“Hello, sir. This is Police Sergeant Glaze Donnut from the Dusty City Police Precinct, and I need —”

“I know who you are, you don’t need to tell me. You are Police Sergeant Glaze Donnut from the Dusty City Police Precinct, and you need…something.”

Glaze blinked. How had he knew that!? Well, of course! He was perfect. Glaze laughed inwardly. How nice it was to speak to someone that was perfect.

“Sir, my coffee cup is missing.”

“Your coffee cup is missing.”

“Yes, my coffee cup is missing.”

“Okay…just to clarify, this is a coffee cup we’re missing?”

“Yes.”

“A cup generally used to have coffee in.”

“That’s correct.”

“Black coffee?”

“Yeah. But sometimes I put sugar or tea in the coffee.”

“A cup that is generally used for black coffee but sometimes has sugar or tea in the coffee. I understand. Well, Mr. Donnut, this is no joking matter.”

“No sir, it is not.”

“I will find this cup that is generally used for black coffee but sometimes has sugar or tea in the coffee, or my name is not…”

Glaze held his breath.

“Mr. Agent Evan Steele Brunell!”

Glaze could see the brilliant smile flashed over the phone. Glaze grinned. Victory!

7:35 AM, Honest Abe’s Saloon Time To the Cup’s Safety Being Compromised: 450 min

He snapped his cell phone back on his belt clip and sat there, pursing his lips. So. Some smart-aleck had decided to steal a coffee cup, eh. They would quickly find out that those kind of crimes would not be tolerated. Not while he was on the job. He had a job, and he was going to complete it. That job was finding a coffee cup. But first he was going to finish his shaken milk, by God!

7:49 AM, Somewhere on Rt. 723 Time To the Cup’s Safety Being Compromised: 436 min

He drove along in his car, trying to figure out where to go, and what to do. Who had a vendetta against Glaze Donnut? And why did he or she or it have a vendetta? And where was this person located? Such hard questions.

Fortunately, he knew where to start. Fisherman Drew.

8:14 AM, Hemingway Docking Bay Time To the Cup’s Safety Being Compromised: 411 min

He walked over to Fisherman Drew, who was dropping anchor at the harbor, just returning from catching some fresh minnows.

“Hello, Fisherman Drew!”

Fisherman Drew looked up. “Oh, hello. What’s happenin’ in this dream we call life?”

“Fisherman Drew, it will not be a dream if you do not help me. There is a cup missing.”

“A cup…a coffee cup?” Asked Fisherman Drew, tentatively.

“Yes, Fisherman Drew. A cup…belonging to the Sergeant of the Dusty City police!” Agent Brunell smiled triumphantly.

Fisherman Drew deliberately took a few seconds to get down the boat ramp. He walked over to Agent Brunell.

“Agent Brunell…you have come to me for advice many, many times. I have helped you many times. But this time, I fear I cannot help you anymore. I am not a psychic.”

Agent Brunell drew in a short breath. “Well then, Fisherman Drew…this is where we must part ways.”

Fisherman Drew nodded.

Agent Brunell nodded back.

Fisherman Drew nodded back.

Agent Brunell nodded back…just in case.

8:22 AM, 005 Agency Road Time To the Cup’s Safety Being Compromised: 409 min
He dialed the number.

“Hello, this is Miss Klio, the world-renowned psychic. Please give me your credit card number.”

“Miss Klio…do you know anything about a missing coffee cup?”

“Did I or did I not say…credit card number, please.”

“This is a matter of national security, and you want my credit card?”

“Your death will be a matter of national security if you don’t give me your credit card right now!”

Agent Brunell sighed. “Alright, then. My credit card is —”

ATTENTION: THIS PORTION OF THE STORY HAS BEEN DELETED TO PROTECT THE SAFETY AND SECURITY OF AGENT EVAN STEELE BRUNELL. AFTER ALL, WE DON’T WANT MANIACS LIKE YOU TO STEAL HIS CREDIT CARD AND USE IT FOR THINGS THAT YOU WOULDN’T WANT YOUR DEAR OLD MOTHER TO SEE.

“Very good…now, what do you need to know?”

“I need to know about a missing coffee cup.”

“A missing … uh … coffee … oh no!”

“What is it, Miss Klio?”

“I just got a message saying that … my kid has … fallen out of the ball pit. Yeah, fallen out of the ball pit. I have to go help her. Bye.”

“Wait–” Miss Klio hung up with a click. Agent Brunell smiled. The game t’was afoot.

9:31 AM, FunFun Alley! Time To the Cup’s Safety Being Compromised: 338 min

He arrived at ‘FunFun Alley!’ He walked in and was immediately pelted with the noise of screaming kids and shouting parents.

“You come right back here this instant, Jeremy! I accidentally had decaf this morning! I wanna go home! I wanna go home!”

“I’m Superman! Look at me!”

“Don’t jump, Jeremy! No! You will hurt yourself! Oh dear god!”

Agent Brunell walked over to the ball pit, and surveyed it. It was a cage full of plastic balls with kids jumping and screaming in it, with parents trying to read the latest heroics of the Red Sox. Agent Brunell took off his shoes, mindful of the sign next to it saying “NO SHOES!” He got in the ball pit and was immediately pelted with balls left and right, with children jumping all over him. He felt himself being dragged into the playpen. He tried to fight, but the children were too strong. They pulled him into the massive playpen and pushed him down a completely enclosed tube slide. He slid for what seemed like an eternity, until he was unceremoniously deposited at the feet of six black shoes. He looked up, three kids with sunglasses looked back at him with no emotion. They grabbed him and walked him over to another kid sitting at a table playing cards. The kid motioned Agent Brunell to sit down. He took a puff of a candy cigarette, and motioned to another kid sitting opposite him.

“Go fish.”

He turned his attention to Agent Brunell.

“Hello. I am Don Sagiv.” He took a drag of his candy cigarette. “I run things around here.”

“Hello, Don Sagiv. I am Agent Brunell. Agent Evan Brunell. Agent Evan…Steele…Brunell.” He flashed his smile.

Don Sagiv was not impressed. He motioned to the kid playing cards with him.

“This is Vinny Punchalot. He does most of the grunt work, if you know what I mean. He knows how to dispose of things that…need disposing.”

“I am humbled, Don Sagiv.”

“And why are you, an adult, here in the land of Don Sagiv?”

“I am looking for a coffee cup.”

“A coffee cup, eh?” He smiled. “I can guarantee you that we are not involved in such petty things. We dream bigger.”

“Yes, Don Sagiv.”

“That being said,” he waved his cigarette around. “That being said, it is possible I have a nugget of information about a coffee cup. But the question is not ‘What is this nugget of information?’ but rather…’What can you do to help me?'”

Agent Brunell fished in his pocket and came out with a pack of candy cigarettes. Don Sagiv’s face brightened.

“Ahh…” He paused. “I do not know the whereabouts of the coffee cup. I do know, however, that the person that took the coffee cup…has a vendetta against the police officer. A vendetta,” his voice raised, “against the complete and utter persecution of the police force!”

“What is this persecution?”

“The sheer tyranny of it all! The persecution of little children! The police force has cracked down on the ice-cream truck travel time! Now it cannot travel from three in the afternoon to six at night, oh no, sir! It must follow a strictly enforced time of four in the afternoon to six at night! And you can bet the ice-cream man’s daughter does not take kindly to that!” He stopped. “I’ve said enough. Gentlemen, dispose of this man. Get the cigarettes from him!” He waved a hand, and the gentlemen moved forward. They led him down the playpen and dumped him back in the ball pit. Agent Brunell got up and walked back to his car to go home.

10:40 AM, 005 Agency Road Time To the Cup’s Safety Being Compromised: 269 min

He called Glaze.

“Glaze! The ice-cream truck’s daughter has got your coffee cup!”

“I didn’t know ice-cream trucks could have kids…”

“No, no, no! The daughter of the ice-cream truck driver!”

“The daughter of Mr. Ben Jerry! That’s Breyer Jerry!”

“Give me her address!”

11:00 AM, 546 Moocow Avenue Time To the Cup’s Safety Being Compromised: 249 min

He arrived at 546 Moocow Avenue. He rung the doorbell, and Mrs. Jerry opened the door. She smiled sweetly.

“Ice cream?” She offered some to Agent Brunell.

“No thanks, ma’am. Is Breyer here?”

“Why, yes. Breyer!” She called.

Breyer came forth, an eleven year old child with blond pigtails.

“Hello?”

“Breyer, do you have a coffee cup belonging to the police sergeant?”

“Yes. I am sorry I took it. Here.” She gave the cup back to Agent Brunell.

“Thank you, Breyer.” The woman smiled and closed the door. Agent Brunell got back into his car and started driving to the police station. He looked at the cup. There was something off about the cup. He looked at it harder, then picked it up. His eyes widened in astonishment. It was not the cup! It was a drawing of the cup! He hit the brakes and headed back to the house. He arrived at the house, but the ice-cream car was gone from the driveway! Agent Brunell peeled out of their driveway and headed to the place he knew they must be headed – where the children were.

12:29 PM, FunFun Alley! Time To the Cup’s Safety Being Compromised: 160 min

He arrived at ‘FunFun Alley!’ He walked in and was immediately pelted with the noise of screaming kids and shouting parents.

“You come right back here this instant, Jeremy! I accidentally had decaf this morning! I wanna go home! I wanna go home!”

“I’m Superman! Look at me!”

“Don’t jump, Jeremy! No! You will hurt yourself! Oh dear god!”

Agent Brunell looked around wildly. He had seen the ice-cream truck outside. He knew there must be only one place where Breyer was. In the den of Don Sagiv. He ran into the ball pit, up the stairs, down the curve, past the swings, through the quicksand, past the Tunnel of Love, and arrived in Don Sagiv’s lair. He was waiting for him.

“Well, well, you are smarter than you seem.” Don Sagiv smiled.

“Where is she? The cup is in danger!”

“Not so fast, Agent Evan Steele Brunell. First, you must answer three questions for me. If you win, I will let you pass. ”

“What?”

12:35 PM, Don Sagiv’s Lair Time To the Cup’s Safety Being Compromised: 154 min

“Johnny’s mother had three children. The first child was named April. The second child was named May. What was the third child’s name?”

Agent Brunell thought for what seemed like a long time. It probably was June, but there was something off here. He finally got it.

“Johnny.”

“Very good. The next question…”

12:55 PM, Don Sagiv’s Lair Time To the Cup’s Safety Being Compromised: 134 min

“What does man love more than life, fear more than death or mortal strife…what the poor have, the rich require, and what contented men desire…what the miser spends and the spendthrift saves and all men carry to their graves?”

Agent Brunell thought for what seemed like a long time. It probably was June, but there was something off here. He finally got it.

“Nothing.”

“Very good. The next question…”

1:25 PM, Don Sagiv’s Lair Time To the Cup’s Safety Being Compromised: 104 min

“Why do statues and paintings of George Washington always show him standing?”

Agent Brunell thought for what seemed like a long time. It probably was June, but there was something off here. He finally got it.

“He cannot lie.”

Don Sagiv looked surprised. “You have a very good mind. Unfortunately, you took too long on that riddle. You only have ten minutes before the cup is no more!”

2:59 PM, Don Sagiv’s Lair Time To the Cup’s Safety Being Compromised: 10 min

Agent Brunell ran out of the Lair, and out of FunFun Alley! He saw the ice-cream truck go jangling past him. He started pursuing it on foot. Behind Agent Brunell, Glaze Donnut screeched by in his cruiser. Agent Brunell had been wearing a wire so Glaze could hear it. However, the ice-cream truck had been so souped up that the cruiser could not catch up to it. Agent Brunell decided to take a shortcut to try and beat the truck to Hemingway Docking Bay.

3:05 PM, Hemingway Docking Bay Time To the Cup’s Safety Being Compromised: 4 min

Agent Brunell arrived, and laid in wait for the ice-cream truck. It shortly came barreling up the road, with Breyer leaning out of the door to throw the coffee cup into the water. Agent Brunell howled. The wolves howled back. He started running. Breyer noticed him. She shrieked. “No! I will persevere!” Glaze Donnut got out of his cruiser and starting running after the truck. “No!” He yelled. “No, dear god, no! Take me, not the cup!”

3:07 PM, Hemingway Docking Bay Time To the Cup’s Safety Being Compromised: 2 min

Breyer hurled the cup in the air. It moved as if through slow motion. Agent Brunell could not catch up to it! He found the inner fire deep inside himself and achieved light speed.

3:08 PM, Hemingway Docking Bay Time To the Cup’s Safety Being Compromised: 1 min

Agent Brunell jumped.

3:08 PM, Hemingway Docking Bay Time To the Cup’s Safety Being Compromised: 30 sec

Agent Brunell jumped a little farther.

3:08 PM, The Air Time To the Cup’s Safety Being Compromised: 1 sec

Agent Brunell’s hand was just near the cup. He could make it…he could make it…

His hand closed around the cup and he braced for impact as the water was fast approaching him. A hand came out of nowhere and grabbed him. He looked back. It was Don Sagiv.

“You stiffed me! There were only five candy cigarettes! Give me the rest,” he bawled.

And with that, Mission: Cup was over.

Mission: Pen

The below is a short story penned by Evan.

2:04 PM, St. Garciaparra High School

Principal Opie Dore walked into his office, and sat down at his desk. He sighed deeply. It had been a long day. First, he had to deal with a mother who was angry over her daughter receiving a B+ on an AP United States History test. He had assured her he would talk to the teacher and investigate any possible wrongdoing. Then the cafeteria ran out of chicken nuggets, which they made everyday. A hasty substitution had to be made. After tremendous debate on the possibilities of having of filet mignon or brussel sprout soup, they settled on filet mignon.

Then, a fight had broken out during class. A boy had been talking to his Foods teacher while another girl was baking a soufflé. The boy took a step back after finishing his conversation with the teacher, and stepped on a bag. He stumbled, and reached out to put his hands on a desk. A pen on the desk went flying, and hit the girl, who exhaled on the soufflé in surprise. The soufflé caved. Five teachers had to pull her off the boy.

The day was over. Dore reached for the stack of papers that needed his signing. He then reached for his trusty, solid plastic “St. Garciaparra High School” pen. He grasped thin air. He moved his hand back, assuming he had missed the first time. He missed again.

Dore looked up, and gasped. The pen was not in his pen holder! It was gone! An empty space where the pen should have been! Nothing but air! Dore looked around his desk. Papers, computer, pictures of his family, a signed tennis ball by Tom Brady, and…no pen. He looked under his desk. Under his chair. In the file cabinet. Over the cabinet. In his pants. His pockets. His shirt. His hair. No, no, no! The pen was not there! Dore gasped in horror, and then his eyes narrowed in slits. Someone must have taken it…someone who wanted to hurt Dore. Well, Dore wouldn’t stand by and get hurt! He would get an agent to track down his pen.

He grabbed the phone book sitting on his file cabinet, and flipped to the “Secret Agents” section. He perused the section, and found just the right ad!

SECRET AGENTS FOR HIRE
1-800-YOUR-MOM
Ask to speak to Lisa. Ask to speak to anyone else if you don’t want to speak to Lisa.

He dialed the number. It rang once.

“Hello?”

Victory! Dore grinned.

“Hello…may I speak to Lisa?”

“One moment…She will be with you momentarily. Please hold.”

Dore held for two minutes, and got to listen to “Livin’ La Vida Loca.” Finally, Lisa picked up.

“Hello, this is Lisa. How may I help you today?”

“Hello, this is Principal Opie Dore at St. Garciaparra High School. This is a matter of national security. My pen has been stolen.”

“Your pen has been stolen? My goodness, Mr. Dore! How devastating that must have been for you!”

“I am in a trauma, Lisa! You must help me!”

“Of course, Mr. Dore. I will inform my best man of this horrible crime, and he will do some snooping. After he has found some information out, I will have him contact you. I can assure you, the pen‘s safety will not be compromised at any time during this mission.”

“Wonderful, Lisa. Thank you.” Dore hung up. The pen would be found. He was sure of it.”

| | |

2:48 PM, somewhere on Route 34 Time to Pen’s Safety Being Compromised: 314 min

He snapped his cell phone down. So. Some smart aleck decided to steal a principal’s pen. Well, they would soon find out that would not be tolerated. At all. Period.

He took a drive. Who would know about an all-plastic, high school pen of a principal that was used to sign important papers — papers of national security, no less! He thought. There was no one that would know. But he knew where to start. Honest Abe’s Saloon.

| | |

3:13 PM, Honest Abe’s Saloon Time to Pen’s Safety Being Compromised: 255 min

He walked into the saloon, and was immediately appalled by the alcoholic stink of the saloon. This was no place for a little child, that was clear. He surveyed the room. There was that tough biker playing pool with an ex-convict. On the right of the bar, there were two college boys sitting and trying to look cool. He looked down to the end of the bar. Ay, Maria! There stood a gorgeous woman, a woman of such perfection. He walked over to her.

“Hello. May I buy a drink?”

The woman blushed, and smiled. “Of course you may, sir. My name is Maria Alvarez Ramirez Ilena Anderson. And your name?”

He arched his eyebrow and smiled gregariously.

“Brunell. Evan Brunell. Agent Evan Brunell. Agent Evan S. Brunell. Agent…Evan…Steele…Brunell.” He smiled again. No woman could resist that.

Maria took a breath of surprise. There was something mysterious about this man. Something so mysterious, that she couldn’t resist.

“Please sit down, Mr. Agent Evan Steele Brunell.”

Agent Brunell sat down and smiled at her. The bartender came over.

“What can I get youse people?” He inquired.

“The lady will have some water, and I will have some milk…shaken, not stirred.”

“Will do.” The bartender moved away to get the order.

“Lovely choice, Mr. Agent Evan Steele Brunell,” Maria said. “I love water.”

“Somehow, I figured that, Maria.” Agent Brunell smiled. “Say, Maria…may I ask you a question? It is a question of national security.”

“Of course, Mr. Agent Evan Steele Brunell.”

“Maria…” Agent Brunell took her hands into his. “Have you seen a red, plastic St. Garciaparra High School pen lately?”

Maria gasped. She turned away from Agent Brunell and bit her lip. Agent Brunell peered curiously over her shoulder. She whirled around again, breathless.

“Mr. Agent Evan Steele Brunell, you shouldn’t come in here asking such questions! It’s liable to get you killed!”

Agent Brunell grabbed Maria by the arm. “Listen, Maria! It’s my job! I work for the Secret Agent Headquarters, and we’ve got a matter of national security here! We must find that pen, or the world will suffer! If you have any idea where that pen is, you need to tell me!”

Maria stared at Agent Brunell.

“Oh, Mr. Agent Evan Steele Brunell, if only you knew! If only you knew!” Maria dissolved into tears.

Agent Brunell looked away, angry. They had gotten to her first. Who were those people? And what would they do next?

| | |

4:53 PM, Hemingway Docking Bay Time to Pen’s Safety Being Compromised: 201 min

Agent Brunell drove up to the Hemingway Docking Bay, hopeful to get an answer from Fisherman Drew. Fisherman Drew knew all the happenings going on in Dusty City, and he would be sure to know about the pen. First, Agent Brunell wiped the dust from his eyes. They didn’t call it Dusty City for nothing.

He walked up to Fisherman Drew, who was ready to cast off in hopes of catching an eel.

“Fisherman Drew, may I have a word with you?”

Fisherman Drew looked up. “Of course, my good, jolly agent. What is it?”

“Fisherman Drew, do you know anything about a red, plastic pen from St. Garciaparra High School being stolen?”

Fisherman Drew looked up alarmingly. He embraced Agent Brunell in an hug, and then whispered to him in his ear.

“Don’t let on…they’re watching. They know you’re looking into this. Be very careful, understood?…Listen, if you go on the internet and into the chat room “Teenz Rulz!”, you might just figure out this mystery.”

He released Agent Brunell from his clutch, held a finger to his lips, and turned away, busying himself with busy work.

Agent Brunell flashed his smile. Finally, a lead!

| | |

5:00 PM, 005 Agency Road Time to Pen’s Safety Being Compromised: 194 min

Agent Brunell signed on his screen-name, “Agent Brunell”, and went chat surfing. He finally found the chat room “Teenz Rulz!”, and entered it.

Imateenandirule: lol, that’s so funny

StudRunner2006 has left the room.

Agent Brunell: hey sup whats funy

Gurlrox: who r u

Agent Brunell: i am a person wunderin wut so funny

Kelsley239723240 has entered the room.

Imateenandirule: agent, sum1 jus made a joke that’s all

Agent Brunell: oh

SGHSplayer2004: hey guyz wanna hear summin cool

Imateenandirule: ya

Gurlrox: ya

NSYNCyaaa232363: yaaaaa! hehe

AirESB has entered the room.

Agent Brunell: what is it

SGHSplayer2004: lol theres this pen lol its from my skool SGHS, SGHS RULZ!!!!!!!!! neways, sum1 at my skool stole it from our principle! lol!!!!

Imateenandirule: lol they got some guts doin that

NYSYNCyaaa232363: hehe ur funny SGHS were u live

Agent Brunell had found what he needed. Now he just needed to Instant Message this “SGHSplayer2004”. Hopefully they hadn’t gotten to him yet.

Agent Brunell: hey

SGHSplayer2004: umm who dis

Agent Brunell: i wuz in chat

SGHSplayer2004: ohh yaa sup

Agent Brunell: nm that pen thing was funny lol

SGHSplayer2004: ya lol rotfl

Agent Brunell: so who took it

SGHSplayer2004: ah jus a friend

Agent Brunell: wuts ur name

SGHSplayer2004: danny

Agent Brunell: hey danny

SGHSplayer2004: what

Agent Brunell: whyd ur friend take the pen

SGHSplayer2004: the principle is a loser. he gave us filet mignon instead of chicken nuggets. wut a loser.

Agent Brunell: o

SGHSplayer2004: g2g ttul

Finally, a motive behind the madness.

| | |

5:43 PM, St. Garciaparra High School Time to Pen’s Safety Being Compromised: 150 min

Agent Brunell drove up to the high-school, SGHS. A nice looking school, he thought. Who would have thought it was home to a raving lunatic?

He got out of his car and walked into the school. He located the principal’s office. He needed to have a talk with the principal, Opie Dore.

He walked in and found Opie Dore sitting in his chair, staring at the wall in front of him. He looked as if he hadn’t slept for, well…since 2:04 PM.

“Mr. Dore?”

Opie Dore looked up, and his face brightened. This must be the man that Lisa sent out to find his pen!

“Ah! Yes, I am Mr. Dore. And you are?”

Agent Brunell arched his eyebrow and smiled. “Brunell. Evan Brunell. Agent Evan Brunell. Agent Evan S. Brunell. Agent…Evan…Steele…Brunell.” He smiled again.

“Yes, yes, Agent Brunell. Please have a seat.”

Opie Door sat down from across him and leaned over his desk nervously. “Agent Brunell, do you have news?”

Agent Brunell sighed, and crossed his legs. “Yes, Mr. Dore. Your pen is in serious danger.”

Dore’s face fell. “You mean, you don’t have it?”

“No, Mr. Dore. That’s where you come in.”

“Me?”

“Yes, you, Mr. Dore. Mr. Dore, my sources have told me that someone upset with your lunch choice stole your pen.”

Opie Dore pounded his fist against the desk. “I knew we should have gone with the brussels sprout soup!”

Agent Brunell looked sharply at Dore. “Dore, this is no time for looking back in the past. All it does is make us look in the past. What I need to know from you…who was so angry that you gave them filet mignon that they voiced their displeasure?”

Mr. Dore thought for a moment. “Well, when they found out what was going to be served instead of chicken nuggets, there were some people happy, but some people were unhappy. Let’s see, there was…” He stopped.

“Mr. Dore?”

“Of course! It must be Kent. F. Chiggin’s son, Kris!”

“Why must it be Kris?”

“Because Kris buys chicken nuggets every day at lunch, and he’s the class president. In his campaign platform, he pledged to bring chicken nuggets to the lunch menu everyday!”

“Mr. Dore, you might just have saved your pen. Now we must find this Kris Chiggin.”

| | |

6:23 PM, Kent + Amy Chiggin’s Residence Time to Pen’s Safety Being Compromised: 110 min

Agent Brunell rapped on the door of the Chiggin’s. He needed to talk to his mother. Only his mother would know where Kris was.

His mother opened the door, and gasped.

“Mrs. Chiggin, I am…” He arched his eyebrow and smiled. “Brunell. Evan Brunell. Agent Evan Brunell. Agent Evan S. Brunell. Agent…Evan…Steele…Brunell.” He smiled again.

“Oh, Agent Brunell! It is such a pleasure to meet you! I’m making chicken nuggets for dinner, so I can’t be kept long…what do you need?”

“Mrs. Chiggin, do you have a son named Kris?”

“Why…yes, I do…”

“Where is this child?”

“Why? Is Kris in trouble? I promise you, Agent Brunell, that boy is a good boy, he wouldn’t hurt an elephant—”

“Mrs. Chiggin, this is a matter of national security. Where is your son?”

“He’s at the arcade, I think…”

Agent Brunell was off to save the day.

| | |

7:37 PM, Archie’s Arcade Time to Pen’s Safety Being Compromised: 36 min

Agent Brunell entered the arcade, and scanned the crowd. Well, it wasn’t a crowd. There were only three boys in the arcade.

“Kris Chiggin,” Agent Brunell called out. “Kris Chiggin!”

The boy in the middle of the pack, playing Pac-Man, whirled around, took one look at Agent Brunell, and bolted out the door, running.

| | |

7:46 PM, Back Alley of Archie’s Arcade Time to Pen’s Safety Being Compromised: 27 min

Agent Brunell pursued Kris Chiggin.

| | |

7:50 PM, Mannsburden Lane Time to Pen’s Safety Being Compromised: 23 min

Agent Brunell chased Kris Chiggin some more.

| | |

7:56 PM, Princess Diana Drive Time to Pen’s Safety Being Compromised: 21 min

Agent Brunell started to gain on Kris Chiggin.

| | |

8:13 PM, St. Garciaparra Road Time to Pen’s Safety Being Compromised: 10 min

Agent Brunell chased Kris Chiggin up the lane. The school loomed ahead.

| | |

8:15 PM, Front Steps of SGHS Time to Pen’s Safety Being Compromised: 8 min

Agent Brunell leaped, and grabbed Kris Chiggin’s foot. Kris Chiggin’s kicked Agent Brunell’s hand away, and ran into the school. He ran up the stairs to the second floor. Mr. Dore peeked out of his door, and saw Kris bolting up the stairs. He pursued Kris.

| | |

8:18 PM, Mrs. Nixon’s Room (Room 1918) Time to Pen’s Safety Being Compromised: 5 min

Agent Brunell ran into the room, and skidded to a stop. Mr. Dore was in the middle of the room, staring at Kris. Kris held the red, plastic St. Garciaparra High School pen out Mrs. Nixon’s window.

“Don’t move!” Kris screamed. “Don’t move! I’ll drop it, I swear!”

| | |

8:19 PM, Mrs. Nixon’s Room (Room 1918) Time to Pen’s Safety Being Compromised: 4 min

Agent Brunell had only one thought in his mind.

“Did I leave the oven on,” he wondered?

| | |

8:20 PM, Mrs. Nixon’s Window Time to Pen’s Safety Being Compromised: 3 min

Beads of sweat started forming on Kris’ hands. Mr. Dore started screaming.

“I beg of you, Kris, don’t do it! Don’t do it! Oh. Holy Mother of St. Garciaparra! Don’t do it! I’ll do anything! I’ll serve chicken nuggets everyday! Spare the pen! Take me instead!”

Agent Brunell started walking forward.

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8:21 PM, Mrs. Nixon’s Window Time to Pen’s Safety Being Compromised: 2 min

“Don’t move!” Kris screamed.

Agent Brunell kept walking.

“I said, don’t move!’

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8:22 PM, Mrs. Nixon’s Window Time to Pen’s Safety Being Compromised: 1 min

Mr. Dore snapped out of his screaming fit.

“Kris, hand that pen over, now!”

Kris let go of the pen.

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8:22 PM, The Air Time to Pen’s Safety Being Compromised: 0 min 1 sec

Agent Brunell leapt.

He leapt past Mr. Dore.

He leapt past Mrs. Nixon’s desk.

He leapt past Kris’ terror-stricken face.

He leapt out of the window.

His hand outstretched, he grabbed the pen, and then grabbed the windowsill. Dangling out the window, he pulled himself up until he was safely back in. The police had already gotten there, and were carting Kris off. Mr. Dore ran over to get the pen.

“Mr. Dore, your pen.”

“Oh, Agent Brunell, thank you so much!” Mr. Dore ran off.

“Who are you, anyways!?” Kris Chiggin yelled as the police carted him off.

From the door came a voice. “Brunell. Evan Brunell. Agent Evan Brunell. Agent Evan S. Brunell. Agent…Evan…Steele…Brunell.”

Agent Brunell looked with surprise at the door.

“Maria!”

Maria walked forward with a smile on her face.

“You did good, Mr. Agent Evan Steele Brunell. You have saved the world.”

Agent Brunell flashed his smile. “I know.”

“I know a good place, Mr. Agent Evan Steele Brunell. We can get acquainted there.”

“And where, pray tell, is that, Maria?”

Maria smiled. “The grocery store. Come, you can tell me if Prego or Ragu is better.”

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And with that, Mission: Pen was over.

CLICK HERE TO SEE THE FINAL MISSION: STORY!