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12-Feb-2020 19:59

Franco smiled, which he does often, and the sunlight beaming into the room reflected off his braces. Following him were his friends and roommates, Tony Pena, Osmy Gregorio and Joel Peguero. He fidgeted with the earbuds in his hands, then tugged at the Jesus medallion hanging from a gold chain around his neck. In the ninth inning of a tie game, with runners on first and second, Franco walked to load the bases.

Even though Franco is at least three years younger than them, they all call him "El Patrón" -- The Boss. He wants to learn English before he arrives in the major leagues, and considering when he wants to arrive in the major leagues, he takes the classes seriously. the catcher, he hit home run.""That's a good sentence! The scouts in town to see Franco and the rest of the Bowling Green Hot Rods took away much more.

It was Tuesday, which meant mandatory English class for Latin American players at the Tampa Bay Rays' Class A affiliate. Franco is smart, perceptive and quick to digest instructions, but English is not yet like baseball, in which instinct guides him to the right place. They saw Franco stare at a first-pitch curveball for a strike. "I knew it was going to be a ball."Franco carries himself with the self-assuredness limited to a subset of the small subset that comprises the world's best players.

In front of the group stood David Kerr, who works down the street in marketing at Western Kentucky University's English as a second language program and has taught Rays prospects for half a decade."Today we're going to learn about sentences," Kerr said. Franco still hunts individual words and arranges them four or five at a time."The game last night ... Greatness can blossom from fear; Franco's comes from certitude.

Awakening in this new life, Virgil begins to piece together his personal history and the lore of his broken town, with the help of a cast of affable and curious locals--from Rune, a twinkling, pipe-smoking, kite-flying stranger investigating the mystery of his disappeared son; to Nadine, the reserved, enchanting wife of the vanished man, to Tom, a journalist and Virgil's oldest friend; and various members of the Pea family who must confront tragedies of their own.

Into this community returns a shimmering prodigal son who may hold the key to reviving their town.

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"A barehand play that you wouldn't ever think to barehand -- he makes it look easy. There are some things you don't ever see, and it leaves you astonished.