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“I sold 234 bats my first year,” he said at his workshop, where custom Prowlers in a variety of colors and styles, each bearing the company logo — a fox — hang where garden tools, bicycles and lawn furniture would in a typical garage.
I listened, and as I did a great sense of nostalgia poured over me, as though the cheap accordion was playing the sounds of every beautiful experience I had ever had. His name was Oleg, and he told me he came to this spot most nights when he couldn't sleep. He played a few more tunes for me and I watched his eyes glaze over and the ends of his mouth turn up slightly and I wondered what kinds of troubles he was forgetting just then.
I shouldn't have stayed out so late, especially since I had only been in Moscow for a couple of days and I wasn't familiar with the city. The car was old and rusted, and one of the back passenger windows was cellophane, haphazardly taped, instead of glass. He was an unauthorized taxi driver, which was illegal. He could probably tell I was lost and a little panicky.
They lived in a small gated community on the edge of the giant city. It was dark, and the path was lined with the types of characters who are usually outside on the outskirts of a big city at in the morning.
He was large and round and his face was red, like he had spent a lifetime slowly drowning in cheap Russian vodka.
His clothes were tattered but his shoes were black and polished.
A year later, he turned hobby into career, learning through You Tube videos and other research how to shave a block of wood into the weight, dimensions, and balance required to produce bats meeting the specifications of models in demand, such as the 271 from Louisville Slugger.