Part 2: From Pearl Lagoon to the Back Bay
Directly behind the scoreboard is Hansack's home. "If a hurricane comes then the scoreboard will flatten my house," he says, always with a slight smile and easy stride in his words, similar to the reggae cadence that blares on speakers throughout the town. Hansack was discovered by a scout for the Astros in 1998 while playing in an Atlantic Coast tournament. They signed him for $10,000 and sent him to Panama and Venezuela for two years (where he learned how to speak Spanish fluently). He was released after two seasons in A-ball with Houston, and went back to pitching in the Nicaraguan pro league. "I thought my [U.S.] career was pretty much over," Hansack says. "But if it was, that was OK. I'd just pitch and be happy."
Hansack stands in front of his home, where he has lived his entire life. His stepfather relaxes on a bench to his left, and two of his sisters cook the day's lunch while kids play in the home. Currently eight people, Devern included, live in this moderate, airy home. English is spoken, but sometimes it has the sound of patois. I notice certain slang during my stay. Devern and Delmer explain: When answering the phone, the word "Bo" is similar to "Hi." My personal favorite, "I bossed ya," means I broke your game with the ladies. And the familiar, "Yeah mon," and "Who dat?" are used often.
Hansack and Delmer take me to the back, where we sit on raised pieces of wood; three different types of coconut trees dangle above our heads. Banana and plantain trees hang over our shoulders, as does the rare apple tree -- unique to the Lagoon -- that looks like hanging green chayotes. Hansack speaks with awe at the natural beauty of his home; how rich the land and sea make Pearl Lagoon. I take a peek at the back of his house, where the equivalent of a kitchen counter stands in the middle of the space. In the far distance you can see a few people with their back to the camera; they are sitting on the outfield wall of the park watching the game, helping change the scoreboard.
Hansack doesn't own a boat, but it doesn't take much to borrow one. All we need is a motor. He makes a quick call on his cell phone and we find one in the front yard of his friend's house. Hansack has taken the winter off from fishing and the void in his life is large. For his safety and health he decided to forgo the risk, with the choppy sea and physical labor posing danger. The Lagoon is a mix of fresh and salt water; and both the Lagoon and ocean provide just about every fish one can imagine though lobster is the big prize, and Hansack's favorite creature to capture. They go for about $12 a pound.
A stop at a small dock is where we find a gasoline hut. We buy 280 córdobas worth of gas -- about $15 -- and are on our way. At one point, Devern and Delmer tell me to get my arms off the side of the boat. I look down and fiberglass dusts my forearms. "Don't rub it!" they both warn, smiling. "It will make it itch more, we'll get you some powder when we get back." The mouth of the Lagoon is an exit point to the ocean, but to leave you must have paperwork. Out there lay untouched pristine cays, where sometimes Hansack will spend the day barbequing his catch on a deserted beach.
Amy K. Nelson is a reporter for ESPN The Magazine.