Ready Player Two by Ernest Cline

(Audiobook)

Curt Schilling would probably be the best choice for this book. In Ready Player Two, Wade Watts returns after having won James Halliday’s Easter Egg hunt and taking control of the Oasis and Gregarious Games. Curt Schilling also stepped into a role in a video game company, then created his own company Green Monster Games, later changed to 38 Studios.

There’s a great story I like about Curt Schilling. The Diamondbacks were trying to work out a deal to send Schilling to the Red Sox, but the deal was contingent on the Red Sox negotiating an extension with the pitcher. Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein visited Curt at his home where Schilling ensured all the negotiations took place with him sitting directly in front of his 2001 World Series MVP to make sure Epstein knew his value.

I will also fondly remember late 90’s matchups between Schilling’s Phillies and the dominant Braves. I remember visiting my ex girlfriend and saying I needed to watch the Schilling – Maddux matchup that day. I said, “don’t worry, the game won’t last long.” Two hours later it was over and we went on with our day.

But here’s why I didn’t choose Schilling for this bookmark. His company secured a $75 million loan from Rhode Island, but he very quickly defaulted on the loan, couldn’t make payroll, and left some of his employees with two mortgages after failing to sell their previous homes as promised as part of their relocation packages. Schilling opposes same sex marriage, argues vehemently against evolution, has worn a shirt advocating for the lynching of journalists, speaks out against the trans community, and has even claimed that one of the survivors of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School mass shooting was a “crisis actor.” He has repeatedly denied the stories of racist treatment experienced by other athletes. And he has compared Muslims to Nazis. Incidentally, he is a collector of Nazi uniforms and memorabilia.

So, no, I won’t ever be using a Curt Schilling card as a bookmark.

I will, however, quite happily use a Wade (as in Watts) Davis card. Wade, the pitcher not the character, runs a nonprofit called Full Kount which raises money for children to find a positive outlet through sports. He has also been a big fundraiser for the Wounded Warrior Project. And he provided me with two of the greatest seasons ever as a Royals fan.

Before we get to 2014 and 2015, it’s fun to look at how wrong major league teams can be while also being so right. During Wade’s first three seasons with the Rays, he had a 4.22 ERA. So maybe the Rays were wrong about Davis’ ability judging by his barely .500 winning percentage and plus 4 ERA. In 2012 they moved Wade Davis to the bullpen where he was brilliant, posting the lowest WHIP of his career and a 2.43 ERA. The Rays were right again. Then, in 2013 after acquiring Davis in probably the biggest trade in franchise history, the Royals inexplicably decided that Wade Davis was going back to the starting rotation, where he posted a losing record and an astronomical 5.67 ERA. The Royals were wrong. However, in 7 games as a reliever, Wade posted a 0.90 ERA, and suddenly they were right again.

Thankfully, Wade Davis never started another game in his career. Through a dismal 2020 season, Wade Davis has a 4.57 ERA as a starter and a 2.90 ERA as a reliever.

My bookmark is a 2016 Topps Wade Davis, which lets me look back on two of my favorite seasons as a Royals fan. Wade put together two of the greatest seasons of any reliever in baseball history, leading the Royals to consecutive World Series appearances and one World Series win. Both years he had a WHIP below one, and his 1.00 ERA in 2014 was actually the higher of the two years, having pitched to a 0.87 ERA in 2015.

As for the Wade in Ready Player Two, he had his own Wade Davis style career struggles and needed to find the right role within the company and within his circle of friends. I think the sequel gets bogged down a little with the details of the Oasis worlds and the new hunt, but if you liked Ready Player One I doubt you’ll regret reading Ready Player Two.

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