by Chris Copeland

I’M A SENIOR AT THE UNIVERSITY OF TEXAS, studying to become a high school math teacher. But when my work is done, usually late at night, I play a computer game called EverQuest II. It’s called a massively multiplayer online game; the point is social interaction. You have a character—mine is called an Erudite Coercer—and play with a bunch of other people to accomplish projects together. It’s got a fantasy feel, sort of like The Lord of the Rings.

When EverQuest II launched last November, there was a group of about six of us who played together regularly. One of them was an Ogre Defiler, and I started to hear a lot of rumors about him. In online discussions, people would say that Curt Schilling played the game and that they’d seen a photograph this guy had posted of himself that looked a lot like Schilling. But this was right after the Red Sox won the World Series, so I didn’t think much of it. Then in December, this same player mentioned that he might do an advertising deal with EverQuest. I wanted to confirm the rumors about him, so I asked why they would want him to advertise. He casually replied, “Well, some people might consider me famous.” One of the best pitchers in baseball had been playing with me for over a month, and I didn’t even know it.

Pretty soon we both became officers in an EverQuest guild, which is a more formal group of players. We got to know each other a lot better because we had to work together all the time. One day I saw that the Red Sox would be coming through Texas to play the Rangers in early May, coinciding with my birthday. I told Curt online, “Hey, you’re going to be pitching on my birthday, and I can be there.” He immediately responded, “I’m going to give you some tickets. That’s all there is to it.” So I got to see all three games that weekend. Boston won twice and the Rangers won once. We’d been talking about needing to meet sometime, but it hadn’t worked out yet, so on the last day of the series, Curt told me on Instant Messenger: “Get there early and tell some security guard that you’re my cousin and that you’re supposed to meet me in the dugout.” So I got there and ran around asking security guards where to go. Finally, I got to the media entrance and told the guard there that I was Curt’s cousin. He had me write out this little note, and he took it to Curt. A few minutes later he came out and said, “Right this way.”

I walked into the locker room and saw the whole Boston Red Sox team sitting back, stretching, playing cards. Manny Ramirez was on his cell phone. Johnny Damon was watching TV on a couch, shirtless. Curt was wrapping up a poker game with a couple other guys. We started chatting while he changed into his uniform. It felt kind of surreal to be talking to him in person. He had a gentle voice that was different than what I was expecting, and he was huge compared to me. I pulled out a ball and said, “My dad wouldn’t let me come down here and not get you to sign this.” He asked, “Who should I make it out to?” I said, “Me is fine.” So he signed the ball and was about to return it when he stopped and wrote his EverQuest character name on it. Then he handed it back and said, “That’s the only ball signed like that.”

We still talk online every day, about EverQuest strategy, recruiting new players—you know, top-secret officer chat. When he screws up, I’ll call him a newb. I’ll ask about his baseball injuries, or we’ll talk about how the Red Sox did that night. Once, our EverQuest guild was on a raid in a level called the Temple of Cazic-Thule, and we were trying to get to this poisonous dragon. It got pretty dangerous, but then it looked like we might pull it off, so I said, “Well, after we win, y’all can come over to my place for margaritas.” Of course everyone said, “Yeah, where do you live?” I said Texas. And Curt told them, “Yeah, and if you’re looking for him, he’s the one who’s five six and about a hundred and twenty-nine pounds soaking wet.”