We interrupt our 4-part Phillies series to bring you an important update. The final game of the little league regular season was yesterday. Let me give you the play-by-play.
Jack had still not gotten a hit yet this season. To add to the drama, his grandparents were there to see the game. We were really hoping for that first hit to come.
2nd inning, Jack walked. This was not the normal case where Jack doesn’t swing out of fear. This pitcher was so wild Jack couldn’t have reached the ball if he had a 5-foot broom. Once on base, Jack stole second, stole third, and came home on a passed ball.
4th inning, Jack got up to the plate. This was the ideal pitcher. The kid was throwing slow, gentle rainbows. They might as well have been underhanded. Shani’s dad and I leaned in, rooting under our breaths (Jack has forbidden us from cheering).
“Come on, Jack,” I whispered.
“This is it, I know it,” said Shani’s Dad through clenched teeth.
Jack swung at the first pitch and missed. Second pitch was a ball. Another ball. Another ball. Count was 3 and 1. The entire crowd is rooting for him, especially his coach. Everyone wanted Jack to get that hit.
Next pitch came looping slowly in. Jack swings. Connects weakly. The ball dribbled down the third base line.
“RUN!” I screamed (couldn’t help myself).
“Go, Jack, go!” screamed his grandfather (he couldn’t help himself either).
Jack hauled ass and easily made it to first. The third baseman hadn’t even gotten to the ball by the time he was safe.
“Foul ball!” yelled the umpire. At the last second, the ball had rolled over the line into foul territory.
“Son of a bitch!” I muttered. The whole crowd made a collective “Aw” sound of disappointment. Shani’s Dad got up from the stands, walked a small, stressed loop and then sat back down again.
Next pitch: ball four. Jack walked to first base. No hit. Jack proceeded to steal second, steal third, and then come home on a passed ball. He did not get up to bat again.
It was a fun game and Jack made some nice plays in the field. His team won 9-5. It was hot as hell, so Shani and her folks left the minute the game ended. I stuck around as Jack’s team huddled around the coach for the post-game meeting. As Jack came out of the meeting he came up to me trying to hold back a smile.
“The coach just told me that I officially led the league in stolen bases,” he said.
“What?” I asked.
“The coach just told me that. With all the bases I stole today I did it. I have the most stolen bases. The season ends today.”
Now just to be clear. The league does not track stolen bases. I keep the official score sheet for Jack’s team and I don’t record stolen bases. Jack is legitimately fast and has gotten pretty damn good at stealing bases. But it’s not something anyone is tracking. What had really happened was that Jack’s coach had delivered an act of coaching genius.
“Congratulations!” I shouted and hugged Jack.
We drove back to the house. Jack entered the living room and once again trying to keep his big smile in check informed Shani and his grandparents about his official accomplishment.
“HEY!” they all shouted. His grandmother hugged him hugely. His grandfather shook his hand.
“Let’s go out to lunch and celebrate,” Shani said. “You choose where we go, Jack.”
“Not right now,” Jack responded. “I’m not ready for lunch yet. I want to play some.”
It was over 90 degrees. But the boy went outside, put on his batting gloves and helmet. He then proceeded to the street in front of our house and began playing an imaginary baseball game. And I’m fairly certain that he was wreaking havoc on the base path against his imaginary opponent.