Majors Made

Mini-post. There really isn’t any heavy content to share here. I don’t have a story or any reflections. But as the title suggests: Jack made the majors. The tryouts were a big deal, but the news of making the majors was sort of a fizzle.

So that’s the update: Jack made the majors.

Other updates:

  • Alex’s lizard (Josh) has eaten 11 crickets
  • Jack’s basketball team won the championship
  • One of Jack’s best friends won the free-throw shooting contest (made 6 for 7)
  • Alex earned his orange belt
  • Shani and I have given up drinking in the house for Lent
  • Baseball season starts in 18 days

That’s all I’ve got.

“Do I get a milkshake if I make the majors?”

The off-season has been long and dark and full of snow days. We’ve kept up a constant fight against the dark of winter with snow forts, sledding, snowball fights, ninja battles using ice boulders. But still there’s been something heavy about this winter, like my eyelids won’t open all the way.

But cracks are forming in the wall of darkness. It has been in the 50s this weekend, pitchers and catchers have reported to spring training, the Baseball Today podcasts have started to be released daily, and Jack’s baseball season is beginning.

“Do I get a milkshake if I make the majors?” Jack asked me.

Each year the season has begun with “evaluations.” Coaches watch as each kid goes through fielding, hitting, and pitching drills. This informs the order in which they draft their teams. But this year they are not “evaluations” they are “tryouts.” 12 kids will not make the majors. 12 kids will play down with the 4th graders, while the rest of their 60+ friends go to play in the majors with the 5th and 6th graders.

The boy is in knots over it. Jack desperately wants to make it. This past Friday was the first of 3 tryout sessions.

We went for pizza before the tryouts and Jack barely talked other than to bark at Alex explosively. Jack was on edge. He ate only 1 piece of pizza to make sure he wasn’t weighed down by a full belly. Then he went out and sprinted back and forth in front of the pizza place. You only have to go to 2 tryout sessions, but Jack is planning to go to all 3 so they know how serious he is.

After pizza we arrived at the “All Star Baseball Academy,” which is a warehouse space designed for indoor baseball practice. See the map for reference.

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In spite of the fact that you can see virtually nothing, Jack wanted me to stay for the whole thing. So stay I did. About 80 kids lined up to go through fielding drills. Jack was number 74, so I sat on the hard bench next to Alex behind the wall of dads.

Dads. Why is it when dads gather they always stand? They never sit. They stand and speak the strange dad language of sports observations and manufactured laughter. I did not partake; I sat with Alex and played Plants vs Zombies until Jack’s turn approached.

Jack’s first fielding drill went beautifully. Three grounders that Jack gobbled right up flawlessly, followed by three perfect throws. Fielding is Jack’s strength and he nailed the first round. I started to watch more intently – and not just Jack. The second round of fielding started and they were hitting the grounders a lot faster. I watched all the kids this time, and if I’m telling you the truth, I was rooting for them to field poorly.

Look…here’s the fact. Jack has had one hit in the past year, and that was a bunt. He doesn’t swing the bat. Great fielder. Great on the bases. Great attitude and teammate. But he doesn’t hit – and that’s a pretty major hole in his game.

Second fielding drill for Jack. He bobbled the first ball but recovered it nicely. Second ball the coach accidentally hit the ball way out of range. Jack ran, full-on dove and he almost got it. “Good try, Jack!” I heard a coach yell. Third grounder he fielded perfectly and threw a bullet to the coach.

Then they lined up for the batting cages. I watched him and he actually did all right. Guy, his coach from last year (famous for his inspired statistics and his clean language) was throwing for Jack. Jack swatted a couple and missed a couple, but he came out shaking his head. He wasn’t happy with how he did.

Then finally were the pitching drills which Jack totally bombed (but most kids do). Jack has a terrific arm when he throws the ball, but for some reason when he decides to “pitch” he cranks up some complex, limp-winged motion that barely reaches the batter’s box half the time.

Guy grabbed me as we were packing up.

“It’s all confidence with him,” Guy said.

“I know. He wants to make the majors so bad.”

“Be careful what you wish for,” Guy responded.

We talked about it at length, and we both agreed that it might be the best thing for Jack to be held back. If he was scared to swing last year, facing 5th, 6th, and 7th grade pitchers might not be the place to get comfortable. If Jack got held back he’d be one of the best players on his team and he might find his swing against 4th grade pitchers.

However, that is not Jack’s perspective. His friends are all going to make it. Jack would be the one of them who doesn’t. That means admitting to himself that he’s not as good as they are. Right now he’s part of them and in Jack’s head, he’s in their league. They may be better at hitting, but he’s better on the bases…they’re all in the same league. He’s part of the team. He has a role.

But to be sent down would clearly set him apart. He would not belong.

Ask Jack what his favorite thing is and he will tell you “baseball” without a second’s hesitation.

Not making the majors will hurt him. It will hurt him badly.

Note from the map: The circled area is a narrow hallway through which 60+ kids will be leaving their workshop and 60+ kids will be going in for their workshop, all at the same time. Oh, and all the kids have backpacks on with bats sticking out. It’s a disaster.

Psycho Coach

Holy crap – you won’t believe this.

Sunday Jack had a baseball game and then a soccer game immediately following. We were in a neighboring town and the opposing coach was an asshole. I don’t think that’s subjective. He was yelling at his players, the umpire, Jack’s coach.

In the 2nd inning Jack was on 3rd base. The bases were loaded and the batter whacked a long shot into the outfield. Jack came around the score. The next kid came in as the ball was coming home. The catcher missed it and the ball rolled around. The catcher scrambled to get the ball and Jack was still in the area.

“He’s obstructing the catcher!” the coach yelled at the umpire, pointing in Jack’s face. “He should be out!”

The umpire (who was not the greatest) shrugged it off as the coach continued to yell. Eventually Jack jogged back to the dugout. He was close to crying and muttering that we was not in the way (which is debatable).

As the game went on, Jack’s team dominated. They were winning 17-7 as he went into the bottom of the 5th and final inning. This was the other team’s last chance.

Well wouldn’t you know it, that other team went on an incredible tear. Hitter after hitter blasted the ball into the outfield. In a remarkable comeback they scored 11 runs to walk off with a win. Jack’s team was beaten.

At this point, Jack is at risk for being late to soccer. I grabbed his stuff and rushed him off. I got him in the car and my boy just fell apart. He’d just gone through a heart-breaker of a loss; it was too much for him.

“That umpire was so awful. And we just kept dropping the ball. And that coach!”

“He was pretty bad,” I responded.

“I wasn’t in the way on that play where he yelled at me. Then he mouthed something to me as I was walking away. I think he mouthed the f-word.”

“He wouldn’t do that, Jack. He was over the top, but he wouldn’t do that.”

Jack was upset, but he was ranting about everyone and everything. I calmed him down, told him it was part of the game, got him ready for his soccer game.

So…fast forward to the 5th grade BBQ that evening. The mom of Jack’s friend came up to me.

“Mike, I heard about the craziness at your game. We were at the field right afterwards and saw the whole argument going on.”

“I didn’t see anything,” I told her. “I rushed Jack out of there as soon as the game was over. What happened?”

“One of your players said that they other coach used the f-word at him. A bunch of the other players heard it. Your coach was right in there and there was apparently a big argument.”

Woosh. Suddenly Jack’s story got a hell of a lot more credible.

Turns out there was all kinds of mayhem that we missed. I’m not sure what’s true and what’s part of a rapidly inflated rumor, but it appears:

  • This coach went through the handshake line after the game and instead of “good game” said something to our players involving the f word. This is apparently confirmed by 3-4 kids.
  • This coach had instructed his players to try and hit our catcher with the backswing of their bat in the last inning. That way the catcher would be called for interference and the batter is sent to first base. Twice in a row in the final inning our catcher was struck by a bat. One of the opposing batters apologized to our first baseman after getting on base and claimed he’d done it on his coach’s orders.
  • This coach was barking at players on our team. This I know for a fact and he only stopped it when our coach went and got in his face.
  • This coach tried to get our coach to fight him in the parking lot.

Unbelievable, right?

The entire league is involved at this point (as it should be). Incident reports have been filed. Hopefully this ass-monkey is removed from coaching. It’s Fall Ball, so this guy is not in our league. His league is in another town, so there’s only so much our league can do – but hopefully he gets the boot.

Milkshake!

This will be quick.

I did not go to the game on Sunday. Shani went and I stayed home with Alex. But soon into the game I got a text from Shani: Jack had a hit.

His coach, in a moment of bizarre brilliance ordered Jack to get up there and bunt. In come the pitch, and without a hitch Jack held out the bat, dropped a perfect bunt down toward third, and made it to first by a mile.

Now…here’s a picture of a guy bunting:

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You basically step in front of the pitch, hold the bat out, and let the ball dribble away. You read that right: you step out over the plate, in front of the pitch. When you actually hit the normal way, you stay away from the plate and swing the bat way out in front of your body.

Why on earth Jack is scared to swing, but was totally fine bunting is a complete mystery to me. But either way, the boy got a hit. Milkshakes for all that night.

Fall Ball and the Quest for a Hit

Fall ball can go two ways. Sometimes fall ball is sitting there at 8:40 on a windy Friday night with a blanket wrapped around you and your wife. The kids walk every batter because their hands are too cold to pitch. It can be pure misery.

But fall ball can also be a sunny afternoon that’s so beautiful you’re happy to just breathe in the air. This Saturday was like that.

Fall ball has a totally different vibe. In the spring the whole town plays. The stands are filled with parents and all of Jack’s classmates are on his team or the team they’re playing. Spring ball had ended without a hit for Jack.

But fall ball is way more mellow; it’s more like a skills workshop for the kids who are really serious about baseball. I sat in the near-empty stands and spread out to watch some ball. Here are Jack’s highlights at the plate:

Bottom of the 2nd:

Jack stepped into the batter’s box like he was stepping out onto ice he’s afraid will crack under him at any moment. He sprang backwards from the first two pitches (called for strikes). The third pitch he sprang backwards, but he actually took a beautiful swing in the process. He struck out on 3 pitches.

Bottom of the 5th:

Jack got up to lead off the inning. This time he was severely over-matched. Fall ball has 5th and 6th graders, so these kids are just on that puberty line. Jack is a tiny boy. The opposing team put in a new pitcher who was literally taller than the umpire. WHOP went the ball into the catcher’s mitt with each warm-up pitch.

Another strike out – this time I couldn’t blame Jack for being timid.

But while Jack did not have a great day at the plate, check out his highlights in the field:

Top of the 4th:

Jack was playing left field. Two out. Two men on base. A foul ball went up over the stands and down a hill. I went to get it, but kept my ear out to make sure I didn’t miss a big play. And thank God I did.

PING went the aluminum bat and I hustled up the small hill. I got my head up just to see the ball sailing for left field. This was a huge play — it would either end the inning or lead to 2 runs. Jack was on a full tilt run. Jack stretched out…

He got it. Just barely. He got it with the webbing of his glove and he was going so fast he nearly fell down and dropped it. He held the ball up to the umpire. Out.

Jack’s entire team went nuts. They mobbed him as he got to the dugout and cheered “Nuck-ols, Nuck-ols, Nuck-ols!” One of the dad’s hugged me as I got back to the stands. My boy was beaming.

So a terrific day in the field and a moment of heroism. Not to mention…Jack had another game on Sunday. Stay tuned to see if a hit is forthcoming.

Fall Ball and Air Fiddling

Fall ball:

Hard to believe – but the fall season of baseball has begun. Jack has joined up and this year will be playing with 5th graders (his age) and 6th graders. The quest to get a hit begins again – but this time the competition is tougher. Older, faster pitchers.

Jack was assigned a coach we didn’t know at all. Two guys with 6th grade kids who have coached as a team for years. They emailed me to ask about Jack. I told them:

  • He’s a good fielder
  • He’s fast on the bases
  • He has a good arm (except when he decides to “pitch”)
  • He rarely swings and didn’t get a single hit this spring
  • He loves to play baseball

So first practice I went to pick Jack up. I was a little early and Jack was actually coming up to bat. First pitch comes in…BOOM! He corks it into the outfield. The coach came running over to me soon thereafter:

“I worked with him in the cages – he’s WAY better than I thought he was going to be. He WILL hit this season. I can tell. I know it.”

“Sweet,” I said, a little taken aback.

The coach then went through the entire draft with me and he was glowing about some “steals” he got in the late innings. I think he included Jack as one of his late-round steals.

So I’m optimistic.

Air Fiddling:

In other news…the boys have discovered the song: “The Devil Went Down to Georgia” by the Charlie Daniels Band. It has immediately become their top request. Today they played it 6 times in a row. Alex sat on the bed and listened to the words. Jack was in the hall air-fiddling like he was being attacked by a swarm of bees.

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The appeal of this song is universal and undeniable. And air-fiddling is mandatory. I like it way more that than unbearably catchy “Psy”, dreaded Korean hip hop artist.

Sidenote: My brother Chris was once in a crowded bar when Devil Went Down to Georgia came on. Chris kicked into such a frantic fit of air-fiddling that someone actually threw a glass pitcher at his head. The pitcher hit his friend Mike Ondik, who was sent to the ER.

OK…baseball news to share soon.

Returning from the Outer Banks (Part 1 of 3)

Once again, sorry for the lack of blog posts. We’ve been on vacation. This year we spent a week in the Outer Banks, a beach area in North Carolina. We rented a house.

Please note that this is different from our normal vacation. We usually do road trips, and a week at the beach made me a little uncertain. I mean, why rent a house for a week? I already have a house. And besides, we’re not beach people. I like to be on the move. I like the road.

Getting there was really bad – and it’s basically unavoidable when you go to the Outer Banks. It’s a long, thin island with one bridge to get there. And once you’re on the island, there is one road going the length of it. Every Saturday roughly one-bajillion people arrive at the exact same time to get to their rented houses. We inched down the road. At one point we let the kids get out and they walked to the next corner and waited for the car to finally arrive. It was like my skull had been put in a giant pepper grinder and crushed into powder. I seriously wondered if this was all going to be worth it. But it got better quickly.

Day 1 we hit the beach and it was amazing. A terrific beach with great big waves for the boys to play in and shockingly un-crowded. But problems quickly arose.

“Dad! My…I’m all…” Jack shouted, tugging at his bathing suit.

“Me too!” Alex shouted. He  looked like he was about to cry.

And come to think of it…I was feeling pretty raw myself.

“Quick! Let’s get to the showers!”

Here’s the deal: Outer Banks sand is incredibly fine. It had worked its way into all of our bathing suits and was now held painfully in place by our bathing suit liners. Our crotches were under assault. We showered in the outside shower, but it did nothing. We rushed into the bathroom, tore off our suits and I tried to rinse them out in the sink. No good.

“Hold on!” I told them and ran out to the snack shack (with pants on). The guy there loaned me a pair of scissors. I rushed back to the bathroom and proceeded to cut the liners out of all three of our suits.

“Right!” I crowed. “Now all that sands will shoot right on out! Now we’re free!” We were back in the waves in no time.

We settled in well from there. The next day we went to a state park with huge sand dunes that we climbed over, and then rolled down. In between the dunes were pools of warm swampy water that we paced through, feeling the thousands of tadpoles flee away against our toes and feet.

The boys and I took a surfing lesson. Alex (my diver/gymnast) got up on the first try. Jack was having doubts, but by the third time he was up and riding waves.

“At first I thought I wasn’t gonna be able to do it. But then I decided to have confidence and say that I could do it and then I did it.” He actually said that to me afterwards.

We signed up for a Ravenchase Adventure, which is a team scavenger hunt where you race around the island solving clues and searching for landmarks. And we WON the damn thing. Shani solved this crazy word puzzle that led us down a long dead end road in the swamp to a graveyard – and we were about to give up when Alex spotted the gravestones through the bush, which was the key to a 300 point answer in the hunt.

But still…6 days. It’s the curse of vacation. It’s that feeling you get Sunday afternoon at that moment you realize you need to go back to work the next day. Except on a vacation it’s 100 times stronger.

I found myself counting down the days. Today is Tuesday. So we’ve still got Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. Plenty of time. It’s like a bowl of gorgeous, deliciously ripe fruit and each day they’re getting closer to rotting away. Or better yet, vacation is a 6-pack of great beer in your fridge. You’ve got a friend over from out of town and you’re hanging out having a great time drinking those beers, when suddenly you realize you’re on the 4th one and 2 left is not nearly enough.

Friday night we took a Hummer tour in the rain through the dunes on the north part of the island searching for the wild horses that live there. It was raining and the sharp drops were needling into my face as we whipped along the beach at thrilling speeds.

Then we got back to the house, had dinner, and then we were packing, organizing, consolidating, cleaning.

Saturday we got the kids up at 6 AM and hauled ass out of there. I wasn’t getting caught in that goddam traffic this time. We slowly got to the main road and shot down it as more and more cars appeared. It was like the scene in Jurassic Park when the T-Rex is chasing them in the jeep. They can see it charging after them in the mirror. But then they build up speed and the T-Rex is fading away, and then it’s gone. We made it out and free before the T-Rex could get us again.

And Sunday back home? I got up at 5:15 and went for a bike ride, then I painted the hall ceiling, read work emails, mowed the lawn, went to the pool for an hour, picked kale from the garden and made kale chips with Alex, and then Shani and I made dinner. A busy damn day.

Know what? It was relaxing as hell to me.

OK…part 2 is kid observations from OBX. Part 3 is baseball observations on OBX. Good stuff.

Sad Kid

Jacks started his baseball camp Monday. Alex and I picked him up that evening.

“How’d it go?” I asked.

“Man, did I stink it up!” he said cheerfully. His friend Danny (who I was bringing home) chimed in.

“I stunk it up too!”

I didn’t know what to make of it, but after Danny was dropped off, Jack started going after Alex.

“You think you’re so awesome, Alex. This is you: ‘I’m soooo awesome!’”

“This is you, Jack: ‘I’m sooo great!’”

They do this occasionally, and it can go two ways. Sometimes it ends with them laughing like crazy. But this time it got ugly. Jack kept going with an extra edge of intensity in his voice.

I’m Alex and I think I’m soooo awesome. Awesome awesome awesome look at me!

Alex fell into tears and started shrieking: “I don’t do that!”

Here’s the thing, Jack is really pushing up against the edge of kid-hood. He’s out of place. In some ways he’s still a kid. He wants to snuggle on the couch. He watches Tom and Jerry and laughs his head off. But non-kid behaviors are also common. He’s becoming awkward and self-conscious talking to adults. He wants to be alone and away from his parents. He’ll lock himself in his room and blast his music, singing ferociously and punching in the air – the hero of the story he’s acting out.

At dinner we got more into the baseball camp, which was clearly the reason for being mean to his brother.

“How was camp?” Shani asked.

“I stink,” he mumbled, sad this time.

“What do you mean?” Shani responded, a bit of desperation in her voice.

“You don’t stink, Jack,” I brushed him off.

He described missing two ground balls that came to him. He only caught one ball in the pop-fly contest before he was eliminated. He got out when he was batting even though the coach was lobbing balls to them.

And as he does this, he’s met with a relentless onslaught of positivity from Shani and I.

“Of course you dropped the pop-flies. You’re not used to catching tennis balls.”

“You haven’t played in 3 weeks – you’re rusty.”

“You’ve gone to bed past 11 for the entire weekend. You’re just tired.”

And in all honesty, I don’t know if we’re so desperately trying to cheer him up because we want him to feel better or is it really for us. It hurts us so bad to see him down – do we need him to cheer up for our own sakes? Part of me just wants to let him be sad. Part of life is knowing how to pick yourself up when you’re feeling sad – it’s a skill he’s going to needs so let’s let him learn it, right? Hell, I don’t know.

We put him to bed that night. Shani went in to say good night. He pulled her in for a hug and whispered:

“I just want to be good at sports.”

Bad Language in the Dugout

Little league playoffs. Double elimination and Jack’s team had already lost once. It was do or die time. Potentially Jack’s last chance to get a hit this season. I’ve kept the score book all season and this time the head coach asked me to sit in the dugout. Alex joined me.

Two observations of note:

1)    The kids were amped up. They wanted it and they wanted it bad. This did not work to our favor. Kids swung at lousy pitches, struck out, and then slammed their helmets down in the dugout. I would say half the kids ended up in tears of frustration at one point during the game. Rough stuff.

2)    Baseball is second priority in the dugout. Top priority: putting stuff into their mouths. Every kid brought in something: sunflower seeds, big league chew, Bazooka gum. They are constantly trading, begging, swapping, denying, and above all stuffing all that garbage into their mouths. Look, I’m a born low-life, but this genuinely grossed me out. These kids are pigs. It’s like Halloween in there.

Some poor kid left an almost-full pack of Starburst on the bench when he went to bat. By the time he got back there were 2 left. I swear to God kids we’re eating them up while other crap was still in their mouths.

As to the game itself, ultimately they lost 8-4 in a really tight game. But the big question…did Jack get a hit? Well let’s start at week 2 of the season. I’m at the airport about to fly to SF for work and Shani calls.

“Jack said Coach Guy (not his real name) used the F word in the dugout.”

“Really?” I asked.

“He was kinda shaken up about it.”

Crap. By the holy laws of Dad-hood, I have to call Guy and talk to him about this. I didn’t know Guy well at all. I wrote him an email:

 —-

To: Guy@email.com

From: Mikenuck@yahoo.com

Guy – can you give me your phone number? I’d like to give you a call.

 —-

To: Mikenuck@yahoo.com

From: Guy@email.com

I think I know what this is about. My number is: XXX-XXXX

 —-

To: Guy@email.com

From: Mikenuck@yahoo.com

I’ll call you tomorrow. Just so you know, I’m not even remotely pissed off (just in case you were anticipating an annoying angry parent call).

 —-

I think that sent a good tone. When I got a hold of Guy, he apologized and we both laughed about it. At the next game he came up to me with a big smile and we shook hands. Oddly enough, the whole thing had actually made us friends. And for the record, Jack has had terrific fun this season and I like the coaches a heck of a lot.

OK…so back to Jack’s playoff game. First at-bat, he was facing the best pitcher in the league. This kid throws super fast and has an honest-to-God curveball.

Jack walked – but he took a couple swings. He hadn’t swung in weeks. This was an extremely good sign. Next at-bat, he walked again but even fouled off a couple of pitches. After Jack’s walk, they put in a new pitcher.

“I think he’s gonna get a hit,” I said to Alex, who was in the dugout helping me keep book.

Jack got up again in the 6th and final inning. This would be the last chance. Jack let the first 2 pitches go by without a swing. Then he took two balls. Then the third pitch comes in. Ump pumps his fist – strikeout. It was over. Hitless through the season.

“Shit!” I yelled. Then quickly I covered my mouth up. “Sorry, Alex,” I quickly muttered. Then I turned to my right:

Coach Guy was sitting right next to me with the biggest damn grin you’ve ever seen in your life.

BREAKING NEWS: Jack Nuckols sets record

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.