Tuesday, June 17, 2008

16-0

With only seven games left in the regular season, it was as though we were back at the beginning of the season tonight. A death march of walks and poor fielding. The saving grace was the weather, a beautiful seventy-five degree night. As I told the dad coaching third base, "If it was raining I'd kill myself."

The players didn't have their heads in the game. They missed fly balls they'd normally catch without trying. In two consecutive innings, runners took off from second on ground balls to the left side of the infield even though there was only one out and even though it's been pounded into them all season not to do that. Only the inability of the other team to make a play saved us.

They weren't anything to write home about when they were sitting on the bench either. We run a pretty loose dugout; they're kids and they're going to screw around no matter how much we yell at them, so there's no point in yelling. I save that for my own kids at home. Tonight, though, there was a climbing tree behind the bench and the attraction proved too much for half the team. Even that wouldn't have been intolerable if one of the kids hadn't started smacking the tree with his bat.

"Aaargh!" I said. "Everybody out of the tree, put your bats away, and watch the game!"

"Have we made you cry yet this year?" Coach P. asked a kid after he climbed down.

"No."

"You're the only one then. What's it going to take?"

The boy seemed disturbingly undisturbed by the conversation. "I don't cry much," he said.

"I know," said Coach P. "Do you have a pet?"

"Yes."

"What kind?"

"I'm not going to tell you," he said, a little disturbed now.

"Does it have fur?" asked Coach P.

"Yes."

"Is it a cobra?" I asked.

"No."

"A ferret?"

"No."

"Does it have a pouch?"

"No."

"Is it bigger than a breadbox?"

"No."

Coach P. and I were rolling now.

"Is it a rhesus monkey?"

"Is it edible?"

"It's a rat, isn't it?"

"It's an alligator, right?"

Finally we narrowed it down to some sort of rodent. One of the other kids promptly and accurately guessed guinea pig.

"What's your guinea pig's name?" asked Coach P.

"Emmanuel."

"Why's that?"

"He has brown hair like Jesus."

What a freak show. I wandered away to talk to a couple other players.

"What's up guys?" I asked. Throwing sunflower seeds at them of course.

"Not much. What's the score?"

"Doesn't matter. Don't worry about it."

"Are we winning?" one of them asked.

"Of course we are," said the other. "We always win."

"Oh yeah, right," said the other.

What?

"Both of you, come with me," I barked, herding them away from the rest of the team.

"Sorry coach," they said in unison.

"We're playing three very good teams between now and Sunday. Any one of them can beat us. If we play like we are tonight, I can pretty much guarantee they'll beat us. Do not start thinking we can't lose. I promise you we can."

"Sorry coach," they said again.

Coach P. and I have talked about whether it would be better for the team to lose a game soon. Now matter how much we avoid talking about scores, the kids know and it's becoming too much of a focus for them. This kind of thing makes us wonder even more.

The next few days might answer the question for us.

5 comments:

Jennifer said...

I don't think we have any dugouts that come sans climbing tree... Those damn things are magnets.

Brando said...

"He has brown hair like Jesus" is the quote of the month.

billy pilgrim said...

It's never going to beat out "I am aware of all internet traditions"

Losing a game now is going to crush those boys Snag.

Adorable Girlfriend said...

Jesus had brown hair?

What will you goys think of next?!

Go team!

Righteous Bubba said...

Losing a game now is going to crush those boys Snag.

Awww, their first crush!