Monday, April 28, 2008

A Silver Lining

"Mother Nature hates our team," I told Coach P. last week.

"I hate Mother Nature, so that makes us even," he said.

We were discussing whether to cancel that night's baseball practice. The rain was coming down sideways so "discussing" isn't really the right word for it; it was more like synchronized whining. We've missed more than half our scheduled practices so far because of the weather, exacerbating the preexisting instability I've nurtured during the long, dark winter that still hasn't quite released its grip.

Besides making it difficult to evaluate how our players can handle different positions, the lack of practices also means the kids aren't getting to know each other as well as we'd hoped. Neither are the parents, who by now would have normally spent a dozen hours chatting with each other while their sons practiced. Team chemistry's at least as important as athletic skill and with Opening Day less than a week away, the only saving grace is that most other teams are having the same problem.

We do have a leg up in that most of the kids on our team know each other at least slightly, either through school or from playing together in one sport or another in the past. The downside is this has made it even harder on those who don't have any connection with the rest of the group.

O. is one of these boys and his father brought it up a few days ago. Not as a complaint, as an observation. Much to his credit, he offered to host a social gathering at his house, a chance for the families to spend some time together before the season's fully underway. We may yet do this.

In the meantime, Coach P. and I have been trying to work out our lineups and Saturday I called him to see if he wanted to come watch my youngest's basketball tournament before scratching out some more possible rosters. Sadly, that's what passes for a good time in our neighborhood.

"Can't," he said. "My kid and I are going downtown for lunch."

"Nice," I said. "How about I take your son out to eat and you take mine to basketball?"

"Normally I would," he said. "Anything to get away from the brat." I heard his son in the background loudly registering a complaint at being so designated. "O.'s coming with us, though."

"Really?" I asked.

"Yeah, I figured he'd like it more if he got to spend some more time with at least one of other guys on the team. It's just his bad luck he's stuck with my kid." I heard his son in the background again, complaining about this new slight.

Sunday afternoon we had another practice scheduled. Although we tried valiantly to get in a complete session, it was cold, windy, and wet and after about forty-five minutes Coach P. shouted, "If anyone catches this next fly ball, Coach Snag's taking us all out for ice cream!"

Sure enough one of the little weasels caught it. They stood there watching Coach P. to see if he was serious. So did I. He was, and began gathering up equipment. As we walked to the parking lot he pulled me aside.

"Don't worry, I'll cover it," he told me.

"Whatever," I replied. "I just want to get inside."

Off to the ice cream shop it was. It was empty when we arrived, not surprising on a nasty day right before dinner, but there were fifteen or twenty of us and we filled it up, the players and their brothers and sisters ordering sundaes and cones and and hot dogs while Coach P. and I argued over the bill. The kids finished eating and went outside to the patio and chased each other around, my son and Coach P.'s and all the rest of them, and O.'s father talked with the other parents and watched his son playing with his new friends and I felt better that the season was going to work out just fine.


Adorable Girlfriend said...

Is this Coach P. single and Jewish, by chance?

I love a man who buys AG an ice cream sundae.

Jennifer said...

the preexisting instability I've nurtured during the long, dark winter

I know that state...

Snag said...

Sorry, Coach P.'s a morbidly obese 72-year-old Pentecostal.

Adorable Girlfriend said...

You know I had to ask. :)

I heart Coach P. He's the best.

Kathleen said...

it's impossible not to make friends over ice cream.