Thursday, December 11, 2008

Training Day

Lucy's going to obedience training, puppy kindergarten as it's known in the vernacular. My oldest son is taking her. That's a good thing. He's the only person in our family responsible enough to succeed at it.

"How'd it go?" I asked after the first lesson.

"She'll fit in at our house," he said.

"Oh Lord, what did she do?"

"She's a spaz. She jumped on everyone and then stole another puppy's treat."

"So basically she's like your youngest brother, except with more fur."

"Shut up," the youngest yelled from downstairs.

"Don't worry, buddy," I said, "your fur will grow back. We had to shave you because it was so hot this summer."

"Shut up," he yelled again.

There's something about my youngest that begs to be teased. Maybe it's the goofy grin and vacant stare he puts on while it's happening. Maybe it's his thick skin, developed growing up the youngest of three brothers. Whatever the reason, he gets it a lot. He'll probably end up going through years of therapy, but in the short run it doesn't seem to bother him.

In any event, much as our dog is being trained, so is our youngest. Instead of puppy school, however, he's going to a pitching clinic. Once a week for six weeks he and a handful of friends spend an hour working on their pitching and throwing. The clinic is run by R., a local high school coach who played briefly in the major leagues.

The kids are in awe of him, of course. Frankly, so are the dads. Although he knows that, I'm sure, R. couldn't be a nicer guy. He's always got something positive to say to the kids and he always goes out of his way to remind the parents that the whole point of playing baseball is to have fun.

My youngest has gotten to know R. fairly well. He's got the pitching clinic now, took a hitting clinic from him last year, and we played R.'s son's team in fall league. R. often uses my son as an example, in part because the kid usually does a pretty good job and in part because he isn't fazed when R. corrects him in front of the group.

Last night at the clinic, the boys were warming up their arms. There was a low throw to my kid, and when he reached for, he tripped and fell over. He got up and waved to everyone, as if to assure us that he hadn't broken anything.

"What a dork," my oldest said.

"Hey," R. said to my youngest, who waved in return.

"Are you taking my hitting clinic again in January?"

"Yes," my son said.

"Are you sure you wouldn't rather spend the money on a tumbling class?" R. asked.

I would trade a kidney for a picture of my son's face at that moment. Dogged out by a former major leaguer. He didn't know whether to be proud or hurt.

He thought it over while the other kids and dads and his brother and I laughed. Then he gave R. another little half wave and resumed warming up.

"He's a good kid," R. said to me. I made a noncommittal noise.

R. walked over to the boy. "You're alright," he told him.

"Thanks," said my son.

"You think he needs a pitching helmet?" I asked R.

"It couldn't hurt," said R.


Righteous Bubba said...

It is so hard not to ask my daughter if she wants enriched uranium for dinner. Fortunately she says no so I can leave the uranium on the top shelf.