...this is so cool.
As I've done every day for the past month, my journey home from the dayjob requires a quick stop at the high school in order to pick up my oldest son from track practice.
Upon exiting the front door, his head angled downward, hiding an exhausted face shaded in pink, he trudged by the varsity baseball team, paying them little regard.
His best friend, the team's first baseman, noticed my son's lumbering departure, reached out his arm, and offered him a shoulder squeeze. My son glanced up, returned the gesture with a grin, huffed out a comment to be held between pals, and continued on.
That's when my son's friend noticed me in the car.
I smirked. "Hey what?"
"Don't forget to always throw from the heart!"
At this point, not only the entire baseball team, but every other teenager, teacher and coach who happened to be standing nearby, heard the comment, and awaited my response.
Finding myself speechless, I could only nod, my grin widening.
My son's best friend is one helluva kid...
The following excerpt is what he was referring to.
...a bead of sweat traveled from my scalp down the side of my face, where for a moment it lingered, tickling my chin before accepting its perilous fate. Bent over, hands balanced upon my knees, I watched it fall to the ground, nearly evaporating on impact.
"Coach Hummel, gimme a minute with him."
I studied the dust between my cleats. Nothing more than packed sludge, maybe a scoop of sand mixed in for good measure.
"If you leave him in, you'll ruin him. He'll never pitch again."
"Well I guess that'll keep all those precious records of yours safe, now won't it?"
Given a closer look, it wasn't really sand at all, but countless pebbles, rolling about on a field of clay. Their colors, some black, others beige, blended together, providing the locals a baseball diamond similar in shade to any other. But the torn seam in the left thigh of my uniform pants whispered otherwise.
"Son, if you don't straighten up and look me in the eye this instant, you'll be making this decision a whole lot easier for me."
I did as I was told, still wary of my equilibrium. Gathering my senses, I recognized Coach Hummel leaving the ball field, head down, shoulders slumped. Then I looked at Coach Stutzman, and he looked at me.
Under the curious scope of several hundred baseball fans, my coach and I studied each other from atop the pitcher's mound, before at last he spoke.
"Ya know, my youngest son, a few years older than you, he's got the athletic ability of a sloth. That boy could sprain his wrist playin checkers. But his brain's a different story. Sharp enough to leave bite marks. Gets it from his mom, I'm sure."
As he spoke, the home plate umpire's looming shadow lengthened with his approach.
"So he comes to me one day and says he wants to be a doctor. Asks if I have any advice for him. I look him straight in the eye and tell him that no matter what he does, to always keep throwin' from the heart."
Hands on his hips, the umpire joined us on the mound, his brow lowered. He didn't look much older than a high school graduate. Making a few extra bucks over the summer. Stutzman ignore him.
"When he says I've flipped my lid, I tell him about a pitcher on my ball team. A skinny thing, no bigger than any other kid his age, but with a fastball like nothing I've ever seen before. And that power, it don't come from his arm. Not his legs neither. That fastball's thrown from the strongest muscle that boy's got."
With a crooked forefinger, he reached out and tapped on my chest, a smirk curling his chapped lips. "Whatever's happened to you, its got you all bent outta shape. Got your heart pumpin like an angry drum. And out here, this is how your dealin with it. Shootin bullets at punks."
"Coach, you're outta time," the umpire stepped forward. "Gotta make a decision."
"Not up to me," Stutzman said. He stood back, folding his arms over a moistened ball shirt. "Got anything left, son?"
My arm was numb. I had to glance down to make sure it was still attached to my shoulder. Despite that, there was never a decision to make. "Let's play ball."
Stutzman nodded, then squared his shoulders at the umpire. "You heard the boy. But son, if you don't put a stop to these shenanigans they're pullin, they'll have to get Cal Beechy's tow truck to pull me off you when the dust settles."
With a huff, the umpire left us, his finger twirling in the air as he hollered, "Play ball!"
"South of Charm"
...yep, that son 'o mine, he's got some cool friends ;)
Thanks for reading,