I'm sitting at Bongo Java at my favorite table up front, trying to steal 30 minutes on a busy Friday morning. For background music, I'm listening to Escondido - "the Ghost of Escondido," which J.P., Joe and I absolutely have been wearing out the past month or so. Great, great first album from a band based in Nashville. It's been fun to listen to them, over and over again, in the truck with the boys. I love it when we're all three into a band or an album at the same time. It happened with the Drive By Truckers and their latest album, Jason Isbell and his latest album and now, with Escondido.
The song of my spring, actually, is Escondido - "Cold October."
On with the show . . .
Tuesday evening, J.P. had a 5:15 p.m. baseball game. Those games often are difficult to get to on time, as they occur right after work, traffic is a bitch, etc. Still, it's great when everyone arrives at 4:45 p.m. because we have time for me to hit infield to the boys, which I love.
The majority of J.P.'s team - the Dodgers - are 8 years old and I have coached 10/12 in the past. So, there's a familiarity and an effortless rapport between us that makes it so easy to coach and teach them. It's great to hit them infield, because they're finally at an age and experience level where we can get some good work accomplished.
If I get to Heaven someday, and that's a big if, I'm hoping my job assignment for eternity is to hit infield to 8 year olds on a beautiful spring evening. For me, it's a small, small piece of heaven and earth. I love it.
So, Tuesday night, it was the Dodgers vs. the Braves. Pretty quickly, I could tell we were playing a good hitting, well coached team. We were a coach or two short, so I coached first and chatted up some of the Braves' dads who were standing along the first base line, leaning over the fence. Classic dad pose. I could tell, as I talked to the dads, that they were a fairly confident group who didn't expect to see their sons lose.
It was a great, competitive game until our boys scored 7 runs in the third or fourth inning to take a 13-6 lead. As I talked with the Braves' dads, it was with more than a little pride that I answered their questions about our team - Where do your boys go to school? How long have they been playing together? Ultimately, the Dodgers won 16-9.
One inning, I played J.P. at pitcher. It's a machine pitch league, so the pitcher is essentially a fielder. J.P. made all three putouts in the inning and I smiled as his teammates chest bumped him in the dugout.
What made the game memorable for me, though, was what happened in the last inning. J.P. was playing second base and their were runners on first base and second base. The Braves had scored a few runs to cut the score to 16-9. The boys were pressing a little bit, I could tell, and there were two outs. The batter hit a hard grounder to J.P. at second. J.P., low to the ground, squared up an centered the ball, but it took a bad hop and hit him in the wrist, then chest. Keeping his poise, J.P. calmly snatched the ball up and whipped it to first, beating the runner by a step for the last out of the game.
As he trotted off the field, I could see he had a tear in his eye from where the ground ball had hit him on the wrist. I stopped him, gave him a hug and said, "Are you okay? Did the ball hit you?" He looked up, a little defiantly, and said, "No, I'm fine," then ran into the dugout. The boys lined up, said good game to the other team and ran out to left field waiting for me to run out to talk to them after the game, as is our long established custom.
J.P., my 8 year old son. Tough guy. Damn, was I proud of him.