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I had a mother once too, a grad of UNC and a diehard Tar Heels fan who from the moment I was born seventeen years ago on April 14, 1991, took one look at my large hands and decided right then and there that I was destined to become a first-round baseball draft pick. Funny thing about destiny though, it doesn’t have any street signs so you don’t always end up where you or your mother thought you would. Instead you land right where you’re supposed to.
Fiasco’s’ Superstar, one of my all time faves comes on DC101 as I pull into our driveway, and I
“If you are what you say you are a superstar Then have no fear, the camera is here And the microphones And they wanna know oh oh oh oh…”
I start going over in my head what Coach K. said about today’s exhibition opener against St. Albans. Okay, he’s right that they ambushed Nealie for a three-run first inning and thatNewman and Patrick let so many balls slip beneath from their gloves they must’ve been off somewhere in lala-land during all nine innings. But that’s no reason to give the Tigers such a hard time, make us show up for extra practice. Pressman and Nealie, our big sluggers, they did their part didn’t’ they? I definitely turned it on as pitcher. And what about that bunt I snagged in the third inning. What the hell does that fat ass Coach K. want? I mean we played the game hard and we should’ve won but we didn’t. It’s time to move on.
A car horn blasts. I turn, look over my shoulder. My dad's black Expedition pulls up, trying to fit in behind my car, mom’s old green Volvo, and the end of the driveway. The tail end of the car is still out in the street so he blasts the horn again, then makes a frantic pushing motion with his arms. I back up, let him pull his car in front of mine. My dad exits his car, waits for me to catch up to him. We’re both making our way up the driveway towards the house when I notice that my dad is more stooped than usual. Ever since mom died last year, his back seems to be bending more and more, like the old fig tree in our backyard during a strong wind.
“How’d you do against St. Albans,” he asks.
"We lost. You didn't come."
"No, a new load of casualties was medevaced in this morning from Afghanistan. Maybe next time."
I roll my eyes. How many times have I heard this before? "Yeah sure, I get it. Well, it wasn't the best game. I mean I played okay but Newman and Con, they sucked."
“Gotta practice more," he says as he reaches the first step leading up to the house.
Although I know that I'm probably dead wrong, I take his suggestion that we should
practice more as an opening and try my luck. "Hey Dad?"
He stops, turns, looks at me as if I’ve interrupted him during an important meeting. "What?"
All of a sudden I feel like a little kid. I look down at my feet. "I....uhm....I….thought, I mean…. if you have the time, you, me, we could practice pitching sometime, you know like me and mom used to.”
I wait, letting my question sink in, then look up.
“Yeah, sure,” my dad says as he roots around in his briefcase for the key. “But at seventeen it’s high time you realize that adults don’t have a lot of free time to just do what they want to, that certain things have to come first.” He unlocks the door. “Catch my drift?”
Then he’s gone, inside. Case closed.
"Yeah, sure. Sounds great. Anything YOU need, Josh, anything at all.” I think about following him inside, then change my mind. I’ve got better things to do, things that for ME have to come first.
Connor, my best bud since we started playing Little League and the rest of my crew are hanging out as usual behind the dumpster by 7-Eleven when I pull up. Like me, all of them are still wearing their green and black Tiger uniform. Newman and Connor are the only ones who’ve switched out of their cleats into Converse.
“Hey, pisher extraordnaire,” Con yells out, already buzzed and slurring his words. He’s sitting, leaning against the white brick wall of the 7-Eleven, his knees pulled up to his chin, looking like he did the first time I met him when we were seven and after our Little League T-Ball game opener. His douche of a dad had yelled at him for more than a half hour in front of the whole team for losing. I remember being so angry at Con’s dad that I wanted to slug him over the head with my pint-sized T-bat just to make him shut up. And I remember feeling really bad for Con. We’ve been friends ever since.
Con has a huge grin plastered across his face. “Where’ve you been? The game’s been over for more than an hour.”
By the looks of the empty blue and white Bud Light cans lying at their feet, he and the rest of the guys already downed three six-packs.
“Hey, you couldn’t wait for me?” I say as I jerk my head toward the pile of empties.
“Yeah, well, we said we’d meet up at six, right after the game. It’s never too early to start the party,” Connor says as he tosses me a Bud, which almost flies over my head. I pop the tab, chug.
“Ooh….that’s good!” I crumple the empty can, lob it onto the heap at our feet.
Pressing against the brick wall, Connor tries to pull himself up. “So…what’s up, Joshie?” He falls back down on his ass, then looks up at me, winks. “Guess I better stay down.”
“Yeah, good idea.” I laugh a little before grabbing another beer out of the yoke.
Newman, all serious, walks over, motions the rest of us towards Con. “What the hell happened to us?”
I nearly spit out my beer.
“What the hell are you talking about, Newman?”
“Something funny, Joshie?”
“Nah,” I say, shaking my head. “It’s just that we’ve won the DCIIA playoffs three years running, so what the fuck do we need to analyze?”
“Yeah well Coach said we made one mistake after another.”
I lob another empty into the heap. “Yeah well, I don’t know what playbook he’s looking at but one sorry loss doesn’t mean the season’s over. Maybe if he just let us play our game, instead of trying something new each and every time we go out on the field, we’d be able to keep this winning streak going.” “I mean, we are the champions, we always have been and always will be.”
“C’mon, dude, respect,” Nealie says after throwing a rock hard at the dumpster. The clanging kind of startles us into being quiet for a minute. “Newman’s right. You know that. We played like frigging JV.”
“No, man, we are the champions,” Con yells before jumping to his feet. Patrick and Pressman follow suit and the three of them form a line. Con places his hands on the shoulders of Patrick, who does the the same to Pressman. Then the three of them start moving like they’re