Chapter 31

a home run ... just like the story itself :-)

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Summer Boys, Summer Dreams: Chapter 31

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SUMMARY: Two boys growing up together in an idyllic beachfront community share a passion for baseball. One excels at the game and plays it with reckless abandon; the other, less talented, studies the game and those who play it, hoping someday to share what he learns with others. Best friends since childhood, the two have seen how baseball can bring them closer together. Now, having just graduated from high school, it’s about to show them a crueler side of the game. Baseball is about to separate them even though neither wants that to happen. You can find a longer synopsis of the entire story here. Please note that italics are typically used to indicate what a character is thinking or saying to himself.

WARNING: This story is a work of adult fiction and intended for mature audiences only. Any resemblance to persons living or dead is purely coincidental. Unless otherwise indicated by context, all of the characters, leagues, stadiums, teams and clubs portrayed or mentioned in this story are fictional, not depictions of real people, leagues, stadiums, teams and clubs. Please note that the story may describe, depict or otherwise include graphic portrayals of relationships between men and/or adolescent boys that are homosexual in nature. If you do not like or approve of such discussions or it is illegal for you to read such material, consider yourself warned. If you continue to read this story, you are asserting that you are fully capable of understanding and legally consenting to reading a work of adult fiction.

NOTICE: This story is my property and protected by the copyright laws of the United States and other countries. It may not be reproduced in any form without my written permission. You may download a single copy to read offline and to share with others as long as you credit me as the author. However, you may not use this work for commercial purposes or to profit from it in any way. You may not use any of the characters, leagues, stadiums, teams, clubs, or other fictional locations described in the story in your own work without my explicit permission. Nor may you use, alter, transform, or build upon the story in any way. If you share this story with others, you must make clear the terms under which it is licensed to them. The best way to do that is by linking to this web page.

NOTES: Please check these notes every week. If there is something I want to alert you to as I post each chapter, this is where I will I do so. December 9: On Wednesday, December 11, I’ll be posting a very special (and totally non-political) message over at the blog that I hope you’ll take a look at. I don’t ask a lot from you, but this is something I would really like you to read and think about.

SUMMER BOYS, SUMMER DREAMS

Part III – Fall

Chapter 31

“So what do you think of Zachary?” I asked Cameron on the walk back to my place.

“I like him,” he responded. “He’s kind of a hoot once you get to know him; funny, cute, and definitely oversexed, but with a touch of that little boy innocence moms love so much. And like I said, all of that concealed beneath an overabundance of hormones relentlessly seeking an outlet.”

“I like him a lot actually.”

I couldn’t disagree with anything he said. He was right. It was hard not to like Zachary once you got beneath that brash exterior of his.

“A little immature, though, don’t you think?” Cameron added quickly, trying to conceal what I already knew, that he was attracted to the kid.

I had seen it in his eyes when the two of them stared at one another while saying good-bye. He wasn’t about to admit it, but Cameron was smitten.

“He is a little immature,” I agreed. “Though I think playing on this team could be good for him that way. It sounds like he’s never had the chance to really shine on a team. I don’t know why because he’s obviously very talented. But the point is, when you’re as talented as Zachary, you can go one of two ways.”

“You can let it go to your head and get full of yourself and play selfishly, trying to pad your stats and make yourself look good at the expense of everyone else. Or you can buy into the team concept and accept the responsibilities that come with being a leader; helping your teammates get better, encouraging them, supporting them, sometimes even carrying them across the finish line on your back, but in a positive way; one that spurs them to do better.”

“Well, you’re the expert on that I guess,” Cameron responded, “but he and Tavaris stood out as the best players on the team this morning; at least they did to me. I mean, I didn’t even think it was close between him and that other kid, Kevin, as to which was the better shortstop. Did you?”

“It wasn’t,” I said. “Kevin’s a good player. He has pretty good range to his right, not as good to his left. He could get better with his footwork with a little help, but he’s not as quick or agile as Zachary and he’s probably never going to be as good a shortstop either.”

“So why didn’t you tell him?” Cameron asked.

“Tell who what?”

“Why didn’t you tell Zachary he was going to be the starting shortstop? He obviously wants it real bad.”

“I understand,” I replied. “I didn’t tell him because that was just our first practice after all and I need to confirm what my eyes told me today. The thing is, you have to prove you’re the best on the field every day with your deeds, not off the field with words.”

“If and when I’m certain Zachary is the best shortstop, I’ll talk to Kevin about moving over to second base. He could fill a big hole for us there. I mean, Billy is trying his best at second, but it’s a real struggle for him. I need to figure out where we can use him to best effect.”

“And there’s another reason why I didn’t tell him as well,” I added.

“What’s that?”

“This thing has the potential for becoming a mess, Cameron,” I said, looking at him; “a big one.”

“What do you mean?”

“Think about it,” I replied. “I’m gay. You’re gay. Zachary’s gay. If we’re not careful, someone is going to accuse us of playing favorites.”

“That’s ridiculous,” he responded. “I just heard you tell him the best player starts no matter what. Zachary’s the best shortstop, no doubt about it. There’s no way anyone could accuse you of playing favorites.”

“Don’t count on it, Cameron,” I replied.

“Besides,” he continued, “what if you did play favorites? Would it be the first time a coach ever did something like that? I mean, I played on teams growing up. Every team I was on had a coach who played favorites. Yeah, sure, we’re gay, the two of us. Why can’t we cut the gay kid a break for once?”

“Because it would be wrong; that’s why,” I responded, surprised at just how hard Cameron was lobbying for Zachary.

“Do you know what a team is, Cameron?” I continued. “A team is just a group of individuals who’ve been harnessed together somehow to work for the common good; a bunch of guys who’ve decided to put their individual quirks aside for whatever reason and pull together as one unit.”

“They call it chemistry and no one really knows how it happens for sure. But we do know some of the things that destroy chemistry and a coach playing favorites is one of the biggest. It just doesn’t work to ask kids to play for the common good if you don’t do the same thing as a coach. The kids know immediately you’re doing it and they’re not big on phonies.”

“Okay; maybe that’s right,” Cameron said. “But if that’s the case, why wouldn’t you just play the nine best players all the time? If they’re the nine best and you want the best for the team, why play any of the rest of the kids like Billy? I mean, he’s a nice kid, but he throws like a girl.”

“Oh, great, just what I need,” I replied, grinning at him. “Mr. Macho Man picking on a kid who’s a little more fem than he is. Loosen your jock, Cameron; get that testosterone under control, dude.”

That caused Cameron to laugh.

“The point is, everyone deserves a chance,” I responded; “even Billy Barnes, bless his heart. He tries his best, he’s going to get better, and I want the best players rooting as hard for him as they do for each other. Yeah, it can be frustrating at times, but most of the kids understand and will forgive you for playing someone like Billy because there was probably a time when some of them were in the very same position. They can relate.”

“My god, Hunter, you’re a real sweetie as a coach,” Cameron interjected, poking me in the ribs with his arm. “I’m impressed.”

“Impressed enough to get naked and let me have another shot at that ass of yours?” I asked, grinning.

“That would be a no,” he responded.

“But impressed enough to give you a kiss,” he added, giving me a peck on my cheek and then racing off toward my house, which was now in sight.

“More, more,” I shouted, chasing after him. “I need more than that.”

But just as I expected, I didn’t get any more that night.

****

The next couple of weeks passed quickly enough. The two of us started our jobs on Memorial Day and that meant less time together for other things. Cameron moved into the Williams household on Tuesday. He and Zachary would walk over to practice together in the evening and I could see the two of them becoming the best of friends pretty quickly.

Being competitive by nature, there are only so many practices you can subject boys to before they begin to get bored. They didn’t try out to practice. They tried out to play games and it didn’t take long before the first signs of boredom began to creep into our practices.

Not having much choice at that point, I divided the boys into two teams; one with eight players, the other with seven. I asked Tavaris to play first base for both teams except when he was scheduled to bat. When that happened, I would trot out to the field and take his place playing that position.

I did my best to assure competitive balance between the teams, even going so far as to switch players around when one team seemed to have the upper hand. I also asked Cameron to play a position for both teams, usually right field, while I spent most of my own time calling balls and strikes and doing the rest of the umpiring. That helped in evaluating the boys.

Playing games like that brought out the competitive juices and made the whole thing more interesting for everyone. It also gave me a chance to focus in on a couple of positions where the competition for playing time was especially fierce. That was particularly the case at shortstop where I had assigned Kevin and Zachary to the different teams. It didn’t take too many games to confirm my initial suspicion that Zachary was the better shortstop.

He covered more territory in the field, had a stronger and more accurate throwing arm, and was able to pivot much quicker to make the double play. When it came to hitting, it wasn’t close. Kevin was a good hitter, but Zachary was an exceptional one. He and Tavaris were in a class by themselves when it came to hitting and the only question I had was how to use the two of them most effectively in the batting order.

Initially I was tempted to bat them third and fourth in our lineup, an awesome combination of power that would intimidate opposing pitchers. But then I began wondering whether I should make one our leadoff hitter and bat the other third instead.

Both of them would get to bat more often that way; and knowing either was likely get on base in the leadoff spot opened up other options for me. Both Tavaris and Zachary had exceptional speed so either would be able to put himself in scoring position at times by stealing second base. Alternatively, I could move either along with a sacrifice bunt and then count on the other to drive him in hitting third in the lineup.

It was a dilemma because I didn’t have another obvious cleanup hitter, at least not yet. In the end, I decided I was getting ahead of myself and needed a better look at the other boys before making that kind of decision.

Still another advantage of playing games was that it gave me a chance to figure out how to move players around so everyone would get a chance to play. Tavaris was an asset at either first base or in center field; and with a strong throwing arm, I knew I could move Zachary to third base mid-game and give Kevin some playing time at short.

Knowing where I wanted those two to play, the other pieces of the puzzle began to fall into place as I saw how the rest of the boys handled different assignments; and because I was moving the boys back and forth between the two teams, we never got to a point where they got attached to only playing with certain boys. The whole thing was useful in turning us into a team.

From the beginning, one of my biggest concerns was whether the other boys would accept Zachary as a teammate. None of them liked him initially because he was gay and that was the only thing they knew about him. They only tolerated him because I insisted on it. But most boys aren’t really haters deep down inside and I thought there was a chance things would improve as they got to know him better.

That would only work, however, if Zachary did his part. Knowing that, I had taken him aside and told him to keep a low profile, focus on playing ball and stay out of trouble with the other boys by keeping his mouth shut and his temper in check no matter what happened. He had been good about that. Gradually, as the other boys began to see just how good a player he was, they came around as I was hoping they would.

Tavaris was the first. He knew he was a better player than the other boys and he had never had to push himself very hard to be the best on a team. But in Zachary he saw someone who was as good as he was and perhaps even better. Initially, being boys, the two of them used that as a competitive spur to push themselves even harder.

They both wanted to be the top dog on the team, but grudgingly they began to realize they were more or less equals; and it wasn’t very long after that before they were out together near the batting cage, talking baseball with one another and offering tips to the other boys.

Seeing those two become friends, the other boys came around quickly enough. Although I kept emphasizing that winning wasn’t the most important thing, they were boys and they wanted to win and they knew their chances of winning were going to be much better with Zachary on the team. He didn’t play like a girl or behave like one as they had assumed a faggot would. He was pretty normal actually and that made a big difference for them.

It was interesting watching all of this happen and to my surprise it wasn’t long before even Kevin came around. Just watching Zachary play, I think he realized he wasn’t as good. He would never admit it publicly, but boys aren’t stupid when it comes to figuring out their place in a team’s pecking order.

And yet I didn’t want Kevin to get discouraged because he was a good player and would make us better as a team. Knowing that, I went out of my way to encourage him and spent time trying to help him get better

Once Zachary had been accepted, I told him the next step was becoming a team leader and what that involved. He stepped up to the challenge, finding time to work with some of the less talented players and help them with their games while Cameron and I were preoccupied with others.

Best of all he did it exactly the right way, quietly and without calling attention to himself; and because he did it the right way, the boys responded to his leadership in kind. Zachary was no longer the team faggot. He was their friend and teammate and I was glad about that.

If nothing else went right that summer, I figured the season was already a success.

****

It was Sunday afternoon and we were about to begin our final week of practice. Before we did, I gathered up the boys. It was a scorching day and I was planning on working them hard, but I wanted our practice that day to be safe more than anything else.

“Okay, the sun’s up and it’s hotter today than yesterday. We have some afternoon games on the schedule so this will be a good preparation for that. We can play a game the second hour, but we need to spend the first drilling in fundamentals. We’re still making too many dumb mistakes.”

“We’re going to take a water break every fifteen minutes or so and I’ll be watching closely to make sure all of you drink some. But I also want you to feel free to take a water break whenever you need one. It’s important to stay hydrated. Ignoring that doesn’t show me how macho you are. It shows me you’re dumb.”

“And if you’re feeling too hot, I want to know about it immediately so we can get you out of the sun. Some dudes think it’s a test of their manhood to stay out here in the sun without water or rest for the whole practice. I prefer players who are smart. Understood?”

There was a chorus of agreement and then everyone was off to their position. We began with drills and almost all of the boys gave me their best effort; one or two lollygagged until I pulled them aside and gave them a talking to. They picked up their effort and I was pleased about that. Enthusiasm picked up even more when we finally got to the intra-squad game.

Two hours later I decided to call a halt to the thing. They were bushed by then and there was no sense pushing them beyond their endurance.

“Come on in and gather up,” I shouted.

“Good practice, guys,” I said, after the last of them had finally joined us.

“So, the thing is, we don’t have a lot of time left to practice together. Our first game is a week from today against the Lewes Lightning. We’ll have practices every night this week from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. as usual. I know some of you may have other things going on, but the more you can attend the better we’ll be. And then we’ll have a practice on Saturday morning, a tune-up. I’ll announce the starting lineup after that.”

“You can pick up your uniforms at the Municipal Building Wednesday evening after practice. From what I hear, they’re pretty basic, nothing fancy, but people will know who we are.”

“Who are we?” I asked, hoping to bring forth a cheer.

But no one said anything. They just stood there staring at me.

“We are the . . . .”

And still there was no response.

“We are the Rehoboth Beach Sand Crabs!” I shouted, throwing my hands in the air.

“Do we have to do that, Coach?” Billy asked; “no offense, but the name is dumb and that cheer is even stupider, don’t you think?”

That brought forth a couple of snickers. I looked over to Cameron for support, but he rolled his eyes and pretended to stick a finger down his throat. That caused the snickers to swell into a chorus of laughs.

“Okay, maybe that was a mistake,” I conceded. “But you can be darn sure I won’t make any more this season.”

“Don’t worry about it, Coach,” Zachary piped up. “We’re used to coaches doing dumb things, but we’re good enough to overcome all of that.”

That brought forth another round of chuckles.

“Okay, now that you guys have put me in my place, I want to say one other thing. Everyone on this team plays, but not everyone can start the game. And yet I don’t want anyone thinking we have two teams, the starters and the second-string. We have one team and each of you is responsible for making it the best team it can be by playing your very hardest whenever you’re on the field.”

“If you start at a position one day in the first inning, that doesn’t make you the starter. I need to mix and match you so we always have the best team on the field at any given moment, consistent with the notion that everyone gets to play. In any given game, some of you will end up playing the entire game because we don’t have enough to field two teams. Some of you will play just a couple of innings.”

“You don’t have to play me at all, Coach,” Billy piped up. “Hell, I know I’m not very good and I’ll be happy to ride the bench. I’m just thankful to you for putting me on the team. I’ve always wanted to be on a team and it shocked the hell out of my dad when I made this one.”

That brought forth still more chuckles from the boys.

“Well, I appreciate the offer, Billy,” I replied, “but that’s not how it works. I didn’t put you on this team because I needed someone to keep the bench warm for us. I put you on the team because the team needs you to succeed this year. So you can forget about using your time to snooze. I expect you to work and to work hard and to get better every day. Understood?”

“I’ll do my best, Coach,” Billy responded. “But I don’t want to hurt the team either.”

“Well, then, you had best start putting in some extra time practicing because you will be playing. How well you play, how much you contribute, that’s up to you. Maybe you could ask one of the boys to spend some extra time working with you before or after our practices.”

“Sure, he said. “How about you, Zachary? I could sure use some help.”

“No problem,” Zachary responded. “We can talk about it after we finish up here.”

It wasn’t a long exchange, but I realized right then we were a team and I remember thinking maybe I wasn’t that bad a coach after all.

“Like I said, not all of you will play the entire game. We have fifteen players and everyone is going to play so you do the math. The thing is, if you’re not playing, that doesn’t mean I want you to tune out and plug in your ear buds or spend your time texting your friends. Or sexting your girlfriends either,” I added.

That brought forth a bunch of nervous giggles.

“I’ll be keeping an eye on you, especially those of you who just giggled the loudest when I said that. The point is I want you to stay engaged with the game even when you’re not playing.”

“The boys who are playing need your encouragement so I want to hear a lot of chatter coming from our bench. And I want you to be studying the opposing team as well, looking for any weaknesses and letting me or Coach Cameron know. There’s a lot to do even if you’re not playing. Understood?”

Most of the heads nodded and there were a couple of voices raised in agreement.

“Okay, remember to be here tomorrow night promptly at 7 p.m. Kevin, I want to talk to you, but the rest of you guys can leave. Cameron, why don’t you and the girls get the gear packed up and stowed away in the trunk of my car while I talk to Kevin? And if any of you boys want to help the girls lug that equipment over to my car, be my guest.”

“Will do,” Cameron said.

With that the mob of boys broke up, racing to get to the gear to help the girls out. I remember smiling because those girls Cameron had enlisted weren’t lugging very much gear at all. They were the center of attention and they loved it.

“Good practice, Kevin,” I said, turning to him.

“Thanks, Coach,” he replied.

“The reason I asked you to stay is because I wanted to ask whether you’ve ever played second base.”

“Nope; I never have, Coach,” he said, averting his eyes and staring down at his feet.

He knew what I was about to suggest.

“Well, the thing is, we have a hole over there that needs to be filled,” I continued. “Billy’s trying hard, but I think he’s better suited for the outfield. I’ve already talked to him about that and he’s willing to make the switch. But I need someone to fill that position and I think you’re the best choice.”

“Are you open to doing that?”

“Oh, jeez, Coach, I dunno,” he said. “I mean, I’ve played shortstop all my life. It’s the position my Dad played and I play shortstop for the high school team. Why not move Zachary over to second? He would do as good a job as me, probably even better. You know what I mean?”

I had figured he would suggest that and had tried my best to come up with an explanation that wouldn’t hurt his feelings; but sometimes there’s just no easy way to escape the truth.

“I did think about that, Kevin,” I said. “I mean, you’re both very good shortstops, but a big part of playing shortstop is range.”

“You both have pretty good range to your right,” I continued, without mentioning that Zachary had better range to his right. “But I think Zachary has a little better range when he moves to the left, toward second base. Moving to the left is less of a problem when you’re playing second base because the first baseman can provide a lot of help on that side of the field. Range to the right is what’s most important at second and that’s one of your strengths.”

“The point is, you would be doing this team a big favor by moving over there and filling that hole; and I would be happy to spend extra time with you this week helping you to get the footwork right and everything else that goes with the job. Not that you’re going to need that much help. You’re a talented player, Kevin. You’ll pick it up real quick.”

“So what do you think?”

“Um, well, sure, I guess I could think about that,” he replied. “But I’m a little worried my Dad might not be all that happy with that kind of move.”

“I could talk to him if you want,” I said.

“No, that probably wouldn’t be a good idea,” Kevin replied; “not at all. Let me talk to him tonight and let you know tomorrow. Is that okay, Coach?”

“Sure,” I responded.

He started to walk away.

“Kevin,” I shouted after him.

He stopped and turned around.

“Yeah?”

“It’s a big hole. Everyone on the team knows it; heck, even Billy knows it. I wouldn’t ask just anyone to fill it. You’re the best dude for the job and the rest of the guys will be grateful to you if you can do it.”

“Okay, thanks,” he said, grinning. “I’ll think about it, Coach. I really will.”

By that time Cameron and the others had finished packing the car. I was about to head over there when I spotted a familiar figure approaching from the other direction. It was Coach Lodge.

“Can I talk to you, Hunter?” he asked.

“Sure; of course,” I replied. “Hold on a second.”

“Why don’t you give Zachary a ride home and I’ll be along shortly,” I said, tossing my car keys to Cameron. “I need to talk to Coach Lodge here.”

“Will do,” Cameron replied; “although Tavaris and Zachary are going to stay a while longer and work with Billy in the outfield. I guess I’ll stick around as well so we may still be here when you finish.”

“Great,” I said, turning my attention to Coach Lodge. “Sorry about that, Coach. What can I do for you?”

“I hope you don’t mind that I’ve been taking in some of your practices,” he replied. “I’ve tried to sit way back there out of sight where no one would notice me.”

“You don’t have to do that, Coach,” I said. “It’s an honor having you watch our practices and I’m sure it would have impressed the boys you were here.”

“Well, been there, done that,” he replied. “I’m not interested in having anyone second guess you using me as their straw man. I was just wondering if you had settled in on a starting lineup.”

“I’m working on it, Coach,” I said. “It’s more complicated than I thought it would be because I want to make sure each of the boys gets a chance to play. But I don’t want to put all of those who aren’t starting in at the same time, especially late in a game, like we used to. I want to mix and match players throughout the game, but it’s almost like I need a computer spreadsheet to figure the whole thing out.”

“Yeah, I know what you mean,” he replied. “Most of my career I just played the starters so it wasn’t a problem. It was only the last few years I got around to making sure everyone played. It was just easier to put all the second-stringers in at the same time, but it sure didn’t help when it came to winning. You’re a better coach than I was at your age, Hunter,” he added.

“NOT,” I protested. “But thank you for saying that. The other big problem I’m facing is I’m not that familiar with the other teams we’re going to be playing, at least not what they look like this year. It would sure help if I had a better understanding of their strengths and weaknesses. You were always the expert on that.”

“Well that’s why I stopped by,” Coach Lodge said. “Even though I’m not coaching, I still spend a lot of time traveling around the Peninsula trying to maintain support for the league in the different communities; and just talking to boys about all the benefits that come with playing.”

“That’s given me the chance to get a pretty good feel for the other teams. I thought I would fill you in on them if you have the time. It doesn’t have to be tonight if you’re busy; just sometime before next Sunday.”

“Tonight’s fine, Coach,” I replied. “The more I know and the sooner I know it, the better I can plan. I mean, you saw our team tonight. Are we going to be competitive?”

“You are,” he replied. “You’re going to do just fine I think. Ocean City will be your biggest challenge. They always are since it’s the largest community on the shore. The team from Georgetown will be tough, too; and it goes without saying that the kids from Lewes would like nothing better than to whip our asses. That’s a long standing rivalry.”

And with that he was off, filling me on the different teams we would be playing.

There were six teams in the league in all: Ocean City; Georgetown, which was located inland, not on the shore; Millsboro, including the boys from Dagsboro and Frankford (all inland communities as well); Lewes, technically Lewes-Milton because it represented both communities; Bethany, which consisted of boys from Bethany Beach, South Bethany, Fenwick Island, and Selbyville, the largest of the four communities; and Rehoboth Beach.

Even with boys from Long Neck and Dewey Beach, we had the smallest population of all to draw upon, but had always been one of the toughest competitors and won more than our fair share of league championships.

The season would be divided into two halves and we would play each of the other teams twice each half. Whoever had the best record at the end of a half would be the winner of that half; if different teams won the first and second halves, there would be one final playoff game to decide the overall championship.

By the time we finished up I had an excellent sense of the teams we would be playing and I was grateful to Coach Lodge for taking the time to fill me in. He wasn’t one of those coaches who tried to make himself look good by making his successor look bad. He was doing whatever he could to help me succeed and I appreciated that.

“This has been a huge help, Coach,” I said. “Thank you so much for helping me out. I know a lot of people are expecting me to fall flat on my face in this job seeing as how I’m following a legend like you; and who knows? Maybe I will. But it won’t be because you didn’t help me out. You’ve helped me every step of the way and I appreciate it. If I fall on my face, it’ll be because I’m a lousy coach.”

“You’re not a lousy coach, Hunter,” Coach Lodge responded. “You’ve always been too hard on yourself. That’s your biggest fault. But you’re going to be just fine and I’m glad to help. You know, being a legend just means you’ve gotten really old and people don’t want to call you an old coot so they call you a legend instead.”

“That’s fine. I enjoyed my time coaching; and I’m living proof you can teach an old dog new tricks. I changed how I coached over the years and I’m proud of that. I’m not so proud looking back on my early years, but, like they say, live and learn.”

“Have you decided who your starting shortstop is going to be, Hunter?” he asked. “I’m curious about that because you’ve let the competition for that job go on so long.”

“Not for sure,” I said. “I have two good ones, but probably Zachary, especially if I can persuade Kevin to move over to second base and fill that hole for us.”

“That’s an excellent idea,” he responded. “I mean, it’s not my business, but that’s been the biggest surprise to me this year. That Taylor boy is a terrific shortstop. I know he plays on the high school team, but I’ve never seen him in a game. I had no idea he was so good. It makes me wonder why they aren’t starting him on the high school team.”

“It does make you wonder, doesn’t it?” I chimed in.

“Well, I’ve kept you too long,” he replied. “I won’t come by for your next two practices because I’m going to be scouting Lewes for you, but I may stop by the Municipal Building Wednesday night when the boys pick up their uniforms.”

“That was always one of the highlights of the season for me. There’s nothing quite like watching those boys trying on their caps a million different ways until they decide they’re the sharpest looking dude in town. It’s kind of fun, if you know what I mean.”

“I do,” I responded. “There’s nothing like a uniform to puff out your chest a little more.”

By the time we were done Cameron and the other boys were gone. I got back to the house about 3:15 p.m. only to find a note waiting for me. Cameron and Zachary had decided to go down to Poodle Beach.

I wasn’t sure it was the greatest idea for the three of us to be seen there together like that, but I switched into my swimsuit and headed over to the boardwalk to join them.

It turned out to be a fun afternoon.

14 thoughts on “Chapter 31

  1. It seems Hunter really settled into the role of coach. He is a diplomat in handling the boys, especially building Billy’s self esteem. It will be interesting to see how far Cameron and Zachary carry their relationship. An interesting read and most entertaining as you laid the groundwork for the baseball season. Thanks, Kit.

    George K.

    1. You’re welcome, George; and you’re right as well. There’s a lot in this chapter, but it’s mostly foundational. It’s hard to believe I’ll be able to cram everything into the remaining two chapters in Part III. But I guess time will tell.

      It looks like snow will follow the ice tomorrow. I’m off to hibernate and I won’t be up any time early, that’s for sure!

  2. Once again a great story well told Kit. As you have said it is foundational, but foundations are important and without them a building (story) could collapse.

    The bit I want to comment on is how well he handled Kevin. This could have been the source of a lot of tension but unless Kevin’s Dad plays up things should go well.

    I am so glad that you brought in Billy who was just so pleased even to be on the team. I think that I identify a little with him as I was always one of the last to be chosen for the football team and know what it is like to know that you are not a good player. No doubt he will grow through the season and be a much happier boy because you have included him in the team and given him a chance. Well done.

    1. Yay; we have snow and I don’t have to work and I slept forever this morning; and then on top of that I check in here and find some terrific comments. It looks like a perfect day for me.

      Yeah; except for the shoveling, you idiot!

      Shush up. It doesn’t look that bad, Kit responds.

      We’ll see how you feel about that later today, doofus boy.

      Thanks for the comments, Graham. Kevin is turning out to be a pretty okay kid after all and Billy is happy to be on the team. There’s a little Billy in all of us.

      And there’s also still enough of a boy around these parts to go out and play in the snow. I don’t know how things are looking where you are, but the world sure looks great to me this morning!

  3. I am enjoying your tale. I am impressed by your indication of fairness — “it’s not wither you win or lose, it’s how you play the game”. Your indication that ALL will play is necessary and commendable and should be the way ALL coaches function — I know that is what I did when I coached — but to some the win is the MOST important item —- NOT that ALL the boys can develop their unique strengths and learn to work together as a team—as preparation for life!! Keep up the wonderful writing! Thanks for the great reading.

    1. Thanks, Cowpuncher. Unlike some other people who’ve messaged me privately, you can coach on my team any time. I can tell your heart is pure as the driven snow when it comes to these boys 🙂

      And speaking of coaches, it looks like Hunter is turning out to be as good at coaching as Ethan is at playing the game. Of course, he hasn’t been tested seriously yet. We’ll have to see how he does under fire, but for the moment all of the boys seem content and happy. What more can you ask from a coach?

      Okay; so now I’m off to have some lunch and make a snowball or two. Let’s hope I don’t kill myself shoveling snow; if that happens, you won’t even get to see how Part III turns out 🙂

  4. Hi Kit

    I hope you had a good thanksgiving. I have read the comments and can’t think of anything else to add. Your writing is great!!

    I am glad I don’t have to shovel snow. I only want to see it on TV. I told you to come to Fl. and be warm for the winter, but you won’t listen, so turn up the heat. That is better than getting that cutie who is jail bait to keep you warm! (ha)

    All the best

    Tom

    1. Thanks, Tom. Sorry, but Florida’s still too conservative for someone like me.

      As for that cutie, he’s only jail bait if you’re looking at him the wrong way. If you’re looking at him for what he is, a boy with twinkling eyes and a million dollar smile, he’s a little angel and a little devil and someone who brightens the world just by letting you see how delighted he is with life. I think we’re alike that way.

  5. I taught High School Phys Ed in UK for short time as a fill in post for some one. I have always hated PE as a student as I was made to feel useless. I decided that as I was qualified to coach basketball and fitness I would concentrate on that and especially work on those who were considered useless. Best and most successful years teaching I ever did. I say this to say if I can motivate young guys to do it, it can be done and Hunter is even better because he’s a lot more insight full. Love to see this develop along with him and Ethan!

    1. Good for you, Harry. I don’t mean to downplay all the technical aspects of coaching, but it’s always seemed to me that the best coaches are those who are actually interested in helping their charges become better at whatever they’re playing . . . and better people in the process as well.

  6. Great dynamics in the team building process. Hunter really knows how to optimize individuals and build a team. He was masterful in encouraging Kevin. Sounds like he will be on board, although his Dad may be a pain in the butt for Hunter. Very enjoyable chapter. For decades I worked with boys in Scouting where I saw all kinds of leadership styles. Hunter would make a fine Scoutmaster. Fine reading. Thanks.

    1. What? Are you accusing me of being a Boy Scout, Dean?

      What will he you accuse you of next, Kit? Jeez 🙂

      Truthfully, I’ve never been involved with scouting. But I know something about boys so I guess everything works out in the end.

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