I’ve been at this long enough to know that a handful of you will unsubscribe today. If you’re one, thanks for reading as long as you did.
Really, truth be told, this one isn’t for the rest of you, either, though I appreciate your patience or your indulgence or your polite tuneout, or whatever allows you to let this one slide.
This one’s basically for me. Because I’d like for it to end up on half a page in this year’s book. And since yesterday was Father’s Day, I’m ignoring instinct and writing this down, and sending it.
Our son Max isn’t the best player on his baseball team. Far from it, actually, and that’s the kind of team I’d love for him to always be able to play for, or the kind of theater group I’d love for Erica to always be able to sing and act with.
He’s not the best hitter on the team. He’s not the best pitcher on the team. And I can say he’s not the best teammate because that’s a dead heat between a lot of the boys on Coach Tovar’s 10U AAA Dallas Pelicans, a team full of great kids who work their tails off and play the game right and pick each other up.
Max typically hits somewhere in the bottom half of the lineup, and when he pitches, which isn’t that often, it’s usually either in relief or possibly on Saturday. Not on Sunday, when each game sends you home if you don’t win it.
But he was given the ball for a Sunday start in this weekend’s tournament, and when he found out, it put one of the first smiles on his face all week, as he’s a few days into living with a set of braces in his mouth.
The idea from the coaches was to get three innings from Max if possible, with a hope that the team could score enough runs to advance without having to burn one of the frontline pitchers, on a day that could include up to four games.
Through three innings, Max had thrown 44 pitches, for him a really efficient number. Thirty-four of them were strikes. He didn’t go to a two-ball count until the 14th batter, who grounded out to second to end that third frame.
But earlier in that inning, the Parker County three-hole hitter, a left-handed kid named Reep, went about 190 to straightaway center, taking Max deep for a three-run bomb that gave the Express a 4-3 lead.
But in the bottom of that inning, Max turned on a 2-2 pitch and doubled it down the left field line, plating Jake and Drake to give the Pelicans the lead back. Ty’s double to the wall made it 6-4, Pelicans, and the coaches decided to send Max back out to the mound for the fourth.
A kid named Blevins ripped his second pitch of the inning for a double.
But then Max struck out the next hitter.
And the next hitter.
And the next hitter.
Another Pelicans run in the bottom of the fourth made it a 7-4 game.
And the coaches sent Max back out for the fifth, with the top of the Express lineup due.
First hitter: Comebacker. One out.
Second hitter: Lineout to short.
Third hitter: Reep. Whether a 10-year-old kid is able to forget giving up his first home run a couple innings earlier, I’m not sure, but Max walked Reep on four pitches.
It was the first walk he issued on the day.
And the last batter he faced. Because he promptly picked the runner off of first, ending the inning.
Time expired with the Pelicans hitting in the bottom of the fifth.
It was a complete game for Max, his first, with seven strikeouts in his five innings of work. Sixty-eight pitches, 48 for strikes. And, at the plate, a 3 for 3 day on which he drove in runs each time up.
It was part of an 8 for 12 weekend for Max with a pair of doubles, and, in the game that followed his pitching effort, a walkoff single (after a 45-minute lightning delay) to help send the Pelicans to the semi-finals of the 14-team tournament. He thinks it was his first walkoff hit in two years of kid pitch, and when you see how a group of teammates reacts to a moment like that, I’d trust the kid’s memory.
He’s not the best pitcher on the team and he’s not the best hitter on the team, but Max contributed this weekend, a Father’s Day weekend spent an hour away in Benbrook, and he did it while not feeling great thanks to an orthodontist, and that part — fighting through it — may be the part I’m as proud of as any.
That, and not losing composure or confidence or focus after giving up a majestic homer and the lead.
And the kind of teammate that he and nine other kids have grown to be.
Max will probably hate that I wrote this.
Some of you will, too, and I know that.
Some of this I do self-indulgently. Very little of it, if I can help it. But some of it.
It was Father’s Day, and I decided to write this down.