During my year playing ball in Hickory, one of my two roommates was a kid who’d been drafted out of high school. Name: Slater Hughes. Position: 1st base.
His mother controlled his entire life so he never had one. She not only came with him to Hickory, but she stayed in our apartment for a week. That was weird, fucked up and scary all at the same time. So was the fact that he called her “mommy” when he thought no one was around.
I reckon you can imagine how the team treated him once his mother cleared out and he was alone for the first time in his life. We pranked the fuck out of him. There’s not a classic prank we didn’t pull. Including putting his hands in warm water while he was sleeping (in case y’all have heard about that and are wondering…yeah, it works lol). We did some creative shit too. We got together with the equipment guys (there’s always got to be an equipment guy who can run a sewing machine on a minor league team) and had him take apart Slater’s uniform then sew it back together inside out and backwards. He had to stay up all night, but it was worth it to see Slater have to walk out onto the field with inside out pants and his number sewn on backwards.
He must have gotten a lot of shit in high school. From what I could make out, he was something pretty weird: a sports star who wasn’t popular. I don’t think he had any friends, even on the team. There was something even worse about Slater: he never smiled. The kid had like zero sense of humor.
So he took the pranks in Hickory pretty hard. Thing is, we weren’t doing it to be mean the way they give unpopular guys shit in high school. We were doing it for his own good. I remember one night, after we’d pulled some kind of exploding can prank on him, I actually heard him crying in his bedroom. Yeah: crying. I grew up with three younger sisters, so I kinda know what to do in that situation. I just never thought that I’d have to treat a pro teammate of mine the way I treated Melanie Kate when the other girls were being mean to her in middle school.
So I went in to talk to him. That’s when I got most of his story. I tried to explain that he wasn’t getting shit because we hated him – he was getting shit because he needed to learn how to take shit and give it back. The other guys on the team respected him for what he could do on the field…but otherwise they thought he was pathetic and fucked in the head.
As far as management was concerned, they pretty much let us get away with anything where Slater was concerned. Somebody needed to make a man out of the kid, and it might just as easily be us. Our pitching coach even told us we could do anything…with one exception. We couldn’t get him drunk. North Carolina is pretty strict about underage drinking…so pouring beer into Slater to see what would happen was out of the question.
So we weren’t allowed to get him drunk. But that didn’t mean we couldn’t get him laid. He was too good a player to go on being a lameass virgin.
He never had a girlfriend. A couple guys had a bet that he was gay, so I was relieved when, after his mother had gone back to Sioux City, he put up a poster of Miley Cyrus in his room. And not as Hannah Montana lol.
So we had a team meeting without Slater…and y’all can probably guess who was put in charge of getting Slater laid.
The other guys reckoned that, if he hung around me for a while, he’d be able to pick up the crumbs I left behind. Sumter told me that there’s always a bunch of girls lookin to get laid by pro ball players. Some of them used to hang out by the players entrance in Knoxville before and after games…and, sure enough, there were some chicks who hung out in the same place in Hickory. It’s because they all got interested in me real fast that I got my nickname lol.
I’m not the best judge of how a dude looks, but there was nothing wrong with Slater. He was way taller than I was, but still a skinny kid. The program listed him at 6’3” and 175. Those protein powders his Mom had him taking clearly weren’t working lol. What he needed was a few double bacon cheeseburgers. Besides, he didn’t have to be so dang handsome if I was trying to get him hooked up with a chick who was into ball players. He may have been skinny…but he was also probably going to make it to Dallas. That’d be enough for the kind of chick who hangs out outside a minor league clubhouse.
I’m one of those guys who takes really long showers after a game. I know it sounds weird, but I like cool showers, especially when I’m all sweaty. Since I wasn’t usually worried about there being a ton of hot water left, I was one of the last guys to hit the showers, and was one of the last guys to leave the clubhouse after a game. Slater was the exact opposite. His mom probably taught him to take 30 second showers. He was in, out, combed his hair and dressed before I even had my uniform off.
That made it a problem if we were going to leave the park together so I could get him talking with a chick. Since I couldn’t take him into a bar, I figured that his best chances were outside the ballpark. So I raced through my shower one night so I could walk out with him. (Since we lived together, you’d think he’d stick around so we could go home together. Nope. Even though I had that car I got for my 16th birthday, he always walked home.)
The chicks that hung around after Crawdads games were the Southern type I like, curvy blondes and real friendly. But Slater was fuckin clueless. He was also from Iowa, so he didn’t get Southern chicks…or Southerners in general. (There were a lot of things we had to teach him. Like that iced tea’s supposed to have sugar in it.) But these chicks really wanted to meet him. Only thing is I needed to hold onto him physically so he’d stay and talk.
I started thinking that maybe the Miley Cyrus poster was a fake and that he really was gay after all. And that I was going to lose my bet lol.
I finally got so frustrated with him trying to get away from me that I said – loud enough for the girls to hear, which wasn’t part of my plan – “would you fuckin stand still…I’m tryin to get you laid here!”.
Then the kid took off running. He was the fastest guy on the team, so there was no chance of my catching him.
I knocked on his door when I got back to the apartment. He didn’t answer, but I was so dang frustrated that I nearly kicked it in. (That wouldn’t have been hard the way that building was built.) Finally he opened the door.
“Get your ass out here and sit down.”
We had a small dining table, and that’s where I told him to sit. Then I opened the freezer and pulled out a giant brick of neapolitan ice cream I’d gotten at the Kroger. I got a bowl, put three huge scoops of ice cream in it, grabbed a spoon, and put it down in front of Slater.
“Mom says I shouldn’t have carbs. Especially not late at night. She says ice cream is especially bad for me since I’m probably lactose intolerant.” He looked down at his bowl. “Is there gluten in ice cream?”
“Dude, eat the fuckin ice cream before I knock you out and shovel it down your throat while you’re unconscious.”
“Did you just call me dude? Nobody’s ever done that before.”
He just got more and more hopeless.
“Eat. This ain’t a punishment. You’re going to like it.”
I couldn’t believe I was trying to convince someone to eat ice cream.
Finally he took a little tiny bit of the vanilla on his spoon and put it in his mouth. Then he took a slightly larger bite of the strawberry. Then an even larger bite of the chocolate.
“This brown ice cream – is it what they call chocolate?”
The question was too stupid to answer. The next one was even stupider.
“What do they call the white one?”
“Vanilla. The pink one is strawberry, and when you put the three together in the same brick it’s called neapolitan. Now shut up and eat it. All of it.”
I’m not kidding, but the next time I looked down at the bowl, all the ice cream was gone.
And he was asking for more.
We finished the whole brick that night. I usually like some chocolate syrup on neapolitan ice cream, but I didn’t think Slater was emotionally ready for a sundae.
It didn’t matter. Even without chocolate syrup the kid was finally smiling.