So the parents of this dude I met at the bar where Keaton works called me over to their home in Pasadena to see if I was interested in being their younger son’s “baseball tutor” – from what I could make out, the kid was desperate to make the team at his school and they didn’t think he was good enough.
Before I accepted I need to know how not good enough he was. I ain’t no miracle worker. I just wasn’t sure how to ask it politely.
So I tried asking the mother (who did most of the talking):
“There’s one thing, ma’am. I feel awkward asking it, but I have to ask before I accept. Is your son any good? I mean, is he ok? I’m not the person you’re looking for if he has no clue how to hold a bat.”
This was the first and only time that Mrs. Andrews brought Mr. Andrews into the conversation.
“What do you think, Tom?”
I got the feeling that Mr. Andrews was the one who watched the baseball games in the family. Mrs. Andrews was in this because of the kid, not because of baseball. (I was getting a little scared that she might have the makings of a monster baseball mom like Slater had back in Hickory, but it was too early to tell.)
“You have to answer Mr. Block truthfully.”
“Well,” he began slowly, “Lucas isn’t terrible. But the Dodgers aren’t scouting him either.”
“That’s not an answer, Tom. Mr. Block asked a fair question.”
“I wouldn’t ask if I didn’t really need to know, sir.”
Mr. Andrews looked at me.
“He’s ok. Just ok. He’s not the kid who gets picked last for everything. He can run, catch and throw, he can hit some, but he can’t do any of them well enough to make a varsity baseball team.”
I got the feeling that Mr. Andrews didn’t find that out by playing catch with his son. Maybe it was on his report card or something. So, yeah, I was starting to feel a little sorry for the kid. And I did get the feeling that he must love baseball if he got his parents to hire me to help him.
“I’m willing to give it a try,” I said. “But I’m not going to take your money if I think I can’t help him some.”
“And the money?” That was Mrs. Andrews again. “The figure is by the hour, so, if you want to work with Lucas longer, you’ll be paid for it.”
“Thank you, ma’am,” I said. “Where would I work with…Lucas you said his name was?”
“Here. We have plenty of room out back. Shall I show you?” That was Mrs. Andrews again, as she got up and pulled the drapes open. All I saw was dark. “Tom, can you bring me my phone?” It was on the table, about ten steps away from her. “We have all the lights connected to our cell phones. It’s part of our security system.”
Mr. Andrews brought the phone over and handed it to his wife without a word.
It took her a little while to get the app running, but then the lights came up full-blast in…I don’t think you can really call a backyard. In addition to a lot of very green grass there was a swimming pool and a tennis court, both with bright lights of their own.
“See? Plenty of room to run around.” (She said that like she thought we were going to play duck-duck-goose.)
Actually I was already thinking that the tennis court would be useful for batting practice, especially if we took down the net.
I was also fascinated by the swimming pool. Y’all know me and water.
“Do y’all keep the pool heated all winter?” I’d heard that some people don’t do that in California, even if there are plenty of days great for swimming in Southern California winters.
“Yes, we do. Do you like to swim, Mr. Block?”
“Yes, ma’am, I do. A lot. Could I maybe get to use the pool when I’m here sometimes?”
“Oh, certainly. That’s no trouble at all. When can you start?”
I hadn’t exactly said yes yet, but the pool kinda sold me on the idea of becoming a baseball tutor.
“Is Lucas here? Can I meet him?”
“Oh…yes.” Mrs. Andrews. I wasn’t sure why that was the question that surprised her. “Tom, could you go call Lucas so that Mr. Block can meet him.”
“You can call me Hunter, ma’am.”
“You’re from the South, Mr.….Hunter?”
“Yes, ma’am. Maryville, Tennessee.”
“I’m afraid Lucas is a Yankee from way back on both sides.”
“That’s ok. It means he talks funny like y’all…but I’m learning to understand it.”
It’s a joke I use a lot, and Mrs. Andrews laughed at it a little. Ok, it was probably a pity laugh lol. Then it got awkward for a while. Finally, she started asking me about the Crawdads. I think she was a little interested in my answers, but she obviously knew almost nothing about baseball. (She was at least better than the kid at Thanksgiving who didn’t know what a shortstop was.)
Then Mr. Andrews came back in the room with Lucas.
It was hard to size him up with his parents and there making things uncomfortable for him. He was coming off a lot less outgoing than his brother, but then he was sober, and every time I’d met Carter he was tore up down to the floor. I didn’t see Lucas getting in a fight with anyone. He certainly wasn’t built for it: although they said he was 16, he was still a pretty scrawny, which could have been part of his problem. On the other hand, he looked like the kind of kid who was gonna grow three inches overnight lol.
“I’m Hunter,” I said, putting out my hand. Lucas needed to work on his handshake. “I told your parents that I’d like to give this baseball tutor thing a try. I hope I’ll be able to help you.”
“Lucas, tell Hunter that you’re looking forward to working with him.”
“I am,” he said to me. “My hitting especially needs help.”
“What position do you play?” I was hoping he’d pick an infield spot. I never had an outfielder’s arm, so I wasn’t sure I could teach anyone else to have one.
“Any position they’ll give me. Maybe 2nd or 3rd base. What did you play?”
That killed the conversation. We were back to being awkward.
“So when can we get started? I work until 6 a few days a week, and until 9 the others. It’s retail, so my schedule changes. I hope that’s not a problem.”
“Lucas is always home from school by 5. How long does it take you to come from your work?”
“5 minutes. I work at The Gap on Colorado.”
Mrs. Andrews was not impressed by that. She gave me an up and down look that wasn’t very polite.
“I work most weekends, too, so it’s not going to work if you were thinking Saturday during the day.”
“After school is what we were looking for, Hunter.” The way she said my name was just as formal as when she was calling me Mr. Block. “Can you come tomorrow, see what kind of a rapport you can build with Lucas?”
I’m opening tomorrow, so that fits my schedule. And I was curious about the whole arrangement. It could be a lot of fun. I hadn’t done anything with a baseball in over a year. Maybe it was time to get involved again.
“What kind of equipment do you have here?”
“Just about anything you’d need, I think,” said Mrs. Andrews. “Right, Lucas?”
“Yeah,” he said. “I’ve even got a whole bunch of bats and a couple buckets of balls. All you need to bring is your glove.”
I was thinking it might make my glove happy to get taken out of the closet where I had it all wrapped up. That’s the Rawlings I used most of the time in Hickory, not the 30 chicks/30 days Nokona I had in the display case.
“Sounds good, man.” I really wanted to talk to him alone, without his parents, and see what he really was like, but I didn’t see how to do that. I reckoned that could wait until tomorrow.
There was a long, really awkward pause.
“If that’s all there is, ma’am, I reckon I’ll be going.”
“What time will you be here tomorrow?”
“6:30, maybe a little before that.” I knew it wasn’t going to take long to drive from the De Lacey garage to the house, but I almost never left the store at 6 on the dot. There was always some customer with a problem who came in at 5 minutes to 6. “That good for you?”
I’d asked Lucas. Mrs. Andrews answered.
“Yes, that will be fine, Hunter.”
Then we all said “good” and I finally said “good night.”
“Good night, Hunter. Lupe will see you out.” Then she picked up a little bell and rang it. “Lupe, el señor quiere ir, por favor mostrar puerta.”
My Spanish must be getting a little better, since I understood every word. I also realized how they didn’t fit together into a real Spanish sentence lol. But I reckon it must be strange having help in the house that doesn’t speak English.
Lupe – the maid who let me in – appeared very quickly in the door to the room. I said good night again, shook everybody’s hand, said “see you tomorrow” and followed Lupe out. I had all kinds of questions I’d like to have asked Lupe about working for the Andrews, but my Spanish wasn’t anywhere good enough to even begin. If only they had a German housekeeper lol.
So I just left it at “buenas noches”. I’d probably have a chance to talk to Lupe about our mutual bosses later on. She seemed nice, and seemed like she was okay working there, so I took that as a good sign.
Not really sure what I’d just gotten myself into, I hopped in the shitbox and drove home.
(Added 1/20/19: somebody said I should have a link here to the post about what it was like when I started working with Lucas. So here it is.)