Obviously the most important thing for my baseball pupil Lucas to work on is his hitting. Fielding was always one of my favorite things, and I’m looking forward to playing catch with Lucas so we can both dive for balls, but the thing that’s going to count most at team tryouts is hitting. Unless his fancyass school has a weirdass coach who chooses his team entirely based on how they play defense.
Although I don’t totally suck at pitching, we were going to need a different way to work on Lucas’ batting than me throwing balls at him from one side of his parents’ tennis court. What we needed was a batting cage.
They ain’t so easy to find around Pasadena. Try Yelp and you’ll see. Lucky for me, Lucas knew a place down in Alhambra, maybe 20 minutes from his house, so, after we worked on his running and throwing in the backyard, we piled into the shitbox and drove down there. Although we have way nicer cages in Knoxville, this place had all the essentials.
And a few non-essential things, too. Like a car wash. The place was a combination batting cage/car wash, with one counter inside for both. When the owner saw all the bats we were carrying, he asked if one of us was a pro. So Lucas told him I used to play in the minors with the Hickory Crawdads.
Ok, so this is a total “what are the odds?” situation.
The owner’s name is Jesus, but he goes by Chuy. That sounds like a Wookie name, I know, but it’s really short for “Jesus”. I learned that from the Jesus I lived with back in apartment 643. So it turns out that Chuy knows Hickory. He even lived there for a few months when he first came to this country. (Don’t y’all worry, Chuy is here legally. He’s got his naturalization papers in a frame behind the cash register, right next to his first dollar.) So he’s been to a couple ‘Dads games and even knew about Candy Crawdad and her little dance during the 7th inning stretch. He got a big kick out of it that I was the dude who had to dance with her…although that did get me called el guapo again lol.
Chuy even knew Udderly Delicious and their Moo-oon Pie sundaes. (One thing I’ve learned about latinos: they like super sweet things just like me.)
Chuy used to pitch in the Mexican leagues, but wanted to get married, and his wife wasn’t going to try and live on what a ball player makes in Mexico. So they came to this country. Chuy’s brother was here already, and they got together and bought a car wash. The batting cages were Chuy’s idea. He still wanted to have some connection with baseball.
He admitted that the cages weren’t much, but he said the ball machines were a lot better than the cages looked. Kiké Hernandez even visited them once; there was an autographed picture on the wall to prove it. Kiké’s like my favorite Dodger outside of Corey Seager, and if Chuy’s car wash/batting cage was good enough for him, it’s good enough for me and Lucas.
So then we had to meet the whole family, since they all work at the car wash. Chuy’s wife is named Aracely, and she’s usually the one at the register. Two of his sons work there too, washing cars: Eric is around Lucas’ age and Abelito is 13 or 14. His name is really Abel, but they call him Abelito because Chuy’s brother is also named Abel.
I know, these latino families can get kinda complicated lol.
We got to meet the real Abel too. He was working at the taco truck he runs with his wife, which is half a block away from the car wash. Chuy wanted to make sure his brother came over to meet the dude who played A-ball in Hickory.
There were also two other dudes working in the car wash. They’re not relatives, but they do play on the same recreational baseball team as Chuy, Abel and Eric. I told them that, if they ever needed a shortstop…
Oh yeah, Chuy even said they’d wash my car for free while we were in the cage. I wasn’t going to say no – the shitbox needed it bad lol.
And of course Abel told us we had to go over to meet his wife Mirna and get some specially priced tacos after wefini shed in the cage.
Chuy is real smart and keeps the car wash open until 9. How often do you wish you could get your car washed sometime after 5, which is when most car washes close? Since they’re open late, there’s plenty of time for Eric and Abelito to work after school.
It was good that they were open late, since it was nearly 7:30 by the time Lucas and I got to start using the half hour we’d paid for in the cage. I didn’t mind meeting Chuy and his family – they seemed like awesome people – but I wasn’t sure that I could charge Mrs. Andrews for time we spent talking.
Y’all probably guessed that Lucas has a whole mess of bats at home. I reckon the cream of the crop is the Louisville Slugger Prime he got for Christmas. I didn’t want to say anything against a bat that cost half a grand, but I could tell it was too long and heavy for Lucas. He’d asked his parents for the 34”, I reckon because he reckoned that, since longer bats are heavier, the heavier bat would give him more power. His parents clearly didn’t know any better and bought him what he asked for. Although I started working with Lucas before Christmas, he didn’t tell me that he asked for a 34”. I would have talked him out of it. Or at least tried to.
Instead he’s got a dumbass $500 bat that’s too big for him.
(I used a 33” bat from the time I made the varsity team in high school on. It always worked fine for me. I know I’m a lot bigger than Lucas, but 33” is almost a universal bat size. I reckoned that’s what Lucas needed. Although I knew he’d hate being told to use a smaller bat, I did want to try him out on one of the 32”s he’s got left over from when he first got to high school.)
I let him hit a few balls, or miss a few balls, since he was still swinging too hard and trying to do too much, just like when we practiced on the tennis court. I reckoned I’d do what Sumter did with me in the batting cage: let Lucas try out all kinds of different things, and see what worked and what didn’t.
So I was there making suggestions, and then I thought I’d try and show him what a natural swing looked like. If I wanted to look good for my student, I was doing a great job, because I was hitting everything the machine shot at me. (Ok, I was having a dang good time too.) So I was feeling pretty good about myself, and was all locked in…and then things started getting all crazy around us.
Sirens blaring, an ambulance and a fire truck pulled up at the car wash.