Lucas – who I’ve been “tutoring” in baseball since before Christmas – made the team at his fancyass Pasadena school. Y’all can’t imagine how happy and excited he was. We drove down to give the good news to the family that owns the car wash/batting cage where me and Lucas go to work on his hitting. He jumped out of the car the minute we got there and ran into the car wash office, where Aracely, the owner’s wife, was ringing up a customer.
When I got inside, Aracely was already around the counter and giving Lucas a hug and a kiss. The customer she was ringing up when Lucas burst in got into it too and shook Lucas’ hand, even if he had no idea who we were or what we had to do with the car wash lol.
Then Aracely ran into the little office to get Chuy, who was even more excited than his wife was. I don’t reckon Mexican men are big huggers, but Chuy’s a big back-slapper. He’s a pretty big dude, and doesn’t know his strength when it comes to back slaps. Lucas is still a scrawny kid; Chuy almost knocked him over, but I don’t reckon he minded. Then Lucas got a bro hug from Eric, who was in the office doing his homework or something. Only it was a backwards bro hug, since Eric’s right arm is still in the sling from when he got it caught in the car wash that night me and Lucas got put in charge.
Then all of us walked down to the end of the car wash to give the good news to Abelito, Pancho and Elias. (Abelito is Eric’s younger brother. The other two are the dudes who were working the night that Eric got rushed to the hospital. I finally learned their names.) There was a lot of very fast Spanish and more back slapping, so I could tell everyone was super happy to for Lucas. Given how happy Lucas was, being happy for him wasn’t hard.
Pretty soon Mirna (Chuy’s sister-in-law, in case y’all forgot lol) came over from the taco truck carrying a whole mess of plates covered with aluminum foil. She gave Lucas a big kiss, and said Abel would come over as soon as she got back to the truck to relieve him. (Mirna has been giving us half price tacos, and she’s learned that, no matter how I look, I’m not a total gringo when it comes to tacos. So she brought me a couple of their amazing cabeza ones. Lucas thinks tacos de cabeza are gross lol.)
Then Lucas put the Honda through the car wash – he does his own vacuuming and knows how to get the car hooked into the line. He does his own detailing too. He’s gotten good at it, especially considering how clueless he was the first time he tried to detail a car. The Honda’s his first car and he cares a lot about it, so I reckon he enjoys getting to wash it himself. And how many kids from his school have the run of a whole car wash?
All the congratulating and kissing and hugging and tacos and car washing took a long time, so it was past 8:30 when me and Lucas got to the batting cage. I’ve never seen Lucas crush balls the way he did that night. There were definitely some home run balls in there. If that’s how he batted at his tryout, no wonder they took him.
Chuy pretty much had the keys in his hands to lock the place up when he came to get me and Lucas in the cage. Chuy gave Lucas one of those slaps on the back that knock the air outta you and told him the team was lucky to have a bench player who could hit jonrónes like he was doing in the cage.
Then it was into Lucas’ sparkling clean Honda and back to his house.
We didn’t get there until 10:00. And this time Mrs. Andrews was there.
It’s not too nice to say an adult who’s also your employer is a buzzkill. But Mrs. Andrews was a total buzzkill that night.
It wasn’t even all that late – we get back later than that when we stop for ice cream – so I reckon she was just in a bad mood or something. But you could tell from the way she was looking at us that she wasn’t happy.
That really sucked for Lucas, especially after Chuy and his family were so happy for him. I wasn’t getting something: Mrs. Andrews cared enough about Lucas making the team to hire me to help him, but, now that he made the team, she pretty much just said “very nice” and made us feel like we were in trouble.
Then came the part I was afraid of:
“How come you were working with Hunter if you made the team?”
Lucas saved me.
“I’m only a bench player, mom. I’ve got to do everything I can to get noticed. So I still need Hunter.”
I can’t describe how uninterested Mrs. Andrews looked. She clearly had no clue what a bench player was. And I didn’t get the impression she wanted to find out.
I was also nervous when there was a long pause. I’ll be honest: I was liking the extra money I was making…and I like Lucas, too. He’s a great kid. And a good ball player.
“Well…if you think you still need Hunter, then you can go on working with him.”
She could have asked me if I was still interested. But there was a lot of shit she could have done but didn’t.
“But don’t bring Lucas home this late on a school night again. We made it clear to him: no baseball if his grades suffer.”
That was the worst threat my parents ever made to me. This wasn’t the night for Lucas to hear it.
So I just said I was sorry for bringing Lucas home late and that it wouldn’t happen again. I certainly wasn’t going to tell her we were late because a big latino family had been busy congratulating her son for over an hour.
Then Mrs. Andrews went upstairs.
Once she couldn’t hear us I asked Lucas where his dad was. Turns out he was on a business trip, but Lucas texted him the good news. He didn’t say anything about how his dad had reacted, but it must have been better than the way his mother did.
“I’m gonna get going, man. You’ve got homework.”
“Can you stay a little? I’m too excited to concentrate. Besides, I owe you some ice cream. You kicked my ass at Kiké Hernandez catch.”
So I got my ice cream. Then I did head home. Lucas gave me another bigass hug on my way out: if you don’t count his mother, he had a pretty awesome day.
I was feeling pretty pleased with myself too. I mean, the Andrews hired me to do a job and I did it. I “tutored” Lucas and he made the team. It was also great having something to do with baseball again. Softball is great, and the Parrots are awesome, but working with Lucas was the first time I was involved with actual baseball since I left Hickory. I know I’m not playing pro ball anymore…but I’m still a ball player. Always was, probably always will be. Playing Kiké Hernandez catch with Lucas and putting in time in the batting cage over at Chuy’s made me realize how much I missed having a baseball in my glove and swinging a bat.
And – I’ll admit it – I am kinda wondering if tutoring Lucas may lead somewhere. Not that Lucas isn’t great, but, well, now that I’ve got a baseball in my glove again, I’d like to keep it there.