I’ve told y’all that Lucas grew like a motherfucker over the summer, right? He was 5’7” and barely 135 when I first met him. Now, 11 months later, he’s 5’10” and 165 and fuckin ripped. He came into the store for a whole new wardrobe at the start of the school year: nothing he had from the beginning of the summer still fit. It was actually pretty funny, but I was glad for him. I never had to deal with being a skinny kid or small for my age, but I’ve seen how it can suck, especially when you’ve set athletic goals for yourself and you gotta play against bigger, stronger boys.
When I first saw Lucas after baseball camp, I got very suspicious that he’d been fucking around with the shit I told to stay away from – PEDs, in other words. He swore to me that he’d done it all naturally, and that the camp he went to was into intensive weight training and nutrition programs. (That must have left very little time for arts and crafts lol…but Lucas went to baseball camp like a man on a mission. At least he told me they had swimming and tennis for fun. It’s never come up, but turns out that Lucas has always been a very good tennis player. It’s just his heart’s always been with baseball.)
Baseball camp or no baseball camp, Lucas was rarin to go and get back to work with me as soon as he was back. Sabrina was finishing up the painting then, so I couldn’t give him as much time as I was giving him before, but just one session every ten days for a month would probably do him some good. He clearly pushed his body dang hard at camp, and you need to go easy on it after a training cycle like that. Even I know that, and I’m hardly Mr. Strength and Conditioning. I mean…I’m strong and I’m fit, but I never made getting that way into a science. Although I did go through periods of hitting the weight room like a motherfucker. I don’t know how much it helped with baseball, but that 6-pack I kinda had at one point in college didn’t exactly hurt with girls lol.
So now me and Lucas are back to working once or sometimes twice a week, splitting our time between my homemade backyard drills and the batting cage. Although he’s still not really tall enough for the bigass bat he got his parents to spend a fortune on for him last Christmas, he’s at least strong enough to swing it, and he certainly can make the ball go far when he makes contact. He got way better at not hitting too many fouls at camp, but he’s also back to his bad habit of trying to hit everything out of the park. He’s not like he was when he was 30 pounds lighter and always trying to prove something, but, still, if your goal is to be a great ball player, you can’t just keep swinging for the fences.
“It takes more skill to get a shot to drop in for a base hit than it does to blast one over the fence. Don’t get me wrong, man: power is awesome…but you don’t want to be another Sloppy Joe.”
“Who’s Sloppy Joe?,” he asked. I explained. Then I looked at my pupil and thought that we might be able to use him as a ringer the next time a Parrot got sick or had to do something with his girlfriend when we had a game. I reckon I’m getting right proud of him.
“Well…I don’t sound exactly like him. I can run, for starters,” he said. “I’ll race you any time you wanna get your butt kicked.” Ok, so the boy knows he’s fast as fuck lol. “Besides…I want to play 2nd, not 1st.”
I never got why he never said he wanted to play short. Maybe there was too much competition for the position at his school; usually more guys want to play short than want to play 2nd. But, hey: shortstop’s the coolest position on the field.
“Let’s work on…artistic hitting,” I said with a smile, one evening we were at the batting cages.
“You mean gayass hitting,” Lucas said, laughing out loud at his own joke.
“Tell me how many triples you’ve hit and how many home runs,” I said.
“Ok, man, you got a point.”
And he went back to batting.
“Way better,” said Chuy, who’d stopped by to watch Lucas hit. “Don’t swing out of your shoes every time. Makes it hard to run.” His turn to laugh at his own joke. “Trust Hunter…he knows what he’s talking about. A sure base hit is better than a risky long ball.”
“Yeah…this from the dude who knocked one out and won the first game he played with los Cervezeros.”
“Nobody ever told you a homer was bad,” I said. “But I want to see you hitting for the cycle one of these days.”
“Hitting homers is more chulo,” said Chuy’s son Eric, walking over to the cage. He was still dry since he was about to start his shift at the car wash. “The Great White Wey wants to be badass now that he’s not a wimpy kid anymore.”
I was a little surprised: I didn’t know that Lucas and Eric were such good friends for Eric to give Lucas shit like that. I mean…you don’t just call anyone wey. According to Miguel, you gotta be pretty dang careful who you call wey. But Eric’s comment reminded me of something I wanted to discuss with Lucas later on.
“I’m big enough to kick your ass, fucker,” Lucas said. Lucas and Eric are the same age, but Eric’s got probably 10 pounds on Lucas.
“Yeah…only cause you’re holding a bat.”
They went on like that for a little while, and it seemed that everything they said to each other was punctuated by a towel whip, imagined at first, then real when Eric came over a little later after he’d started work armed with a detailing rag. I thought it was cool that they were friends, but I wasn’t sure what Mrs. Andrews would think of it.
There was something else I wasn’t sure Mrs. Andrews would like, but I did want to talk about it with Lucas. The chance came after we had our tacos (Lucas has branched out into lingua, although he can’t yet get himself to eat cabeza) and we were driving back to Pasadena. Lucas thinks his car is cooler than the shitbox, which it is…by a small margin…so he does most of our driving now.
“Has anyone ever taught you how to fight? You never know when you may have to go and punch out a pitcher for beaning you.”
“You can get in trouble for that,” he said. “Big trouble.”
“And sometimes it’s necessary. I took a run at a pitcher in high school and made it to the pros. Getting kicked out of one game never killed anyone. And nobody ever tried to bean me again.”
“Why are you asking me?”
“Because I’ve seen your brother try and fight,” I said with a laugh. And it’s pretty sad. I mean, it’s great that Keaton’s always around to save his ass…”
“…Carter always makes it sound like Keaton doesn’t mind throwing a few punches…”
“No, he doesn’t mind.” That’s for sure. “But your brother would be way better off if he didn’t need someone to fight his battles for him. Especially as he starts so many.” I was thinking back to the night he was going around in the Make America Great Again hat.
“Yeah, well…Carter can be pretty retardedass when he wants to be. Especially when he’s drunk. And don’t tell Mom any of this shit.”
“I’d never talk about a buddy to his mom behind his back,” I said.
“I can take care of myself. Ok, some,” he added. “I can kick Eric’s ass wrestling, and he’s a little bigger than I am.”
“That’s a start,” I said…and probably one step ahead of Carter already. “What do you say we take a session or two off baseball and hit El Tigre’s gym instead?”
“You mean your boxing teacher?”
“That would be sooo cool, man!”
So that was settled, although we agreed not to tell Mrs. Andrews about it.
Two nights later I took Lucas to El Tigre’s place. El Tigre was working 1 on 1 with his star pupil, so we had the rest of the place to ourselves. Lucas was pretty fascinated by the gym…like most boys his age he knew something about MMA, but next to nothing about boxing. And he clearly thought it was super cool that the dude in the ring with El Tigre was prepping for a Golden Gloves fight.
I didn’t need the ring so much as I needed the heavy bag to teach Lucas how to hit. I wasn’t trying to make a boxer of him; it was more a crash course in what Dad taught me in the garage over the course of a couple years. Turns out that’s easier said than done, especially since you don’t want to hurt the kid you’re teaching to fight lol. My respect for Dad went up even further after that lol. I couldn’t give Lucas the complete course: that should have been Mr. Andrews’ job starting years before, but I could teach him how to make a fist, throw a punch and block one. He wasn’t gonna be another Keaton Penner (or even another Hunter Block) after a couple lessons, but he’d be way better off than his brother.
And if I got him good enough to be able to kick his wimpass brother’s ass, so much the better. It would do Carter a lot of good to lose a fight. And losing one to his little brother would really teach him a lesson he wouldn’t soon forget lol.
I’d like to say that Lucas’ first punch drilled a hole in the heavy bag, but he wasn’t as much a natural as that lol. Still, I got him to get the feel of it, and El Tigre was awesome and worked with him some in the ring, showing him a couple tricks of the trade which Lucas got really excited about.
We went back for another couple sessions in the boxing gym. I know it’s not exactly what I’m being paid for, but you can kinda argue that knowing how to fight is going to make Lucas a more complete ball player. Play long enough and a pitcher is gonna try and fuck with you. You don’t necessarily have to punch him in the face…but knowing you can if you need to is a great confidence booster. Not that I think I can turn Lucas into a total badass in a few hours…but I also got the feeling that the other boys in Lucas’ school and on the teams they were gonna play his year weren’t gonna be super tough anyway.
It’s cool that Carter and Keaton to have the relationship they do. They both seem to get something out of it, and Carter’s a great guy when he’s not being too stupid. But I don’t want any baseball pupil of mine not able to take care of himself in case things get rough out on the field. (Or…ok…I’ll admit it…in case things get rough anywhere.)
And then of course what happens? Lucas gets in trouble for getting into a fight at school. I guess I left out the speech about using your superpowers only for good lol, although, from the way Lucas described it, it was pretty much like one of those fights that Dad would have approved of.
It was over a girl Lucas has liked (ok, idolized) for years. Some jerkoffass kid was taking shit about her in the hallway. Pretty explicit shit…the kind you don’t want to hear guys talkin about a girl you respect. So Lucas marched up to the kid, punched him once in the face and gave him a bloody nose. Good he didn’t do it during baseball season or he might have gotten suspended a game for it, but, as it was, I figured it wouldn’t hurt his reputation none.
He got in trouble at school, although it was only some detention, since he’s basically a good kid. He got in bigger trouble at home: Mrs. Andrews even made him miss a session with me (although I got paid) as his punishment. Since I beat up Jacob Bernstein for saying filthy shit about my girlfriend back in high school, I wasn’t in a position to criticize Lucas. So I told him what I think Dad would have told me: he did the right thing, but that doesn’t mean he should go around starting fights.
So Lucas is making progress on all fronts.
One problem, though: he’s gotten on this no dairy kick, just like Corey Seager. It’s only since he got back from baseball camp, but he’s taking it too seriously. He’s still a teenager, and should be having fun – and fun includes ice cream every once in a while. That got him to agree to maybe having frozen yogurt once a month.
Yeah…I’ve got my work cut out for me lol.
I’ve got my work cut out for me as far as baseball is concerned too. Lucas is determined to be his school’s starting 2nd baseman this year. I’m down for that. And I’ll be right proud of both of us if he makes it.