At Thanksgiving dinner, I met a baseball-crazy 8 year old boy named Cody, who was super excited to meet me, a real life pro ball player (ok, an ex one lol.) Cody was hoping we could play catch, but it rained the whole day. I promised him a rain check and made good on it the following Wednesday. I went over to his moms’ (yeah…the apostrophe’s in the right place, Cody has two moms) and me and Cody had a great game of catch in the backyard. I was interested to see how he hit, so I arranged to pick him up the next evening and take him to Chuy’s batting cage/car wash down in Alhambra.
Work was real stressful that day. The store was full of customers who had their heads stuck up their asses doing their Christmas shopping. It made me wish (like it usually does) that they’d all just go to the RiteAid and buy a Gap/Banana Republic gift card there and leave us alone in the store so we can deal with the people who actually know what they’re shopping for.
Cody was all ready for me when I got there again, although this time he was at least waiting inside. He brought three bats along (“I’m too big for this one now,” he said about one of them, “but it was my favorite and I still like to use it.” It took me back to when I’d get sad about outgrowing favorite pieces of equipment, although, with me, it was when I got too big for a favorite glove that I’d get all depressed. One glove I loved so much is still in my trophy case in my bedroom back home.)
Simone passed up the offer of the car wash, which wasn’t a bad thing, since the shitbox needed a wash too after the Thanksgiving rain. Cody ‘interviewed’ me the whole way down to Alhambra (it’s maybe a 20 minute drive), although I don’t know how he didn’t run out of questions to ask me, since he was at it since Thanksgiving. He was especially interested in my little league experiences, although I felt kinda bad that I couldn’t remember too much about them or who’d helped me with what skill. Part of my problem there is that I was a ‘natural’ for most things (the first time they threw a ball at me I hit it)…and it’s hard for people like me to explain what we do. I had some of that with Lucas, although I discovered that Lucas was good at imitating what I showed him. I had a feeling Cody was the kind of kid who needs to have things explained and not just demonstrated.
I was in for a surprise when we got to Chuy’s: Lucas was there, working alongside Eric and Abelito detailing cars.
“You’re working here?,” I asked Lucas. “I had no idea.”
“Every once in a while,” he said.
“The Great White Wey doesn’t get enough allowance from his parents,” said Eric, whipping a towel in Lucas’ direction.
“Call me that again…,” said Lucas, getting his own towel into position. Eric’s anything but a wimpy kid, but I think I’d put my money on Lucas in a towel-whipping contest lol. Then, to me, he added “I do need a better nickname. What a shame el guapo is already taken.”
“Get me a towel, Eric,” I said, with a laugh. “And don’t forget that I’m el cazador around here.”
“You should be glad we call you…” Abelito said, interrupting himself when he saw Cody was listening “…what we call you. It’s a lot better than el blanquito.”
“That’s because I’m not an anything –ito anymore.” He was right about that. “And you just like it because you came up with it. You’re too young to be reading Moby Dick anyway. Any wey.”
They all thought that was hilarious. Actually, it was kinda funny
Chuy interrupted with a “pendejos, vetene a trabajar!”.
“That’s Lucas,” I said, as we headed back to the batting cages. “I’ve been working with him since last year. He made the varsity squad in his school last year, and this year we’re seeing if we can make him a starter. I’ll introduce you later. The other two guys are the sons of the owner, Chuy.”
Just at that, Chuy walked up to us.
“Another student?,” he asked me, indicating Cody.
Chuy’s a great guy, and definitely didn’t want to put me on the spot. But he did.
“Just checking out his swing for today,” I said, giving Cody a pat or two on his Dodgers cap.
“Mi jaula es tu jaula,” Chuy said, like he always does. My cage is your cage.
So me and Cody got ourselves set up in one of the cages. Chuy helped get the machine set for a boy of Cody’s size, and then I let him loose and told him to hit like he usually does for a couple minutes. I honestly don’t know anything about it, but I wanted to go easy on him. I don’t think you can let an 8 year old body hammer baseballs like he’s in the Home Run Derby.
Verdict: the boy has a decent swing and is good at making contact. That’s a plus. But, although a batting cage isn’t the best place to judge it, he looked like he would hit a lot of fouls on the field. Although a foul tip is better than a third strike. I wasn’t thinking in terms of a full diagnostic evaluation of Cody’s swing…but I could tell it needed some discipline. The kid’s 8; he has plenty of time to learn some.
Lucas, still wet from the car wash, came over to hit a few and, yeah, I guess, show off for my new little friend. He’s got a lot to show off: between me, baseball camp, gaining 30 pounds, and a ton of hard work, he’s definitely got a chance at that starting position he wants so bad. Cody was impressed with Lucas…so then it was my turn. I’d relaxed a lot since the store, but I still needed to burn off some steam. So I smoked a dozen balls back to back. I’ll confess: I was definitely out to show off. It worked. And, yeah, I’ll admit…it’s nice to have a kid look at you the way Cody looked at me.
Then Eric and Abelito came over and I introduced everyone to everyone. Me and Cody walked over to the shitbox and got ready to leave after a bunch of bro hugs all around.
“Missed a spot,” I said to Lucas, pointing to a place on the driver’s side rear door of my car, which he’d been detailing.
“What??,” he asked. Then he saw the car was fine. “Good enough for a car like that. Where’s my tip, el guapo?”
“El cazador!,” called Eric and Abelito. “Otherwise he’s gonna give you a quarter, white wey,” Eric added.
He was right, I was already fingering a quarter in my pocket. Although I knew I was gonna give the boys a regular tip after I gave Lucas some shit. I’m picky about who gets to call me el guapo lol.
“Ok, el cazador. Donde esta mi propina?”
“Nuestra propina” Eric called. “This is a collective car wash,” said Eric, who clearly was taking history this year lol. “Even if the white wey deserves it, you give him a quarter and you’re giving all of us a quarter.”
We all laughed, I gave Eric a five, and I steered Cody towards the shitbox. I didn’t want him going back to his moms and telling them that he hung out with Hunter’s foul-mouthed teenage friends who work at a car wash.
We started back for Cody’s house. It was already 8, and I was a little worried about keeping him out on a school night…but I reckon it was something of a special occasion…and it was already Thursday.
“What were all those Spanish nicknames they had for you?,” he asked me.
Good thing he didn’t ask about the nickname Eric and Abelito had for Lucas. I only learned what wey means from Miguel a few weeks ago…and I wasn’t going to try explaining it to an 8 year old lol.
“Simple: el cazador means the hunter. Actually it’s Chuy who started calling me that the first time I filled in at short for one of his team’s games.”
“That makes sense. And the other one?”
“El guapo? It means…um…the cute one, I reckon.”
“Oh,” Cody said. “I guess girls like you a lot. Guys too, I’ll bet.”
“Yeah…well…” Ok, now an 8 year old was making me blush.
When we got back to Cody’s, he got sent upstairs to wash up for dinner. Daphne admitted they ordered a pizza, like they do sometimes, and invited me to stay. I had to say no; Joyce was waiting for me. I knew that because she texted me while we were still down in Alhambra.
“How did it go? Is he as good as his little league coach says he is?”
“He definitely can swing a bat,” I said. “His baseball skills are dang good for a kid his age, although it’s been a while since I’ve watched kids that age play.” I realized that made no sense, but I was kinda nervous since I knew where this was probably going.
“So he could use some coaching?”
Daphne said it, not me.
“There’s not a ball player anywhere who doesn’t need coaching.”
“I mean private coaching. You do do that, right?”
“Yes, ma’am, I do. I…”
“Would you take Cody on as a student? He did nothing but talk about playing catch with you after you went home last night. You could tell him to stand on his head while throwing and he probably would.”
I was thinking that was a pretty good joke for a lesbian who knows nothing about sports lol.
I didn’t know what the fuck to say. It’s not that I didn’t want the money, but I kinda felt I got into this with Cody because I was making friends with him, not because I needed to be paid to work with him. I was still thinking about how Sumter had helped me out. When Mrs. Andrews approached me to work with Lucas, that had always been a business proposition. I didn’t know Lucas at all until I was being paid to be his teacher.
I could continue working with Cody when I could just because I liked him and he was a good kid, but, like I just told y’all, I’m kinda short on time at this point, and I would make more time for Cody if I were being paid. That’s just the reality of the situation. Still, there was also Keaton’s point, that, if I were going to give away my services to Cody that I wasn’t being fair to Lucas’ family for making them pay me.
I wanted to say I’d think about it, but I realized that thinking about it wasn’t going to solve anything. So I went for it instead.
“Sure, ma’am,” I said. “I’ll work with Cody. It’ll be fun.”
I told Daphne what I charged – what the Andrews were paying me, in other words – and she said “I thought it would be more if you’re getting kids to make the varsity teams at their schools.” And I thought Mrs. Andrews was overpaying me lol.
So that’s how I got my second baseball pupil. It wasn’t until I was driving home that I realized I knew very little about 8 year old bodies and what 8 year olds are expected to know about the game. It’s been 19 years since I was 8, I’ve played a lot of ball since little league. I realized I was going to have to do some research about training a kid as young as Cody, but I figured there’d be plenty of videos on YouTube. There was probably a book I could get, too…and I’ve never complained about putting another baseball book on the shelf.