Lucas ate a hot fudge sundae last night. And Alicia and I made sure he ate every last bite.
In other words, he made the baseball team and he’s going to be the starter at 2nd base this year. He promised me he’d eat something good to celebrate instead of those nonfat yogurt and beet powder protein shakes he’s always making for himself…and I decided that ‘something good’ meant a big dish of ice cream with hot fudge sauce, whipped cream and a cherry at the IHOP. I’m sure all that nutritional stuff helped Lucas go from scrawny to ripped, but this was time to celebrate…and this baseball tutor thinks that the way his pupils should celebrate is with ice cream.
Lucas said the first person he called when the team roster went up was me. I know how his parents reacted to his making the team last year, so I could understand why he wasn’t in a hurry to call them. He knew I was gonna be almost as excited as he was. (I gotta admit that I had some trouble sleeping the night before the rosters went up too. I was pretty dang nervous for Lucas…but I reckon I had something riding on it too: his success was gonna be a reflection on my teaching.)
After me, he said he called Eric, who was almost as excited as I was. We all know how much Lucas wanted it…and how hard he worked for it. I can say it now, but dang would it have sucked if he hadn’t gotten it.
I think he texted his father later in the day, and told Mrs. Andrews after he got home from school. Then I swung by to pick him up and take him for his hot fudge sundae. He was still super excited when we got to the IHOP.
“I still can’t fuckin believe it, Hunter,” he kept saying.
“Believe it, man. You worked so hard you fuckin deserve it. I still have trouble believing you were that scrawny kid who couldn’t run I met last December.”
“That’s what good teaching gets you,” he said. “I couldn’t have done it without you. I’m so [dang] lucky Carter ran into you that night.”
“You mean the night he was getting his ass kicked?”
“No…the other night. The one where he asked you about being a ball player. That’s where he got the idea to ask Mom to hire you to work with me.”
I really like Carter, even though he’s a wimpass who can’t fight and I usually see him when he’s tore up down to the floor lol. I reckon I owe him a lot, though.
I really do. The idea that I could coach kids 1 on 1 wasn’t one I had on my own. It took Carter and the Andrews to think of it. And, looking back on the year and three months I’ve been working with Lucas, I realize I’ve loved doing it. Fielding practice has been as much fun for me as it’s been for Lucas I think, and hitting practice has taught me a lot of things I didn’t realize when I was playing and the only swing that mattered to me was my own. It got so I was looking forward to working with Lucas, who, I gotta add, was a model pupil. He was the kind of kid who soaked up stuff like a sponge, plus he’s great to work with because he’s good at doing what he’s shown as much as doing what he’s told…and there were a lot of times when I could show better than I could explain in words what it was I was doing with a bat.
There were a bunch of feelings all mixed up that night I sat opposite Lucas at the IHOP, but the one that I was the longest in figuring out is what I think is called pride. Not the hubris kind of pride; the kind of pride you feel for another person. And I am so fuckin proud of Lucas. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: he’s worked like a motherfucker to get the starter spot. Yeah, the people at baseball camp helped him a lot (and I could never have done the nutrition and strength & conditioning stuff they did with him), but part of it was my work too. So I reckon I’m proud of myself for being a good teacher…and I’m proud of my pupil for having succeeded at what we set out to do. Really: Lucas has been all-around awesome this whole time, he’s been great to teach…and look at what he’s achieved.
I’ve never really tutored or taught anyone before this, so this being proud of Lucas thing is a whole new feeling. It took me a couple drafts of this post to figure out that pride is the word for what I’m feeling. It’s made me think about my own teachers and coaches: is this how they felt when I achieved something important? Like was this how my college coach felt when I got drafted by the Rangers? Or my high school coach felt when I got scouted and got that full scholarship to MT? Or my little league coach when I hit my first home run in a game? Or maybe even how my AP calculus teacher felt when the ‘dumb’ jocks in the class (me and Gardner) came away with B+s after a lot of hard work?
Or…here’s a really crazy thought…is this a little like the way Dad felt when he said he was proud of me all those times?
I saw Mrs. Andrews the same night Lucas made the team, although I didn’t see her immediate reaction when he told her. She didn’t look very interested when I told her I was taking Lucas out to celebrate, although she did tell me that I still had a job working with Lucas, if Lucas was interested.
“Of course!,” he said. “Now that I’ve made it, I have to stay good.”
So I’m still employed by the Andrews. That was good news, and not just because of the money. I’m gonna miss Lucas when we stop working together.
Mr. Andrews wasn’t home from the office when me and Lucas headed out to the IHOP. Lucas told me he texted his father after he’d spoken to me and Eric…and that he texted back ‘congratulations, son’ later in the day. I reckon that’s better than nothing…but I still remember Dad’s reaction when I found out I was my high school team’s starter at short. It was one of the times he hugged me, and he didn’t do that very often. (And, yeah, he took me for a strawberry sundae after he was done hugging me.)
But I know how the Andrews react; I don’t know why I felt surprised when they did what they usually do. Carter once told me that, even though they’re undemonstrative they’re still supportive in their own way. I hope that’s true. And, if nothing else, they cared enough to hire me. They’d never have done that if they were totally uninterested in their son’s life.
Even if Lucas’ own family wasn’t too excited about him making it, there’s a family that was: Chuy’s. They were all involved in hoping Lucas would get that starting 2nd base position. I don’t mean just Eric, who’s become Lucas’ best buddy since we started working out at the batting cage next to the car wash: I mean the whole family. Chuy, Aracely, Abelito and Abel and Lupe from the taco truck. Aracely said she would pray to the Virgin of Guadalupe for Lucas, and I reckon the ‘Virgencita’ (like at lot of Mexicans call her) came through for Lucas big time. I’m not a Catholic, and I’m not a Mexican, so I can’t say I understand fully about the Virgin of Guadalupe, but I know that Chuy and his family all believe in her. It seems easier to me to just pray to Jesus when you need help, but who am I to judge other people’s faith?
When we got to the batting cage a few days after Lucas got the good news, it was like a celebrity was visiting the car wash. Aracely had flowers for Lucas, and she gave him a big kiss and an even bigger hug to congratulate him and to tell him that the Virgencita had answered her prayer. Chuy had a huge hug for him too, and then kept slapping him on the back hard every time he saw him. Lupe and Abel came over individually from the taco truck, each time bringing a couple plates piled high with food. Eric’s idea of congratulating Lucas was dragging him into the car wash and then hitting him full-on with a hose. Abelito helped his brother, and the result was that all three of them were soaked and dripping. Then they came after me. 3 against 1 isn’t fair, even if the 3 are teenagers…so soon there were 4 soaked and dripping people at the car wash. I’m glad I’m not too old to have enjoyed it.
Chuy even invited both me and Lucas over to their place this coming Sunday when they were having a few members of the family over to celebrate Abel’s birthday. He said we could celebrate Lucas’ success too. Of course I said we didn’t want to intrude on a family occasion, but:
“You two are family!”
“Wow,” I said. “Thank you. That means a lot.” I really wasn’t expecting that. I thought maybe he’d say it to Lucas, who’s Chuy’s son’s best friend, but, thinking back on it, I reckon I have gotten pretty close to Chuy’s family. I’m at the batting cage usually more than once a week (I sometimes go just by myself), me and Lucas go to the cage and taco truck a lot, I’ve played a few games with Chuy’s team since that first game I told y’all about…and let’s not forget that me and Lucas ran the car wash the night Eric had his accident lol.
So there’s been plenty of celebration for Lucas, and he deserves every bit of it. But that wasn’t all: there’s still the party at Chuy’s coming up this Sunday. I’ve never been to a latino birthday party. I can’t wait to see what it’s gonna be like.