Sunday afternoon, July 13. I-95 north. Car parked deep on the shoulder of the road. Tall grass. Ten-year-old son bent over feeding worms chunky, watery, bacon, egg, and cheese biscuit. Between yaks he panickedly cries, "I got it on my trophy! Daddy, get it off my trophy!"
How did it all come to this, I ask myself. We all wondered if we had done the right thing. Bringing these boys down to Orlando. Could they compete? Would they hold up? Would we?
Friday, July 11. Tied baseball game. Bottom of last inning. Bases loaded. Rain trickling down my back. My son takes a lead off third. The team needs his run to win.
July 2007. A couple of dads decide to form a USSSA 10 year-old travel team. Tryouts. Handful of 8, 9, and 10 year-old kids show. They all make the team.
My jaw clenches. The rain gets harder. Two strikes on the batter. Pitcher winds up and releases. Number 5 hits a grounder to the third baseman. Lose, we go home. Win . . . Run! Run! I yell.
August 2007. 108 degrees. First tournament. Two losses Saturday. Two losses Sunday.
Wet ball. Third baseman slightly bobbles it. Run! I yell, louder. Rain pelts my son's face. He sprints down the baseline. Eyes forward. Not looking back. The throw home. I jump.
September 2007. Second tournament. They win one game. Same in 3rd tourny. Maybe this team has a chance. By end of 4th tournament they go on a 9 game losing streak.
Catcher stands ready. Glove extended. Please let him get there, I pray. The slide.
February 2008. Coaches set a high goal - win a tournament, qualify for the USSSA World Series.
His right cleat reaches the plate. Thunk. The ball hits the catcher's glove. The umpire bends at the knees. If he's out, the game ties. Extra innings. If he's safe, well, if he's safe, then . . .
April 2008. Kids play lights-out. They do it. They earn it. They're going.
No noise. I can't breathe. I can't move. The ump sweeps his arms out wide. Safe! Ballgame!
May and June 2008. Parents scramble to raise funds to pay for the team to go to Florida. That nagging question looms. Are we making a mistake? How many games will they really get to play?
High fives. Tears. Dugout clears. Mud splatters white pants, white jerseys. Back slaps. Handshakes. Hugs. Disbelief. We feel the whoo-hoo.
July 1 through 4. Parents shop theme park ticket deals on-line. We buy multi-park, multi-day passes. We expect to use them . . . a lot.
What just happened? I blink. Open my eyes. It's real, but not possible.
Monday, July 7. We grumble at the gate. Only week World Series passes for sale. Can't buy them by the day. $105 to watch our son's team play a couple of baseball games. They lost 20 of the 37 games played in the last year.
Friday, July 11. The Thomson Wildcats (Thomson, Ga., population 7,000) knock out the Katy Curve (Houston Metropolitan Area, population 5.6 million), No. 1 10U AA team in the nation with an 83-17 record. Wildcats move on to the World Series championship game. I kiss my ticket. I kiss my husband. I kiss the sky.
Sunday afternoon, July 13. I-95 north. Pent up excitement. Swimmy head. A sudden understanding of what his team accomplished. He feeds worms in the grass. I hold his trophy for him to see. "It's okay," I comfort. "You didn't mess it up."
He couldn't mess this up if he tried.
(Lucy Adams is a syndicated columnist and the author of If Mama Don't Laugh, It Ain't Funny. She lives in Thomson. Contact Lucy at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit her web site, www.ifmama.com.)