Better Than Perfect(8)

By: Kristina Mathews


“That sounds like something I could do.” Johnny was just beginning to think about what he might do after his career was over. Coaching was something to consider; it would keep him in the game. But he wasn’t sure if he’d be any good at it. He didn’t know if he could explain things in a way others would understand. He could show them, though. He could demonstrate what worked for him.

“So you’ll do the pitching clinic.” It wasn’t a question. The new guy on the team had to prove himself, no matter his reputation, and picking up a teammate was a good way to do just that.

Johnny nodded. Why not? Anything to keep his mind off Alice and Mel. And their kid.

“Tell me about the kids.” Johnny didn’t have a lot of experience with kids. Like, none. Even when he’d been a kid, he didn’t really know how to relate to them. He was the quiet boy in school and in the dugout. “How old are they?”

“I think anywhere from about nine to twelve or thirteen.”

“Old enough to tie their own shoes, then.” In other words, about Zach’s age.

“Yet still young enough that they don’t think they know everything,” Javier added with a slight smile. “About baseball, at least.”

“So these kids should be coachable.” When he’d been that age, he’d soaked up every tip and tidbit of information about the game. He’d been eager to learn and apply the knowledge to his rapidly growing skills.

Could he be the kind of mentor he’d had back then? Could he pass down his knowledge of the game to the next generation? He hoped so.

“They’re good kids. Some of them may have caught a bad break. Single parent homes, families fallen on hard times. Some of these boys might be homeless or in foster care.” Javier was starting to make Johnny a little nervous. He’d been one of those kids. He’d known hard times. Lived with a single mother who’d worked too much. Without a father or a man to look up to.

Until his coach had stepped up.

“I guess you’ve got your man.” Johnny hoped he could be the kind of man these kids needed. “Just give me the time and place.”

“I knew I could count on you. The camp starts Monday. Here’s your contact at the Harrison Foundation.” The manager handed him a slick business card. Johnny’s heart seized as he read the name.

Alice Harrison, Director

“She’s a great gal. Professional. Knowledgeable.” Javier seemed not to notice all the air had been sucked out of the room. “You’ll love her.”

Oh yeah. Johnny had loved her. He’d once loved her even more than he loved the game.





2



Zach was off playing video games, so Alice took the opportunity to work on last minute details for this week’s minicamp. She went over the schedule again, making a slight change in the rotation. She cross-checked the participant roster with the t-shirt order, making sure they had the right sizes ordered for each of the players. Tomorrow she and Zach would sort the shirts into groups for easy distribution at the sign-in station. Everything seemed to be in place. It should be—she’d been doing this so long, the program practically ran itself. But for some reason, she had a nagging feeling that this year wasn’t going to be as easy as she’d hoped.

She took one last look at her notes, hoping whatever it was would work itself out by Monday, and closed the file. She took a deep breath and opened the other file she’d been working on. The one with the nearly completed application packet to the teacher credential program she planned on enrolling in for next fall. She’d managed to graduate before Zach was born, but her dream of becoming a teacher had been put on hold.

She had the application, resume, test scores and letters of recommendation. But for some reason, she still wasn’t satisfied with her essay. She’d rewritten the darn thing so many times, it might as well be a novel. She knew exactly what the problem was.

Fear.

She wasn’t afraid of not being accepted. That was the easy part. She’d graduated with a near perfect grade point average. She’d taken all the preparatory courses and tests. The only reason she hadn’t gone straight from her undergraduate program to the credential program was because she’d gotten married, had a baby and moved out of state.