A few years ago my friend and colleague G was fired from his position as baseball coach for our school. I'm a little fuzzy on the details, but here's the basics: G was starting a promising freshman at a position theretofor occupied by a mediocre senior. The senior's well-connected parents and their well-connected friends pitched a fit, and the principal told G to start the senior instead of the freshman. Being both a man of principle and a stubborn Italian, G refused. Being, above all, a man of politics -- and a stubborn Italian to boot -- the principal fired him.*
G is an avid baseball fan who loves coaching perhaps even more than he loves teaching, so I probably don't need to tell you that he took this hard. (Although not hard enough to cave. When the principal asked him for a letter of resignation G scoffed, "I didn't resign; you fired me.") Anyone who knows G can see how much he's missed coaching baseball, which is why we were all so excited for him when a rival school hired him to coach their bad news bears this season.
G's Bears played our Silver Spoons on Friday, after getting trounced by the Spoons earlier in the season. Now, I'm no Roger Angell, but I know a good baseball story when it bites me in the ass. So for the love of the game -- but even more for the love of G -- I lifted a long-standing ban on attending high school sporting events and ventured out to Silver Spoons Stadium on Friday afternoon.
The score was 1-0 Bears when I arrived at the bottom of the 1st. I crossed my fingers and sent up a prayer to the gods of baseball and justice as I joined the lone fan in the Bears bleachers. "Who are you here for?" this baseball mom asked me, scrutinizing me as if trying to determine which of the teenaged team members I might belong to. "I'm here for G," I explained.
Over the course of the next inning, the Bears bleachers filled with one part Bears fans and two parts fellow Spoons there strictly for G. And the Bears kept winning. Spoons heckled the cheering defectors sitting on the Bears side, shouting things like, "Mr. [Principal] says none a y'all are graduating" and "first one back on the Spoons side gets a diploma," which elicited laughter from both Spoons and Bears fan, but didn't even register with G's fans.
Oh, and the Bears kept winning. At least until the 5th inning, when the Spoons scored two runs on Bears errors and turned the game into a nail biter.
The score was 3-2 Bears at the bottom of the 7th (and last) inning. The Bears pitcher struck out the first batter. (I think. I was busy biting my nails, so I might be a little off. The first batter definitely did not get on base though.) The second batter hit a short fly to the pitcher, for two outs with no men on. Which brings us to the third batter for the Spoons, who, PS, is a kid I teach. There were some strikes and a ball and maybe a few fouls (I SAID I wasn't Roger Angell), and then, with a 1-2 count, my kid hit a line drive to third base.
The Bears third baseman bobbled the ball for what seemed like an eternity and then, when he finally got his hands on it, overthrew first base. By approximately 8012 miles. "That's it, it's over" I thought sadly as I bit my nails and watched the batter round first base. But then I heard G shouting, "Make the tag!" and I blinked back tears just in time to see a Bear (the first baseman, I think) make baseball's most beautiful tag. A tag that, if you've been keeping track, ended the game. 3-2 Bears.
G's Bears went crazy. G's fans went crazy. G himself went a bit crazy. "I love you, G!" a Bear yelled genuinely, jumping into his arms and remaining there until just before additional Bears doused G with the contents of the water cooler. I don't know that I've ever seen a happier G.
The best part, though? Two dejected-looking Silver Spoons broke with their team to shake G's hand and congratulate him on a game well played. Oh, and the second-best part is that the Bears are going to the playoffs for the first time in 20 years. Because, as a poster in the stands noted, my buddy G rocks.
*from coaching, not from teaching