Sunday, November 19, 2006

Proof that I was right about where change needs to begin…

Sometimes people really get under my skin. Almost daily, someone I come in contact with or have to deal with puts me in a jaw twitching mindset. Having said that, rather than looking at the macro version, a story that is far too true will focus attention to one person.

After leaving this town in a hurry, I basically have seen the world, quite literally, while in the United States Navy. Unfortunately, after I was honorably discharged, I found my way back to the very same small city where I grew up. The side effects of being in such a small environment are painfully obvious. People who I have known since childhood can be found much more closer to my life than I would like. One particular person makes this story so real.

Without any real definition of how I know him as a child, let’s just say this guy is now raising his family in the same low-income housing project that he was raised in, close enough to Edison Elementary School that I walked there after school for a few years until my mother got off of work. The family has always been full of what I choose to plainly call ‘issues’. Looking back, as I had almost forgotten, this guy was famous for striking my out, and also was the guy who almost broke two of my ribs when one of his fastballs hit me. He had a hell of an arm as I recall, striking out most hitters in our league. I justify my existence as a coach by the triple I hit off of him in 5th grade, two days before we left for 5th grade camp.

Today, or more correct to the story, last year, this guy and I coached in the same baseball league. His son was in my son’s class last year as well. He entered his son into the minor division, two divisions shy of high school ball, even though his son was only seven. Yes, our league has well defined age brackets for players, yet he slipped through the cracks in the system. He allegedly had screamed at a player or two for making mistakes during games. This being put out, I looked into him a little. It had turned out that the best job this guy had ever had was an attendant at a local service station, or in today’s terms, ‘petroleum dispensing system’. During this year, he was, and I quote “off of work because of my back”. I blew it off for truth and put it to rest.

This year was a bit different, yet paralleled the last almost perfectly. He was still out of work, and I quote “because of my knee”, and again still a coach of a youth baseball team that he walked from his home, on the far side of Memorial Acres, to the minors field, almost a half mile away. Then coached his team, a physically demanding job at that level to say the least. For the second year in a row, his wife was the team mom. In our league, the team mom is responsible, among other things, to conduct and turn in any moneys collected from, the 50-50 tickets during each home game. This guy, since the first game, was under suspect for, well, let’s call it mishandling funds. After an intense investigation done entirely by volunteers, two of them police offers, no proof was found, nor was the money. He was politely kicked off the advisory board for at least one year. Anyone reading between the lines could have figured out that his lovely wife was the person who mishandled the money, the trouble was, he lied to protect her.

Baseball season is now over and he was removed from the board so I felt comfortable thinking that the only time I will ever have to deal with this family again will be when I find myself shopping at a local dollar store and his wife is the only one at the register. That was what I had planed, but fate took me in another direction. My son started a new sport about a month ago. We signed him up with the high school JV wrestling team. It turns out that not only is this guy’s kid on the same team; he is one of the coaches (or at least Assistant To The Assistant Coach). And to finish putting the icing on the cake, his wife is the team mom. I am not, in any way, helping to coach his team for two reasons. One is that I never wrestled in school so I have no idea what I am doing; And Two because I would like to actually sit back and watch my son in a sport, rather that being so involved that I rarely get a chance to see him. It feels kind of good to just watch. It feels even better to be one of only a hand-full of parents that actually stays to watch their own child rather than just dropping him off.

If there is anything good at all about this add situation it’s this: As I sit and watch this guy help my kid with his form, the guy turns his head to look at me about once every minute or so, and I just stand there staring at him with a smart ass look on my face thinking to myself “that’s right, I’m still here!”

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