I’ve got about 10,000 words sitting in a scrap heap, savagely cut from Six Innings during the revision process. Here’s one little scene — a conversation, really — that didn’t make the book. For two reasons: 1) It’s a scene with two adults, not a kid in sight; 2) It takes us away from the game itself, and we got to a point where we decided to be careful about how often we do that.
With any ensemble piece, confusing the reader is a constant danger. It’s much simpler with one strong character running straight through the narrative (ask Jigsaw). But that was never my intention, for better and for worse. I had Robert Altman in mind, “Nashville,” a large cast. So the game became the single thread running through the narrative, because it was the game that brought all those characters together in the first place, that point in their lives where they connected for those two hours. On a diamond.
Back to the deleted scene: I needed to write this scene, I needed to say it, and know it, but maybe I didn’t need it in the book. Who knows! When I first told people about writing Six Innings, they’d say, “Are you going to tell about how horrible some of the parents and coaches can be?”
Well, no. Not this book. But also, that’s really not been my experience. And when it comes to coaches, yes, I’m biased. I see how much time they put into a season. All on a voluntary basis, without pay, and often without thanks from parents. My overall impression is that these coaches are good men, who are present for our kids, who do their best. Are they flawed? Yup. Do they care first about their own children? Sometimes. Do I like them all? Nope. But I know a lot of these guys. The solution is always the same: Shut up and get involved. And this scene, written below, expresses one little aspect of what I know.
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Jeff Reid snapped on the lamp on his night table. The clock read three o’clock, the wrong three o’clock. He was wide awake, climbed out of bed.
“Honey, what is it?” Naomi Reid groggily asked.
“Can’t sleep,” he explained.
Naomi Reid knew her husband. “Thinking about the game tomorrow?”
“Yeah,” he admitted.
“Turn out the light, come back to bed,” she told him. “It’s just a Little League game.”
“It’s for the championship,” he corrected his wife.
Naomi yawned, bone tired. Shut her eyes.
“Wouldn’t it be great if we won?” Jeff said.
Naomi didn’t hear, or didn’t answer.
Jeff continued talking. “I mean, not for me. For the boys. I’d love for them to have that feeling. Winners, you know?”
Naomi squinted at her husband. “For the boys?” she repeated skeptically. “Not for you?”
Jeff laughed. “Okay, for me, too. I admit it: I’ve never won anything in my life. But mostly I’d love to see those boys win. Imagine the look on Branden’s face. They’ve played so hard this year. Such good kids, you know. They deserve this.”
He paused, “I have to find a scrap of paper. I want to write down some ideas for the lineup.”
Naomi Reid, wife to this good man for eighteen long years that had rolled by like winning seasons, grumbled her assent. “Come to bed soon. You’ll need your sleep. And Jeff,” she said, “those boys are lucky to have you.”