Baseball has been central to my life for as long as I can remember. These days, it’s primarily as a coach, since I’ve become too busy to play on my men’s hardball team.
Let me give you a quick update:
* On Saturday, my Little League team, RC Dairy, lost a devastating semi-final playoff game by the score of 9-7. We had ended the season in 1st place, with a 12-4 record, but in baseball anything can happen in a single-elimination format — and anything did.
I was very disappointed; it took me a day and a half to get over it. Seriously. I couldn’t get that loss out of my head. I loved that team and wanted them to play in a Championship Game, to feel that excitement, have that lifetime memory. I also understood that most kids never get that opportunity. Eight years ago I coached my oldest son’s team, Blue Sky Music, to a championship victory. It would have been nice to do it again, on the same field, with a different child. Maybe I’m still not completely over it.
* The next day, Sunday, Father’s Day, my Travel Team played a doubleheader about fifteen minutes north of Saratoga Springs, an hour’s drive. This team plays on Sundays only, and again it was the end of our regular season. We won both, 11-4 and, in extra innings, 12-11. Gavin had a great day, a couple of big hits, a beautiful sacrifice bunt, pitched three solid innings, and scored the winning run in game two. A close play at the plate, safe, game over! Awesome. A great way to spend Father’s Day.
* Meanwhile, today is the first day of practice for our District 13, ten-year-old All-Stars. That will go hot and heavy until July 13th — unless we come out on top, in which case we’ll move on to Regionals. (I can imagine a dozen parents, thinking of camps and vacation plans, crossing their fingers and hoping . . . not.)
As you likely know, I wrote the book Six Innings about the boys who play in a championship Little League game. It was a book I was highly qualified to write. I know the game, and I know those players (an aside: at this level it is extremely rare to see a girl on the field; softball has swallowed them up).
In revising Six Innings, I cut about 10,000 words. Most of it was back story, character sketches, small moments off the field. We decided that my initial format was too confusing for the reader, bouncing back and forth from game action to character pieces tended to undercut the drama of the game itself. So I cut it to the bone. Painful but necessary. I’ve blogged about this before, and previously shared four deleted scenes: here, and here, and here, and here.
Below, here’s a fifth deleted scene, this time with the focus entirely on two fathers. That’s another lesson learned; there’s not a kid in sight, generally a no-no for children’s books. In short, I needed to write the scene, I needed to know it, but it didn’t have to go into the book. That’s the iceberg theory of writing. Nevertheless, don’t get me wrong: I like this scene a lot, there’s truth in it, and it was something I wanted to explore, how the game helped keep a fractured family connected. Here goes:
Jeff Reid groaned, hit the mute button. “Hello,” he spoke into the phone.
“Is this Jeff?”
“Jeff, hello. This is Casper Lionni,” he paused, “Alex’s father.”
“Yes, Casper,” Jeff replied. “How can I help you?”
“I understand that you’ve got Alex on your Little League team this coming season,” Mr. Lionni said.
“Yes, I do. We’re eager to get started.”
There was a brief pause on the phone. Casper Lionni continued haltingly. “I was wondering if, perhaps, you could use an assistant,” he began. “However, I confess that I don’t know much about baseball.”
“Neither do I!” Jeff joked. “I appreciate the offer, Casper, really. But I’ve been coaching with Andy Van Zant for the past couple of years, so we’re pretty set in that department.”
Jeff could hear the disappointment in Casper’s voice.
“You see, er,” Casper continued, “as you may know, my wife, Lauren, and I, have recently separated –”
“Yes, I heard that,” Jeff admitted. “Small town.”
“I only see Alex on Wednesday nights and alternate weekends,” Casper said.
Jeff nodded, said nothing. Before giving it more thought, he blurted, “Do you know how to keep a scorebook?”
“A scorebook?” Casper repeated. “I’m sure I don’t even know what that is.”
“You can learn,” Jeff answered. “It’s pretty straightforward. You could come to the games and help out that way. Would that suit you?”
“What? Are you saying that — ?”
“We’d love to have you,” Jeff replied.
“Thank you,” Casper said. “This means a lot to me. You have no idea.”
The two men spoke for a few more minutes. The conversation confirmed three things in Jeff’s mind. Casper Lionni was a good guy, he really didn’t know anything about baseball, and he missed his son, terribly.
Jeff Reid hung up the phone, turned the sound back on for the spring training ballgame. The Red Sox just scored a run, a lefty was warming in the Yankee bullpen. He thought, Oh boy, here comes another season.