Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Pop -n- Cheese

On the hunt for some pop -n- cheese, the Baseball Championship Series U17 at the Roger Dean Stadium in Jupiter, Florida, did not disappoint. There were roughly 10 teams from Florida and Georgia which gave me a fantastic look at the upcoming class of prospects. A team from Orlando even took the championship. If it can actually be said, I think Florida just might repeat its performance in next year's draft. The talent was even more consistent and fundamentally sound than the tournament held last summer. Bodes well for my territory.

I was even able to have Dr. Rakes stop by to interview several prospects that should go in the first five rounds. The summer tournaments are perfect for interviews since there's generally quite a bit of down time for players in between games. Most of the players had never spoken with a shrink before. Feedback from the players was mixed. The majority, however, said that it forced them to think about their game from different perspectives and multiple approaches. Hopefully they don't quit after the tournament or go into a major slump! As much as I love the Doc, too much thinking can be incredibly counterproductive.

Over lunch, I tried to resist my instinct to ask about Dallas Parker. That lasted all but three bites of my mushroom cheeseburger. The Doc assured me that he's making progress but that it's a slow process which takes a lot of time. To help prove his point, I reminded the Doc that I've been to so many anger management classes that I could quote the steps both backwards and forwards.

But apparently there's more baggage to his relationship with his father than I or even the Doc expected. And that's when the Doc hit me with, "But you can relate to him. Can't you?"

You see, he knows where I've been. It's a place where he hasn't been. A place that's only revealed to him through textbooks or the thoughts of his patients.

Sure, I can relate to Dallas.

Take the time when I was twelve years old. Pops had just finished a shift and a half when he walked through the door. Fortunately for me, the pork chop dinner I had picked up from a local dive was still hot and ready for him to eat. He sat down as I served all three place settings. I called mother who was laying on the sofa, but she was so drunk that she couldn't pry herself off the cushions.

As usual, not a word was spoken during dinner. I tried to eat but my mind wasn't on food. Pops made quick work of the chops. I excused myself after several bites. He never even looked up. I planted myself by the phone. My glove in hand punching a ball into the sweet spot. It was 6 o'clock. If I had made the city all-star team, my coach would call me at 6 o'clock. I was certain that the call would change my life. A couple minutes went by and I figured that I was just midway down the list. Another five minutes went by. Still no call. Another ten. Nothing. Another twenty. Painful silence. I buried my head deep into my glove. I had always made the all-star team. In fact, I had made every team that I had ever tried-out for. But somehow I had to face reality that for the first time ever, I failed to make a team.

With that, I heard my father push back from the table and laugh. He walked over to me and continued to laugh. Only now his laugh turned into one of those cynical laughs. You know, the kind that says you're a worthless piece of garbage. "You didn't make the team, did you?" he asked. Of course, he already knew the answer. Before I could muster my response, he had his belt halfway off.

My mother, sensing what was about to happen, slipped off the sofa and tried to protect her little boy. But she was useless. Pops easily shoved her aside and then cracked the belt against his hand. Out of options, I jerked up and tried to make it over the sofa and out the back door. I almost had it but my big toe nicked the top of the sofa and caused me to stumble. It gave him just enough time to cut off my escape. He grabbed me by the neck and pinned me down to the ground with his knee. "You're a lazy-good-for-nothing-spoiled-brat. You're a disgrace to me, your mother and the whole family. If you just would've practiced harder, this would've never happened." I practiced everyday for hours (rain or shine).

What happened next doesn't deserve a description. By today's standards, he would've gone to jail for that incident and many others. But that was 38 years ago. Things were different. Much different. But what really gets me was that for years I actually thought he was angry because I didn't make the all-star team. It wasn't until after Pops died that I came to realize it wasn't about me at all.


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