“Hey,” I say to the coach’s wife, “can I ask you a question?” We’re sitting along the ball field fence, waiting for the game to start. I’ve been there for about 30 minutes, as requested by the coach, so the boys can warm up and have batting practice before the game. I’ve been hearing other parents and grandparents talking about having an 8 a.m. game on Saturday, but I don’t know anything about it, and I’m confused. “Is there a tournament game tomorrow morning?”
She looks up from her score book. “Oh, no, tomorrow’s game is cancelled,” she says. “It was against that team that we beat 15 to 1, and we won’t get any better playing them, so we just decided to cancel it.”
“Oh, okay,” I say, “just, everyone is talking about some tournament game tomorrow. My husband gets the texts, and he isn’t always the best about passing on the information.” This isn’t actually true, but I think that maybe I can draw her into my confidence, and she’ll explain why I don’t know anything about tomorrow’s game.
“Well, I do get the emails,” she says, ” and there is no game tomorrow. Our tournaments aren’t until next weekend, we just haven’t gotten the bracket yet.”
“Okay, thanks.” I check my watch to see how much longer it will be until the game starts, make sure Mason is still sitting in the bleachers with the other kids, and go back to a game on my phone to pass the time. The two head coaches are standing with the umpire at home plate, discussing whatever it is that they discuss before every game. It’s hot, but I’ve managed to snag a place in the shade, and there’s a breeze blowing against the back of my neck.
“Yeah, we have to be in Scottsboro for a game at 8 tomorrow morning,” someone says behind me. I turn to see two sets of grandparents, trying to maneuver their chairs next to each other, but still make sure everyone is in the shade.
“Excuse me,” I say, “did you say that we have a game tomorrow?”
“Yeah, but I don’t think I’ll make the 8 o’clock game. If we win, though, we play again at a different field in the afternoon.”
“The whole team is playing?” I want to make sure, because the coach’s wife has just assured me that no, there is no game tomorrow, tournament or otherwise.
“Well, yeah, I guess so.” The man has a strange look on his face, as if he can’t figure out why I would ask such a strange question. Truth is, I feel dumb asking. I mean, shouldn’t I already know? The game is just about to start, so I turn back around and really begin to wonder what the heck is going on. Surely there has been some sort of mistake?
Another team mom sets up her chair next to the coach’s wife, her original spot having been appropriated by the grandparents. She’s on the phone, and I can hear her side of the conversation. “Yeah, we have to be there for a game at 8, and then again at 9:45…”
“Shhh!” The coach’s wife leans over and motions that she should be quiet. She says something else to the woman on the phone, but I can’t hear what it is. It seems like she points at me, though, and I start to think that maybe I’m not paranoid after all. Maybe she really did just lie to me about the game.
Denver walks up behind me, a little late to the game, and I stand up so we can walk a little and I can tell him what I think is going on. Between tears of anger and hurt, I tell him what I think is happening. “Let’s go,” he says, “we’re quitting.”
He pulls Toby out of the dugout, and I pack up my things and get Mason’s attention. Toby has no idea what’s going on, and he’s crying, too, because he thinks Denver is mad at him. I try to explain what has happened, but I am so angry that I can barely form the words. The words I do manage to spit out are not polite. As I drive home, my hands are clenched so tightly on the steering wheel, my knuckles are white and I end up with half-moons pressed into my palms from my fingernails.
I don’t understand why the coach and his wife decided that it was acceptable to lie to Toby and me. Do they think so little of us that we don’t deserve to be told the truth? If someone had explained that the tournament was only for the best 9 kids on the team, Toby and I would both have understood. Toby recognizes that he isn’t the best player on the team. He probably would have been happy that he didn’t have to get up early on a Saturday. To be lied to is exponentially worse than to be told a difficult truth. Toby has already mentioned that this would be his last year playing baseball, and like a typical guy, he’s already over it. I’m trying to get over it, but my inner 12-year-old keeps crossing her arms and yelling, “that’s not fair!”. This feeling of unfairness, of helplessness to explain why the jocks get to win this one, is regressing me into the girl who always got picked last for the team, who hated gym class, who wanted, just once, to be good at a sport.
I’m sure there’s a lesson here, but I can’t help thinking that it’s a lesson that the coach and his wife will never learn.