It was all about the magic – that and a couple of hours stretching the contraption with the help of some good old American vise grips that helped turn a size medium “cup” into a size large and half – if there were such a thing.
The Kid decided that no matter how a “cup” was supposed to be worn, “his cup” was gonna be worn on the outside – OVER his shorts.
Afterall, The Kid’s Frankenstein model was sporting a few “minor alterations” to it and it seemed to have come out all right.
So maybe “Franky” was leaning to the right a little bit due to some over zealous “CON-GLOBULATION” – the word The Kid made up to describe the application of too much model glue.
I BET “FRANKY” WALKED THE WAY HE DID BECAUSE HE WAS WEARING A CUP TOO!
The problem of wearing a cup the way The Kid did was that it made the task of pedaling an already burgeoning load that much more difficult, especially when it came to traversing the town’s mammoth overpass.
The Jacklin Road overpass was the “wall of shame” for a “chubby kid” – OK, fat kid.
If you were lucky, and timed it right, the shame of walking a bike up over the overpass could be minimized – say, just before the sun went up or just before the sun went down.
There was however, an unconventional tactic of assaulting the overpass, one in which the “beast” could be stealthily conquered from the blindside.
It was a brutal step climb and it involved pushing one’s bike through about a foot of thick icicle plants at an unforgiving 45-degree angle.
But the icicle plants and the shear angle of the overpass provided absolute cover from passing cars and pedestrians and that was a good thing.
Sir Edumund Hilary himself would have most certainly shrugged off the sketcky maneuver – but he wasn’t “chubby” – OK, Fat.
There were no sherpas, no fixed lines, no bottled oxygen, just the weight of The Kid and his bike and now “the cup” that was digging into his thigh like an “ice axe.”
ALL I WANTED TO DO WAS TO PLAY BASEBALL NOT BE A DANG MOUTAIN CLIMBER!
The Kid wondered why the store was called BIG 5 because the assortment of athletic clothing and gear made walking down the narrow aisles extremely claustrophobic.
The Kid’s dad had passed on accompanying him on his mission for a cup and now his mom was announcing out loud to the female salesperson, “My son needs a cup for little league.”
Run-walking four narrow rows away from the sound of his mom’s voice and pretending to be looking at baseball socks, The Kid’s mom yelled at him to “Get over here and stop being shy it’s not like we’re buying underwear!”
NO WE WEREN’T BUYING UNDERWEAR –THIS WAS MUCH WORSE!
“We have several youth-sized Athletic Supporters on display here, what size is your son?”
ATHLETIC SUPPORTER – NOW THAT DOESN’T SOUND TOO BAD – IT COULDN’T BE THAT BAD!
The Kid picked up one of the boxes and read the word BIKE which was a very reassuring word to The Kid because he enjoyed riding his bike – it couldn’t be that bad he thought.
Upon closer inspection, the box showed the picture of the enclosed product and The Kid nearly lost it in embarrassment.
“This one’s my size, let’s go mom!”
“Hijo aren’t you going to try it on? I’m sure they will let you try it on in the fitting room over there.”
“Uhhh No, this one is my size and I got loads of homework to do so let’s just go!”
The Kid arrived home with his Big 5 plastic shopping bag and shut the door to his room.
Taking the box out of the bag and looking at it for a brief moment, he realized that the size he had bought read MEDIUM in bold letters.
There was no way in H-E-L-L he was going back to the store – it would have to work!
The last thing left to do he thought was to figure out how the stupid thing was supposed to be worn – on the inside or on the outside?
The Kid laughed and put the box down next to his glow-in-the-dark Frankenstein model on top of his chest-of-drawers.
The Kid thought that if he could figure out how to put “Good Ol’ Franky” there together, he could figure out how to wear a stupid cup.
ON THE INSIDE OR ON THE OUTSIDE?
The Giant slowly recovered from “the shot heard across the baseball field” and Coach Deanda used the unfortunate incident to re-emphasize the importance of wearing a cup.
“Steve, I am sorry about that, I forgot that you weren’t at tryouts, but let’s wear a cup next time ok.”
“Yah, Right!” The Giant huffed under his breath.
“Listen up Senators, you have to protect your ‘huevos’ and I don’t care how tough you think you are, a line drive there WILL send you to the hospital. Just ask Steve here how much it hurts.”
EVERYONE LEARNED A LITTLE BIT OF SPANISH THAT DAY – COMPLETE WITH A GRAPHICAL ILLUSTRATION AT THE EXPENSE OF THE GIANT.
“He ain’t hitting me in my wee-vos, I’m getting a cup tonight,” Mike the freckled kid in glasses intimated.
The Kid imagined that everyone on the team would go home to their unsuspecting parents that night and drop the word “huevos” in various inflections at the dinner table.
“COACH SAYS I NEED TO PROTECT MY ‘WEB-OHS’ SO I AM GONNA NEED SOME MONEY.”
By the time a complete roll call was taken and after the “huevos lecture” concluded, there was only about a handful of sunlight left.
Coach Deanda told the Senators that the next practice would be in two days and that he expected everyone to be wearing their cups and those who showed up without one had one of two choices:
“ One -you get to watch from behind the backstop and be the bat boy.”
“OR – two you can use one of cups I have here in the bag.”
Coach didn’t need to show the “prop cup” if it existed, everyone instantly got the message.
“Good practice Senators. In two weeks we will be getting uniforms and I will be handing them out at Mountain Mike’s Pizza Parlor, but you have to show up for practices to earn them.”
PRACTICE – WHAT PRACTICE!
The Calvary drove up the street in a ceremonious mixture of black smoke and carbon monoxide fumes.
The unlucky few that had decided to load their bicycles into the truck bed and brave the ride in the back had paid the ultimate head-splitting price.
The kids and their bicycles piled out of the death trap with the help of the pony-tailed Coach Deanda who was decked out in his drabby green Vietnam-era field jacket and cowboy boots.
SO MUCH FOR THE WEAR COMFORTABLE CLOTHES AND TENNIS SHOES RULE!
The ice cream truck had already made two complete passes of the field, which meant that there were only about a good thirty-five minutes left before the sun went down.
Coach Deanda, however, was determined to make things right with The Senators.
“OK boys line up over here and as I walk past you give me your name and I’ll mark you off my list.”
The Giant and The Kid were the first two in line and as Coach got to The Giant, he defiantly shouted out his name with attitude.
“You’re not on my list Steve, but everyone who wants to play baseball is welcome on this team, so welcome to The Senators.”
The Kid glanced over at The Giant to give him one of those held in laugh smiles but noticed that The Giant appeared to be doubled-over in pain.
Coach Deanda was a man of his word and even though he had over-slept the first practice, he hadn’t forgotten the mandatory “cup check” threat.
The Giant had taken the tap to “the jewels” with the only aluminum bat from the grease-stained equipment bag filled with wooden factory rejects.
SON OF A BIITCCCHH…CRIED THE GIANT.
The Kid and everyone else who hadn’t procured a protective cup yet yelled out “NO CUP!” before Coach even got near them.
“All right kid, I’ll stay here and you count about twenty steps from your Ronald McDonald sized feet there and we’ll play catch,” Steve the Giant ordered.
The Kid was indeed sporting Size 10 1/2 “dawgs” on a five-foot-five frame and the observant Giant somehow picked up on the embarrassing fact.
“This is how you throw a curveball,” the Giant bellowed from a distance of twenty “Mickey D” shoe-lengths.
The Kid caught the nasty looking “junk” and his glove made a resounding “pop” and then about a second later, the pain kicked in.
The Kid frantically threw off his glove and launched it against a wooden fence belonging to a house bordering the school playing field.
“HOLY C-R-A-P, THAT HURT!” The Kid cried as he fanned his hand in the air like some crazy Las Vegas dice shooter.
The Giant looked pissed off as he walked toward The Kid to retrieve the baseball and then just before he was seemingly about to wring The Kid’s neck, he burst out in laughter.
“Look at that glove man! – Where is the padding? – Is it back at the Flea Market where you bought it!”
The Giant’s face was contorted with the throes of laughter as he picked up the glove and then The Kid waited for the second wave assault of laughter.
The Kid’s glove was no baseball glove at all.
It was his mom’s hand-me-down Reggie Jackson softball glove and it had her name “Mary” etched into it with a hot soldering iron.
TEN – NINE – EIGHT – SEVEN – SIX – FIVE – FOUR – THREE –TWO – ONE.
HERE IT COMES!!!
The instant The Giant picked up and looked at The Kid’s glove with the name Mary etched into it, he didn’t say a thing.
The Kid expected him to blast out the joke to everyone out on the field – but he didn’t.
The Giant silently nodded his head, threw The Kid’s his glove back and continued to play catch with him in complete silence.
The Kid didn’t know what Mickey was smiling at because “Mick’s” gloved fingers were pointing at 4:15 p.m. and there still was no sight of Coach Deanda.
To make things even worse, the wind began to whip trash from the dumpster into the bicycle spokes of the anxious bunch seeking shelter behind the backstop.
“I bet Coach’s truck wouldn’t start,” piped the scrawny kid Larry who was trying his best to contain his ADD by monkey-climbing the backstop.
“NAW – I bet the Coach is asleep!” chimed an angry Rudy who was the Coach’s son.
“WELL GO WAKE HIS A-S-S UP WE WANT TO PLAY BALL!” yelled the tall mystery kid Steve who said he missed tryouts and had got “stuck” on “this crappy-looking” team.
A dispatch of several two-wheeled Senators took off across the school tarmac led by Rudy on his blue Schwinn Sting Ray. As they sped off, the Topps baseball cards instantly came out of everyone’s pockets.
“Who want’s to trade Rollie Fingers for Johnny Bench– anyone?” Steve beckoned like a super-human town crier.
The Kid wasn’t fond of the creepy looking mustache painting the face of the Oakland A’s pitcher but he had plenty of Johnny Bench doubles at home and was actually hoping to strike up a friendship with the menacing giant Steve.
“I’ll swap a Bench for a Fingers,” the Kid offered.
“Here’s your Rollie Fingers, now hand over the Johnny Bench!”
“You’re not very smart are you kid? You realize that I just dumped that card on you for a future hall-of-famer.”
“That’s OK, I need a new muffler for my bike,” chuckled the Kid as he swapped out the tattered Rollie Fingers card currently clothes-pinned to his spokes with the brand new card.
“You’re pretty funny kid – why don’t you grab that ball over there, we might as well play catch while we wait for the knucklehead Coach.”
Coach was all of about five-foot-three (maybe five-foot four on a good cowboy boot day) with dark skin, a wavy mustache and a very long braided ponytail probably left over from the sixties.
No one ever dared to ask him about “the tail,” but we all knew that we instantly stuck out from the other teams right out of the gate.
“Senators, listen up,” Coach Deanda commanded with a big scratchy voice to the lot of confused Little League leftovers.
“Let’s plan on meeting up at Pomeroy School at about 3:30 p.m. on Monday to get our first practice in and we will take it from there. Wear comfortable clothes, tennis shoes and bring your baseball glove.”
The Kid thought that maybe Coach knew what he was doing because Coach’s kid Rudy was a pretty decent pitcher. A quick glance over at Rudy however, told a completely different story.
Rudy seemed disappointed at not being picked up by another team and his body language didn’t portray that he had a lot of faith in the “old man’s” coaching abilities.
The Kid wrote his contact information down on Coach’s clipboard as did the other Senators and he started to head to the parking lot to wait for his ride home when Coach’s final words caught him by complete surprise.
“Don’t forget to wear a cup because me and the bat will be checking before practice!”
OK, the Kid had heard about major league players wearing “cups” and he loosely knew what they were for, but up until that point in his life, a “cup” was an arbitrary term.
GREAAATTT!!! – The Kid thought.
Coach was going to be introducing himself on Monday by taking batting practice with the Kid’s family jewels and the Kid knew this meant that he had to bother his “old man” for help securing “cup insurance.”