The first day of school is always a short day. What that means is instead of each class lasting 45 minutes it only went to 20. Having only six classes this year meant that my day ended just after ten in the morning. At least for today. Lunch is seventh period but students are not obligated to stay for it. I had to, however. Only because Coach Tilden wanted the squad to meet for the first gathering of the year.
Of course, any day practice falls after last bell I also have no choice but to remain on school grounds. If this year is a repeat of last year, we’ll be meeting for practice twice a week- one of those days falling on a Saturday.
I took the elevator up to the last floor and made my way through the silent corridor to the door leading to the locker room. Voices could be heard and upon opening the door it grew deafening. Each voice was carrying on it’s own conversation but then made its way to me as I walked past the group of juniors and seniors to locker number seventeen.
Inside the locker hung four jersey tops- two home, two away. The home jersey was white with mountain green. The away jersey was reversed. On the bottom of the locker neatly folded were four pants corresponding with the home and away jersey colors.
No need to suit up- today there would be no practice. That didn’t begin for another two weeks. There were no tryouts. Our school was small which meant if you were on the JV team during your sophomore year you got promoted to Varsity.
I had been an exception. Coach Tilden didn’t want my fastball resting on the JV bench. He promoted me during the traditional JV-V game held each year before the season began.
There was another exception- my friend Todd Ford. He played right field; hit for power and had a cannon that stopped baserunners from advancing to second and actually took base hits away from runners at first.
Everyone expects me to be the ace on the rotation. I’m just glad to be on it. Honestly I feel that James Novak, a righty, is better than me. I hope Coach puts him at the top. Less pressure on me, not that I don’t mind the pressure.
“Alright girls settle down. Let’s get this meeting over with so you can begin enjoying your senior year.” Coach Tilden said, and at the last statement the room erupted in cheers.
“Pipe down goddamn it.” Coach yelled, and quiet slowly trickled throughout the room until all you could hear was the buzzing of silence.
“Now. First off, I wanna congratulate the former juniors on making it to your senior year. I know school can be tough, and this institution is no easy ride, but you’ve all handled yourselves nicely and I’m proud of each and every one of you.
“Having won the championship last year we go into this season defending that title. I think you boys are a solid bunch but there is always room for improvement.
“I’m going to begin with the lineup. Only two changes. Peters,” Coach Tilden looked to his right. “You’ll be batting third instead of fifth. Ford,” Coach looked to his left and crossed his eyebrows. “Davenport, where’s your girlfriend?”
“Todd texted me and said he would be running late. Didn’t say why.” I said through hushed snickers of laughter from the rest of the squad.
“Well when you see him tell him he-”
The door to the locker room suddenly banged open and then shut as Todd appeared behind Coach Tilden. “Sorry I’m late, Coach.”
“Save your sorries for your mommy, Ford. I was just about to tell your girlfriend to mention that you will be batting cleanup this year. Congratulations.”
“I told you to Skype the meeting, Stewart. Goddamn you can’t do anything right.”
“You’re breaking up with me? And this is how I find out? You low life sonuvabitch.” I said.
The locker room erupted with laughter and mock surprise accompanied by whistles.
Todd made his way through the crowd slapping palms with his teammates until finally taking a seat beside me.
“Now that we’ve got that out of the way I want to address the rotation. Davenport, I know you won us the championship last year but this year I’m sticking Novak at the top with you behind him. Also, we’re going with a four man rotation this year. So it’ll be Novak, Davenport, Roberts, and finally Johnson. Understood?”
The group collectively nodded. This shakeup meant the rotation would be righty-lefty-righty-lefty unlike last year when I stood on the mound as the only lefty for the school.
“Alright, that’s it for the first meeting. I’ll see you all two weeks from- what’s today, Tuesday? Two weeks from now. Whatever. Dismissed.”
Everyone got up and began filing out of the locker room. “Davenport, you have a minute?” Coach Tilden said as I made my way to my locker.
“For you Coach I’ve got five.”
Coach Tilden crossed his arms and looked me in the eyes. “Listen, I know you deserve the job of anchoring this staff and I want you to know that the job would have been yours. But I received intel on other schools that states most of the lineups we’ll be facing are poised to have majority left-handed batters. Better to be safe the first go-round than sorry.”
“It’s no problem Coach, really. Novak’s a better pitcher than I am anyway.”
“You’re a senior now, son. No need to be so humble. You’ve got a bright future in this game.”
“Politics are just that, Coach. No need to explain them to me. Is that all?”
“Yea, for now. I’ll see you in two weeks.”
As I walked back to my locker Todd came up from behind clapping me on the shoulder.
“What’d the coach want?”
“To ream your ass for not being on time. Why were you late anyway? You’re never late for anything. It’s kinda scary.”
“Had a meeting with the school’s counselor. Turns out I didn’t pass Econ last year so I have to repeat it.”
“How’d you fail when you copied off me, and I passed with a ninety?”
“Beats the hell outta me. Anyway, I’ve got a full schedule this year.”
“Sucks to be you. What’s your dad gonna say?”
“Like he cares.”
“He cares, Todd.”
“Sure he does. Bet the school informed him already and its been written off by now. Whatever. I’m over it. Got any plans now?”
“I do, actually. Catch you later?”
“What, when you’re done fucking Stewart?”
“You know I’ve only got eyes for you, baby.”
“Yea sure. Catch ya later bro.”
I left the gym and made my way up Vanderbilt Avenue, making a right on the corner of 77th and Lexington, entering the downtown 6 train station where I got off at 51st to transfer for a Queens bound M train, getting off at Steinway.
My favorite part of any day was in this neighborhood.