Sweet Little Nothings
Declan was tired of losing baseball games. He pulled off his leather glove and threw it down on the pitcher’s mound in exasperation as the other team cheered and hoisted the player who just scored the winning run up above the crowd in celebration. Declan’s team hadn’t won a game in weeks. "Maybe I should just quit baseball," he wondered aloud. "This team would be better off without me."
Declan’s best friend Eric played first base. Eric crossed the field taking off his cap and wiped his brow with a sunburned arm. It was a hot day. "Dude, don’t quit," he said, locking his arm around Declan’s neck in a mock choke hold and pulling his head down in jest.
"Give me one good reason why I should keep playing," Declan challenged him angrily as he struggled out from under Eric’s grip.
"I’ll give you two good reasons. One, your dad’s the coach," Eric assured as they walked over to their teammates gathering in the dugout area for their post-game pep talk. "And two, candy!" he exclaimed, excited to see what consolation prize Declan’s dad had for them today.
Declan’s dad loved candy, and he always brought his players nine treats each for after the game—one for each baseball inning. Last week it was overcast and breezy and there was no sun to melt the candy, so the coach handed out Chocolate Sports Balls with white foils that looked like real baseballs to all the players. The week before that, the team got Buttermint Creams with cool wrappers that had bats and balls on them. He started to perk up while he wondered what sweets they would get today.
"You guys played great today," his Dad announced, the tiny team at rapt attention along the dugout wall waiting for their snacks. "You all supported each other on the field, and did an awesome job hitting the ball. You didn’t make any errors in the field and you've never been better at running the bases."
Declan replayed the moment when he struck that other player out at the top of the 3rd inning. That was pretty awesome. Maybe it didn’t matter too much if they lost. Clearly the team was getting better with each game.
"Even though we didn’t win this one, you all played smart! I’m really proud of you guys, and I’ve got something really cool for your today," he reached into the bag he had been holding. It looked heavy. "I loved this stuff when I was your age."
The coach pulled out a few packs of Big League Chew and started tossing them to the players—it was the most awesomest baseball bubble gum ever. You could put a whole handful of shredded pink goodness in your mouth at a time and blow massive bubbles! The boys looked at each other wide-eyed as hushed murmurs of "woah" rippled down the line of little leaguers, their mouths gaping.
"You guys enjoy this stuff, and make sure to roll the pouch up to keep it fresh after each handful," the coach advised. "I want you to always remember," The coach continued, "It’s not about whether you win or lose--it’s about how you play the game...And what else?" He gestured to the boys to respond.
"How much candy you get after the game!" the kids finished in unison as they laughed and smiled, smacking their Big League chew and high-fiving each other. Eric was the loudest.
Declan grinned as he tore into his Big League Chew. He started to feel bad that he had wanted to quit baseball before. Being on a team is pretty neat even when we’re not on the field, he decided. All the guys on the team are cool, and having my dad as coach is super fun. Plus, who would want to miss out on all the candy? Not me, he thought, as he blew the biggest bubble he had ever imagined, I wonder what candy we’ll get next week!