Driving back and forth to Fortuna for softball championships meant an extra 180 miles, which, at 34 mpg in the Honda, cost us about $24 in gas. Driving to Crescent City for Nick’s TOCs was only (“only,” ha ha) 160 miles roundtrip – we camped at Orman Ranch so we wouldn’t have to drive back and forth. Took the surfboards, too.

Last year, Nick’s team was undefeated. Amazingly good. Watching them was akin to watching the Crabs play. Nick loved being a champ, but his individual experience consisted mostly of not being able to hit. He could hit in practice, rather – but in the games, he struggled. He wasn’t even sure he wanted to keep playing.

Then, all but four players aged into Babe Ruth this year, making this year’s team far more rookie. Nick and the other three veterans all had to step it up, raising the bar for the whole team in the process. Nick’s had two out-of-the-park home runs this year – a huge improvement and needed ego boost. The team came a long way over the season and ended up in the number 3 (of 5) spot. Staying in the a single elimination tournament is a challenge even for the best teams, though – so when our guys won, 3-2, we had a lot to celebrate.

And the other team’s coach was insane. Really! He must’ve stopped the game 20 times to yell at his players, argue with the ump or otherwise throw a tantrum. Two pitches into the game – two pitches! – and he was barking at his pitcher from the baseline. In the fifth inning, we were tied up 1-1, then they scored, then we scored two, bringing it to 3-2, but this crazy coach insisted on stopping the game because he was sure the score was actually 3-3. Which it wasn’t, of course! But we had to wait around (again in icy wind) while he shouted and stomped.

About that scoring… Nick bunted and beat the throw to first, then the runner in front of him scored, which is what tied the game. Next, Nick stole third, then, with two outs and two strikes on the batter, his coach sent him. He dashed madly for home, drew up short to force a pickle, rattled the catcher, who threw to third, leaving Nick a split second to break for home so that when the ball came back, Nick was sliding over the plate, safe. And that put us ahead.

The next day, I had to return to Arcata for deadline, so I missed the big game between Nick’s team and Arcata’s  number 1. Nick wanted to impress his friends playing on the other team – especially his friend that hit 13 home runs last year, a kid so good that at 12 years old, he’s getting intentionally walked as often as the other teams can get away with it. But as happens, the pressure to do well had the opposite results – he struck out twice. Making a great catch later didn’t make up for the disappointment. I’m so proud of him, of course – he’s played with a lot of heart and effort all year – but I know that feeling from surfing. I love surfing with people way better than I, but because I want to do so well around them, every wipeout or missed wave carries an extra sting of embarrassment.

I’m hoping Nick is chosen for All-Stars. He has a good shot at it, and the acknowledgment would bolster him back up a bit.