Thursday night was kickball night. My favorite night of every week. All of my closest friends played on my kickball team, which, for the most part, was more about drinking than kicking balls. But this season we'd gotten a competitive edge. We kicked harder than we'd kicked before. We threw harder. We ran harder. And, yes, we drank a little harder after the games. It's hard to turn down free victory pitchers of ice cold beer.
I'd always wished Cayden were on our team. The three other couples that made up my close-knit group were on the team, and it just didn't feel complete without Cayden. He grew up playing "football" (err... soccer), so surely he'd be a natural at kickball, right? So that Thursday I was more than psyched that Cayden would finally get to join my team.
That is, until gametime.
I panicked. What if he sucked? What if he tried to kick the ball and completely missed? What if he threw like a girl? What if he ran the wrong way on the bases? What if he completely embarrassed himself? There's nothing worse than feeling embarrassed in front of a group of your girlfriend's friends, right? But then I stopped to think about it. What was I really concerned about? His embarrassment or my own? Would I be embarrassed if Cayden ended up being the worst kickball player in the history of terrible kickballers? Surely not....
"OK, so, you have to have one foot in the batter's box when you kick the ball," I said to him, trying to cram the kickball basics into his head before the game. "If they field it within that inner arch right there, it's an automatic out. So, just kick it past that. Then run to first and listen to your base coaches."
I gave him a kiss and patted him on the butt to say 'Good luck.'
I held my breath when it was his turn to kick. Please don't miss it. Please don't miss it. Please. Please. Please. The ball rolled toward him, bouncing slightly as it hit clumps of dirt. I didn't even realize I had my hands over my face until they nearly blocked my view. He took a running start. He swung his leg back and kicked down and forward with all his strength. I bit my tongue and winced.
The ball flew past the short stop, past the third baseman, and over the left fielder's head. My jaw dropped. The next thing I knew, I was out on the dirt with the rest of my team jumping up and down screaming, "RUN! GO!" We didn't need to scream, he was already rounding first base and closing in on second. He made it to third base before the ball made it back into the infield. Had he not had a runner in front of him, it might have been a home run. It was by far the best kick of the season.
"Holy shit! He's good!" my teammates said to me as I beamed with pride.
"That's my boyfriend!" I yelled. He laughed and shook his head.
I felt like an ass for doubting him. I was the one who needed to be worried about embarrassing myself. I sure as hell wasn't the fastest runner on the team or the best kicker for that matter. But a little part of me breathed a sigh of relief when I realized Cayden didn't suck. It made me wonder if that's how my parents felt every time one of my siblings and I tried a new sport. No one wants to be responsible for the worst kid on the team, right?
Between innings, the guys on the team were asking Cayden for pointers on how to improve their kick.
"You have to get a running start, and when you kick, make sure your head is down and your toe is pointed." They hung onto every word and practiced air kicks alongside him to match his motion. It was adorable. Coach Cayden to the rescue.
We took the field after scoring two runs. I played my usual position in the infield while Cayden took left field. I didn't have time to explain how that position worked before the inning started because he was busy with his kicking lessons, but I figured it was pretty self explanatory. Every time the pitcher rolled the ball, I prayed the kicker didn't kick it to Cayden. Sure, he was awesome on offense, but what if he threw like a girl?
Sure enough, the next ball was kicked to left field. The kicker ran to first and looked toward second while Cayden chased after the ball.
"THROW IT! THROW IT IN! THROW IT TO ANYONE! JUST GET IT IN!" I screamed as Cayden looked around confused and the runner advanced to third base. I was jumping up and down and waving my arms to get his attention. We all were. Eventually he drop kicked the ball and it rolled close enough to Joey at third base that the runner decided not to try for a homerun.
"I didn't realize the ball was still in play once I touched it," Cayden explained later in the game.
"No worries. We're still winning! Now go out there and kick the shit out of that ball!"
We won our game 6-1 that night, and despite his outfield error, Cayden was MVP. His pristine "football" kick sent ball after ball whizzing over the other team's head. It was so fun to finally get to high-five him between innings and cheer him on as he barreled through the bases. We even snuck in a kiss here and there.
We guzzled our celebratory free pitcher of beer after the game at Barley House, the league's sponsor bar. We all piled around a long, wooden table on the patio out front.
"So what time are we leaving for Austin in the morning?" Joyce asked from across the table.
"I was thinking like 10 or 11 am," I said. "I'm just so glad I got the day off work."
"Lucky!" Rae said from the other side of Chaz. "Chaz doesn't get off until 5, so we probably won't even get there until 9 or 10 at night."
Joyce and I exchanged a look. We all knew when Chaz or Rae said they'd be somewhere at a certain time, it was a safe bet to add one to three hours to it.
"So, we'll see you at midnight?" I asked, only half joking.
"Until then," I said, taking the last swig of my beer and grabbing Cayden's arm. "I'm going to go put our team name to good use."