Trophy 5Title: Coach
Author: Jim Miller
Category: Nonfiction

It was worth the gut-punch I received from your ten-year-old son, Jeff, that time when I struck out and lost the game. We needed two to tie, three to win. With two outs, and with runners in scoring position, you grabbed my shoulder, looked me in the eye, and said, “You know what to do, right? Please, tell me you know what to do.” I knew what to do alright, the same thing I had done every game, every at bat: stand real still, hunker down, and don’t swing at anything. I was supposed to do this because I—how did you describe it to my dad after our first practice; oh yeah—I swung like a little girl.

So I swung the bat. Not because I wanted to hit the ball and be the hero. I swung because I knew I’d strike out and end the inning—end the game. This game was not just any game; this game was for the league trophy. If I took the walk, I’d give your son, Jeff, the chance to win the game and I would probably have a trophy—a trophy for my 22 walks that season—a single trophy to make my dad proud.

I wonder if, almost 30 years later, you still have a shrine of Jeff’s greatness in your den. Shelves filled with the trophies he won before that game, the trophies he won after that game, and all the trophies, plaques, and ribbons from junior high, high school, and college. I wonder if, almost 30 years later, you still see the trophy he didn’t win.

It’s not like I planned this moment. This was no grand scheme. It was more like the straw and the camel. You sent me to the plate and as I passed Jeff standing in the on-deck circle, he whispered, “Don’t mess this up, dickhead.” When I passed him with a smile on my face, after I did mess it up, he gut-punched me. It didn’t hurt, not really. And if I could be so bold, I think Jeff punches like a little girl. Having told you this, I wonder how it makes you feel, knowing your son can’t make the smallest and weakest boy in school cry.

Jim Miller received his MFA in Creative Writing from the University of South Florida. His work was recently published in
Alligator Juniper, Florida English, The Clever Title, The Armchair Aesthete. He is the Graphic Nonfiction editor for Sweet: a Literary Confection and teaches creative writing at USF–Tampa, Eckerd College, and Florida Southern College.