A Coach Strikes Out
by jason taylor
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It was a fine spring day. The sun was bright and new green grass was on the field. Adam’s cleats made clicking sounds on the concrete as he walked over to the water fountain to get a drink. They were having a light practice before the game. The other players were stretching and tossing balls on the field. Aluminum bats clinked as some of the players took infield practice. David Banes walked up behind Adam as he was drinking and tapped him on the shoulder.
“Whatta ya think?” David said, holding out a magazine.
Adam took the magazine and looked at the front page. It was a dirty magazine. Adam looked at David and laughed, slightly embarrassed. He looked around to see if anyone was watching. David stood there smiling. Adam opened the magazine and looked at one of the pictures. He was shocked by the picture and handed it back to David. “Practice is starting,” he said and tried to hand the magazine back to David. “It’s yours, man,” David said.
Adam took the magazine back to the dugout and put it in his backpack. All the players took the field when coach Carter got there. Coach Carter was well respected at Penbrook High School. He was the baseball coach as well as the American History teacher. Adam didn’t really like him but he never thought about why. He made Adam uneasy.
Their game against Riverview High was scheduled to start at 4:30. It took about 30 minutes to drive there. They started loading the bus after the warm-up practice. After all the equipment was loaded, the players got on. After they were on the road for several miles, Adam took out the dirty magazine and began to look at the pictures. Before long he was engrossed. Suddenly, the coach was in the aisle of the bus asking Adam what he was reading.
“What you reading there, Adam?” Coach Carter said. Coach Carter was a short, stocky man with a salt and pepper beard.
Adam looked up, startled, and tried to hide the magazine. Coach Carter grabbed it and held it up so everyone could see what it was. The coach smiled and said, “Adam here is preparing for the game mentally.” All the other players laughed. Adam looked at the laughing player’s faces and then down at the floor.
They won the game that day and were on their way home in the twilight of early night. The team stopped at a convenience store to get snacks and drinks. Adam was famished. He hadn’t eaten all day. His mom hadn’t had the money for his lunch that day. He took a Snickers bar and put it in his coat pocket and walked out of the store. It tasted so good on the bus. No-one noticed that he hadn’t paid for it.
The next day at school Adam was in Algebra when he was called to the office over the intercom. It was very unusual for people to be called to the office and Adam wondered what it was all about. He took a hall pass and headed for the office. He could see Coach Carter through the open principal’s door. He thought he was in trouble for the pornographic magazine. His heart sank. He was led into the principal’s office and stood in front of the two men as they explained to him that the convenience store the team had stopped at the day before had called and said they had him on camera taking a candy bar that he didn’t pay for.
“Do you have anything to say for yourself?” said the principal.
“No, sir, I was just hungry,” Adam said.
“Well, the good news is that we talked the store manager has agreed not to press charges if you are suspended from the team- permanently,” said the principal.
Adam looked at Coach Carter who wouldn’t look at him. “Yes, sir,” Adam said.
“OK, son, you can go back to class,” Adam began to think on the way back to class that everyone would soon know why he was kicked off the team. He had never been in trouble before and was ashamed at himself.
The other kids seemed to treat him differently over the next couple weeks at school. It seemed to be the gossip topic of the week from what he could tell until another topic took over. From what he gathered, Coach Carter had been charged with soliciting sex from a minor online. Some of the kids took his side and said there was no way Coach Carter would do such a thing. His family had money and they hired an expensive attorney. Coach Carter was exonerated of the charges. Adam wondered if he really did try to get some kids to have sex with him. He remembered the look in Coach Carter’s eyes when he caught him with the magazine on the bus.
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