For The Love Of The Game
Del Larson told his son Josh that he'd take him to Craig Seagle's Baseball Camp if he got good grades during his sixth grade year. Local Little League Coach Jimmy Terrell put together an all-star team of twelve year olds every summer for a week at the camp as a final reward as the kids aged out of little league.
It was costing Del five hundred bucks for Josh to attend (not including Del's motel room expense) but he figured it was money well spent knowing he didn't get to spend as much time with his son since the divorce.
Seagle was a utility infielder who played in the bigs for parts of two seasons with three different teams but that gave him enough credibility and fame to lend his name to the Vermont camp, nearly two hours from Hillsboro.
The location was originally a summer camp so all the camper huts, bathrooms and showers, and the large dining facility and meeting room were still there. Four baseball diamonds were added in the large open field and attending teams played ten games in five days, plus participated in drill competitions and seminars hosted by Seagle and former ballplayers and coaches (mostly the minor leagues and college).
Josh was understandably excited to attend the prestigious camp and Del felt good driving the kid to "ball camp" as they called it.
Josh was a fairly successful pitcher and defensively talented third baseman who hoped to continued playing in Babe Ruth League and high school now that his little league career was coming to a close.
The kid took the divorce hard but Del never spoke badly about his mom and he encouraged Josh to make the best of their new normal - which meant Dad was out of the house.
They chatted more during the two hour drive to ball camp than they had in a long time, mostly about baseball and future dreams and it felt good to have quality one on one time as father and son.
The camp was easy to find (there were a lot of cars headed that way) and Del accompanied Josh to the check in where he met up with Jimmy Terrell's all-star squad from Hillsboro and Josh joined that group, already knowing several of the kids on the team.
There were at least a hundred and fifty kids and almost as many parents attending that week's session.
Del bumped into Aurora Zink (she was Aurora Martino when he knew her) from the old neighborhood, a dark skinned Italian girl he went to school with and had worked with in high school. He had seen her on occasion at various little league games and other school events - Josh knew her kid Barney who had also made the squad.
The two parents exchanged pleasantries although Aurora looked tired and preoccupied. They sat together with other parents for the group supper of chili mac as most of the kids were already bonding with their teammates and eating together as teams.
Del wanted to ask Aurora where her husband was but he figured that was none of his business so he kept the conversation focused on baseball camp.
The parents were asked to leave once dinner was finished. They were given the schedule for the week as they said their goodbyes to their kids and they were told that they were free to come and go as they wished but not to interfere with the teams, coaches, or camp personnel and to let their kids be ballplayers enjoying the camp experience on their own.
Del wished Aurora a good night as they left with all the other parents.
"You're staying for the week?" He asked.
"I'm staying," Aurora confirmed although she didn't sound thrilled about it.
"Maybe I'll see you around," Del remarked.
"Maybe," Aurora said without much interest before disappearing into the mass of departing parents.
Del ran a few errands before checking into the Pinewood Motel a few miles from the camp, having made reservations weeks earlier. It was an older establishment - twenty five rooms in a horseshoe design with a small court yard and play area for kids (but no pool).
Getting his key from the office, Del moved his car to his room at the far end of the horseshoe where he saw Aurora getting something out of a mini-van parked in front of Room 21. The mini-van was packed to the roof with boxes, cartons, plastic tins, bags of clothes and other stuff.
"Didn't you over pack for a week of baseball camp?" Del asked lightly when Aurora closed the door to the van and turned to see Del standing in front of a unit a few doors from hers with a duffel bag in one hand and a large paper bag in the other.
"You're staying here?" She asked with surprise.
"Small world," he grinned, gesturing to the door behind him. "Room 24."
"We're not going back to Hillsboro when camp ends," Aurora explained with sadness.
"What?" Del asked with confusion.
"We're moving," she sighed. "Closed on the Hillsboro house last week."
"Where you going?"
"Ohio," Aurora revealed.
"What's in Ohio?"
"My husband," she revealed. "I'm the trailing spouse."
"He got a job out there?"
"Didn't even bother telling me until after he accepted it," Aurora complained. "All of a sudden we're selling the house, I have to quit my job, and now I'm driving my kid half way across the country."
"Baseball camp first?"
"I wanted him to have a final fun time with his friends," Aurora said with sadness.
Del nodded his head in understanding. "It must be tough."
"I really hate leaving my job," she frowned. "I loved it."
Del knew she was a school teacher at Hillsboro High. "I bought some booze," he said, holding the paper bag up. "You want to stop by for a drink?"
She was caught off guard by the invitation. She let out a breath. "Give me a minute," she said, heading for her door.
Del unlocked the door to his unit and stepped inside. It was clean but nondescript - a king sized bed with an end table, a long bureau with a flat screen television on it, a round table with two chairs, in front of the window, and one arm chair in the corner. There was a door less closet and a bathroom with a folding accordion door. There was a portrait of a deer in the woods above the headboard and a mirror on the wall and that was about it.
Del placed his duffel bag on the bench in the closet and placed the paper bag on the round table. He quickly texted the ex that Josh was delivered safe and sound to baseball camp and that all was well before quickly using the bathroom.
He would have been thinking about Josh and his first night at camp if he wasn't distracted by the thought of Aurora staying three doors down from him all week. He now understood why she was feeling down and he couldn't blame her. Packing up and hitting the road for a new town and new life had to be difficult.
He stepped out of the bathroom and was checking to see what kind of channels the cable offered when he heard a knock on the door. He turned to see Aurora standing on the other side of the screen.