“Think over what? This sounds awesome! I’d love to be your assistant coach!” Rafi exclaimed
One year later
"Guys, guess what!” exclaimed Shmuli as he pulled out a stack of papers from his backpack. The bell had just rung, signaling the start of recess.
“Is that the story you’ve been working on?” asked Rafi.
“You got it,” answered Shmuli, proudly.
“Okay, you can read it to us on the yard,” said Meir. “Let’s get out of here — I’m starving!”
The three boys exited their seventh-grade classroom and headed for their usual spot in the yard. Once all three boys were seated and Meir had plowed halfway through his bag of popcorn, Shmuli cleared his throat.
“Attention, attention. You are about to be a part of history.” He grinned. “When you’re both older and people ask you if you were really friends with the world-famous writer, Shmuli Kurtz, you can tell them about this exact moment, when you were privileged to hear the very first draft of the very first chapter of his most famous work.”
Rafi laughed. “What’s this story even about?”
“It’s about three best friends. They’re three seventh-grade boys who join together to solve mysteries. One boy is a bookworm, another is super musical, and the third is great at sports.”
“Not very original,” Meir remarked, smiling.
“Well, they say to write what you know,” Shmuli responded, shrugging.
“Before you start reading, I just remembered something,” said Meir. “My parents signed me up for guitar lessons, so I won’t be around Sunday afternoons anymore.”
“Speaking of Sunday afternoons,” began Rafi, “I’ll be pretty busy, too. It’s almost the start of baseball season, so you know what that means…”
“Oh, no! You’re not going to make us spend hours practicing with you like we had to do last year, are you?” asked Meir.
“No, so you can wipe those terrified looks off your faces,” Rafi responded cheerfully. “My teammates from last year have already organized tons of practices over the next few weeks.”
“Well, that’s certainly a change from last year,” remarked Shmuli.
“Yeah, well, after the Lions’ awesome season last year, we all decided to work hard to keep the winning streak going.”
“That’s not the only difference from last year,” Shmuli hinted.
“Well, if you mean that the guys invited me to play with them, then yeah, that’s a huge difference, too. It’s crazy. But last year at about this time, my teammates were trying to get me kicked off the team. And now, I count those guys as some of my closest friends. After you two, of course.”
“Stop, I’m blushing,” Shmuli joked. Then, holding up his papers, he said, “And now, the moment you’ve all been waiting for. I present to you: The Mystery of the Missing Money.”
“Hi, Rafi! Just the person I was looking for! It’s Coach Kahan.”
“Coach! Hey, what’s going on? I’m so pumped for the start of the Little League! The guys and I are about to start practicing for this year’s season! We can’t wait to show you what we can do at tryouts!”
“That’s great to hear, Rafi. But actually, I’m not going to be seeing you this year at tryouts. That’s what I’m calling about.”
Rafi felt sick to his stomach. “Wha… what are you talking about? This can’t be happening again.”
“No, no,” Coach quickly exclaimed. “It’s not what you think. No one’s trying to keep you from playing baseball this year! It’s me, actually. I’m switching from the older division to the younger division. Since I won’t be coaching your age group, I won’t be at your tryouts.”
“Phew!” Rafi let out a breath. “But why do you have to leave us? You’re the best coach ever!”
“Thanks, Rafi, that’s really nice of you to say. My son is starting Little League this year, and I’m really excited to coach his team. But don’t worry, I’m sure you boys will do great with one of the other coaches.”
“I hope so,” Rafi muttered. “So you’re calling to say goodbye?”
“Actually, just the opposite. You see those little guys in the younger division are just starting out playing baseball. And they have so much to learn. So I asked the Little League commissioner if I could have an assistant coach.”
“Okay,” remarked Rafi, not quite following the coach’s train of thought.
“And I’d like you to be my assistant!”
“Me?” asked Rafi in shock.
“Yup. I think you’d be perfect for the position. You’ve shown that you’ve got a knack for guiding other players and helping them strengthen their skills. Plus, you love the game. This would be your chance to share all your enthusiasm and knowledge. But don’t get too excited. It’s a voluntary position, so you’d only get paid in popsicles. Do you need some time to think it over?”
“Think over what? This sounds awesome! I’d love to be your assistant coach!” Rafi exclaimed.
“Great! So I’ll speak to your parents to see if they’re okay with this and then hopefully I’ll see you in a couple of weeks at the younger division’s tryouts.”
“Awesome! Oh, and Coach?”
“Thanks for believing in me. And I don’t just mean right now about the assistant coach job.”
“I know exactly what you mean, Rafi. Of course I believe in you, then and now. Rafi, you should be proud of yourself. You’ve come a long way.”
“Thanks,” said Rafi. “I couldn’t have done it without you.”
(Originally featured in Mishpacha Jr., Issue 861)
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