“I thought you guys were my friends. But it sure doesn’t feel like that right now! Everyone is against me and I hate it!”
"Rafi, your friends are here!” called Noam.
Rafi raced to the door to let Shmuli and Meir in. The three boys headed straight for Rafi’s bedroom for some privacy. As soon as they shut the door, Shmuli asked what had happened at the meeting with Coach Kahan.
“Well, you know how I was worried that my old teammates were trying to get me kicked off the team?” asked Rafi.
“Yeah — so did they? I can’t imagine Coach Kahan would agree to that,” said Meir. “You may be too competitive, but you’re also his absolute best player!”
“Well, Coach said the other guys don’t want me on the team, but that it’s really up to me to decide if I want to play or not.”
Shmuli and Meir both laughed with relief. “Okay, great,” Meir said. “Obviously, you want to play, so that’s that.”
“Wait,” piped in Shmuli. “If Coach Kahan is keeping you on the team, what’s with this emergency meeting?”
“Well, it’s not so simple,” began Rafi. “Coach said that I can only be on the team this year if I learn how to be a team player and a real mentsh.”
“Ooooo-kaaaay,” said Meir, looking perplexed. “That sounds fair enough. What’s the problem?”
“The problem,” Rafi jumped in, “is that I’m not doing anything wrong. I’m just playing my best! Honestly, I think I’m too good for these other guys! Those boys are just jealous of me and intimidated by my skills. They told Coach that I ruin the games by being a one-man fielding team. Well, of course, I have to field all the hits — they can’t make those plays without me! And they said that I make them feel bad when they miss a catch or when they strike out. How is it my fault that they feel bad for striking out? I mean, honestly, I don’t have a problem — they do!”
Meir and Shmuli looked at each other uncomfortably. “Umm, I totally hear what you’re saying, Rafi,” Shmuli said, “but maybe the other boys have a point, too.”
“Don’t tell me that you’re on their side!”
“Come on, Rafi, you know we’re one hundred percent on your side,” Shmuli retorted. “We just want to help you. If Coach wants you to be more of a team player, maybe we can help you figure out how to do that.”
“You know what?” said Rafi as he walked to the door and opened it. “I thought you guys were my friends. But it sure doesn’t feel like that right now! Everyone is against me and I hate it!”
“No, come on, Rafi,” said Meir, jumping up from his seat on the floor. “Maybe what we were saying came out wrong. We just want to help you!”
Rafi looked at his two very best friends in the whole world and let out a big breath. “I didn’t really mean that. I’m just so angry about all of this.”
“I know exactly what you mean,” said Shmuli with a smile beginning to form on his face. “I went through the same thing myself last year!” When Rafi and Meir looked quizzically at Shmuli, he continued. “Come on, don’t you remember last year when I lost my library card for an entire week and the librarian said I couldn’t check out any new books to read? So I totally get how Rafi feels now!”
All three boys laughed at Shmuli’s comparison and Meir decided it was the perfect time to steer the conversation in a new direction.
“Okay, guys, let’s talk about something else for now. We’ve got the siyum coming up!”
“What kind of food do you think they are going to serve?” asked Shmuli. “I heard that last year, the school ordered Chinese!”
Rafi was happy to think about something aside from baseball for a little while, so he smiled and joined in. “Really? Well, I heard that two years ago, the school served poppers! I’ll take extra spicy chicken poppers over eggrolls any day!”
“I know! Maybe they can fill the eggrolls with poppers!” chimed in Meir.
Rafi let out a groan and Shmuli tossed a pillow at Meir’s head.
“Hey! What’s going on in here?” asked Noam, as he popped his head into his older brother’s room. “Not much,” answered Rafi. “Come on, guys, I need to get moving and let off some steam. Who wants to shoot some hoops in the driveway?”
“You’re on!” shouted Meir. The three boys raced out to the driveway with Noam tagging along as usual.
“Rafi?” called Noam as he brushed his teeth before bed. “Can you tell me a bedtime story tonight?”
“Sure,” replied Rafi. “What do you want to hear?”
“You know, the usual,” answered Noam as he smiled with a mouthful of toothpaste suds. “Another story about Rafi Marcus, star baseball player.”
“You got it,” said Rafi, as he high-fived his little brother.
“Rafi,” called his father from the living room. “When you’re done, can you come talk to me? I want to hear what Coach Kahan said to you this afternoon.”
“Sure, Abba, I’ll be there soon,” answered Rafi as he headed for Noam’s room. At least for the next few minutes, Rafi could enjoy talking about baseball with someone who thought he was the absolute best ball player ever.
“So, Rafi, tell me how your meeting went,” prompted Rafi’s father.
“Well, not so good actually,” responded Rafi. “The other kids are making a big fuss just because they don’t like my style of playing.”
“Style of playing?” asked Mr. Marcus. “You know me, Abba. I play to win! And these other kids, it’s like they can’t even be bothered to try. You should have heard the way they blew up at me at tryouts when I told them everyone needs to practice more if we want to win this season. I mean, obviously they need to work hard if they want to win, right, Abba?”
“Well, yes, of course it’s important to practice…”
“Exactly! You and me, we get it — if you want to win, you have to work hard. And these boys, they’re just not into baseball like I am, Abba. That’s why I think the best thing for me to do is play with the Bears. Those are boys who play to win, like me!”
“Did Coach Kahan say that you could switch to another team? That’s not what he said to me on the phone,” wondered Mr. Marcus.
“Well, no, not exactly. Actually, Coach Kahan said that I have to either play like a mentsh, whatever that means, or not play at all. But I know that you can call the coach for the Bears and get me switched to that team.”
“Rafi,” responded Mr. Marcus, “I don’t think that’s a very good idea. I agree with Coach Kahan. It’ll be good for you to learn how to play as a real member of your team.”
“Come on, Abba!” Rafi pleaded. “You can’t do this to me! I can’t play with those boys on the Lions anymore. They don’t even care about baseball! I have to play with the Bears. It’s the only thing that makes sense! Abba, all you have to do is call the other coach and switch my team. Please, Abba! I can’t play baseball otherwise. Abba, I’m begging you!”
to be continued…
(Originally featured in Mishpacha Jr., Issue 850)
Oops! We could not locate your form.