Wahluke Eagles

This blog describes the joys of coaching an AAU basketball team from Mattawa, WA. Our team and town is roughly 90% Mexican. The blog celebrates and describes life in a central Washington town through the eyes of the players and their coaches.

Location: Mattawa, Washington, United States

I work as a School Psychologist in the Wahluke School District. When I am not coaching I enjoy fishing, reading, and riding my bike.

24 June, 2006

God Bless Grandpa Joe

From the beginning, the Wahluke Eagles have always drawn boys from the class of 2014. The reason why has to deal with the border and living in the middle of nowhere but for now it suffices to state the Eagles are all from the same grade until now. But first a little background is needed.

This year Mattawa did not have its little league baseball so I was rounding up kids of all ages to play some hardball on Sundays. I invited anyone who was interested but was especially keen to get kids who never played sports and didn't know what they could accomplish until they tried. In the vein, I saw Jose(appropriately named for Mattawa) and invited him to come play. He said he wasn't sure but that I should call and ask. So I did and his Dad said if Jose was interested he'd bring him to the field. He was and he did.

Jose showed promise. Mind you we were playing hardball with kids from ages 8 to 15. I put Jose by Tony at first and told him to do his best. A couple of balls came his way and he fielded them well. When he handled the bat, he did fine once I showed him the right stance. He managed a couple of hits between second and third. He had fun so I kept calling and he kept coming.

So a few weeks later, after basketball season had ended, some of the boys wanted to practice so I opened the gym one Sunday. I called Jose and asked if he wanted to come. He was unsure as he never played before but I assured him that if he learned baseball pretty quickly so I think he'll as well on the hardwood as he did with the hardball.

That Sunday we had a scrimmage game. My fourth graders against kids in 5th and 6th grade. We put Jose with our team to see what he could do. To be honest, he double dribbled and traveled but he stuck to his man. He followed Tony and played tough defense even forcing some older kids out of bounds. I was sold.

Later in the penultimate week of the school year we had practice. All the fourth graders were lined up on the baseline and to man they turned their head when Jose walked in the gym. Juan and I restrict weekday practices to team members only. So several asked me with an air of incredulity, "Is he on the team." I responded just watch him. Later when we scrimmaged, Juan and I put him with the game team when the scrimmaged against the reserves. Again Jose showed hustle.

Later some of the 4th graders asked me why doesn't he play on the third grade team. I responded that for now we are the only team playing plus he's a paisano. They agreed but somewhat reluctantly. It seemed I was Jose's biggest fan. I liked the kid. He had promise, he was tough, and when he wasn't in Summer School he sometimes went to pick cherries with his Dad.

This Monday Oscar, Tony, my Ahijado (Godson) Cristian, and Jose went fishing. Tony was in the back singing Joselito Abuelito (Little Joey Little Grandpa). We liked how it sounded and I anglicized it to Grandpa Joe. The name stuck.

Then twice this week, Jose got the chance to show his stuff. The first was on Wednesday. After a three hour practice I went by my Ahijado's house and asked he wanted to go shoot around. He did and we stopped by to get Jose as he was a few doors down. Then we picked up Eduardo (Laffy Taffy) and went to the court to play 21 and two on two. I picked Jose on my team. We lost 8-6 but Jose showed that he'd been paying attention in practice. Then this Friday, Jose called me up and wanted to shoot again. I picked him up then Eduardo and Jose E. (no relation).

This time when we picked teams, Eduardo took Grandpa Joe and I got Jose E. Grandpa was on fire. He cut, made lay-ins, and dribbled well. Later we played BUMP for about an hour. When we started we gave Grandpa and Jose E. an extra life as they were rookies. But after Grandpa won like 10 games we said enough and revoked his extra chance. The other coach Juan came to the court and Laffy Taffy told Juan what happened and exclaimed, "Grandpa Joe belongs on the game team."

So who knows, perhaps one game the soon to be fifth graders will turn their heads when a their Junior takes the court as a Wahluke Eagles. To borrow one of Mr. Martinez's favorite expressions, God Bless the Little People.