Is this the first Bad News Bears story? wow. OK, this takes place during the sequel, The Bad News Bears in Breaking Training. If you have not seen the second movie, you should be warned that this story pretty much spoils the WHOLE thing. I'm calling this Chapter One in case I add more later.
Reunion Chapter One: Catching Up
Kelly didn't tell the other guys his reasons for going to Houston. But he didn't usually tell them much, so no one seemed to find it unusual.
The truth was there were a lot of reasons; the main one being his father. He didn't want to tell everyone about him because if he talked him up the guys might be disappointed if they got to meet him. Kelly might be disappointed too, of course. Michael Leak might be a completely broken down has-been by this time. On the other hand, if Kelly made his father sound like a real heel and got them set against him before they even got there, he might miss the slim chance that they could get along again.
Kelly studied Mike's picture by the wavering flame of his cigarette lighter. He wondered if his father had changed much. He was pretty sure he'd know him when he saw him. Kelly had changed, he knew. It had been several years. Would his father recognize him?
Kelly hadn't intended to meet up with his father so soon after arriving in Houston, but it couldn't be helped. The cops wanted to know where their coach was, and he had to do something. He waited around outside Mike's work place. It was just after five, so he figured the workers would be leaving the plant any time now.
Sure enough, they soon came trouping out. Kelly scanned the faces and thought one that glanced his way looked familiar. When he observed the way the man walked and how he kicked a rock as he went along, Kelly was sure.
"Hey, Michael. Hey, Michael Leak."
Mike looked up in surprise. It took him a minute, Kelly thought. He was starting to wish he hadn't come. Then Mike said, "Kelly?"
Relieved, Kelly nodded. "What's goin' on?"
Slowly, it began to come out—the team, the game—then Mike's girl friend showed up. She wanted to know what he was doing there.
"Just visiting," Kelly told her.
"That's great," she replied, not sounding at all interested.
Yeah… it's great that I'm just visiting, Kelly thought bitterly. You wouldn't want me getting in your way. He didn't expect to see Mike again after that. Maybe not ever. But Mike surprised him.
"OK, you got a coach. What else can I do for you?"
Maybe things could work out after all. First things first—they had to get rid of the cops.
Kelly didn't let his annoyance show when the other Bears acted shocked to learn that he had a father. Of course he had one—everyone did. But it was true he'd never talked to anyone about Mike, so they had probably assumed his father was dead.
At least Mike was useful right away. As soon as he stepped in the authorities melted away like a bad dream. The team started practicing, and things… went south.
Kelly tried to coach a bit, but no one listened to anyone else, let alone to him. He was ready to quit when the others started making executive decisions. That was, everyone else seemed to think they needed real help from Mike, and Kelly wasn't sure he wanted that. The coach thing had just been to get them out of trouble. If he was going to catch up with Mike, he sure didn't want to do it in front of the team.
But the matter was out of his hands. It was just as Kelly feared: once Mike began coaching, the Bears all loved him. Ogilvie was always talking strategy with Mike. Carmen needed help with his pitching. Everyone needed to brush up their ground balls. Engelberg needed a crash weight loss plan. The one who needed the least training was Kelly. Which mean that Kelly was the one spending the least time with Mike.
The situation irked Kelly more than it should have, but he couldn't help feeling the way he did. He hadn't seen his father for several years and suddenly here he was, coaching Kelly's team, and his teammates were getting to know Mike better than he did. It wasn't fair, and it wasn't right.
The cigarettes were the last straw. He refused to put out his cigarette when Mike told him to and suddenly Tanner was telling him what to do.
"Put out the cruddy cigarette, Kelly!"
Kelly wasn't about to let anyone boss him. But quite suddenly, he found out where his stubborn streak came from: Mike shoved him away with his bat and began ignoring him.
"You don't do that to me," Kelly said, somewhat in shock. When Mike paid him no attention he repeated, "Did you hear me? I said no one does that to me!" This is so wrong—I've always been my own boss. I never had to answer to anyone. He didn't stick around to raise me, so why does he think he can tell me what to do now? "I don't need you!" he shouted. "I don't need any of you!"
Mike had the nerve to keep ignoring him. And it looked like the other Bears were following his lead. None of them were looking at him anymore. They were just following Mike's instructions as if Kelly weren't there. As if he weren't the one who had gotten them to Houston in the first place. As if he weren't the one that had saved their sorry team from being disbanded over a year ago.
He left the field in disgust. It was all he could do to keep from murdering the group of Toros he ran into. But he knew he was outnumbered and getting pounded to a pulp now would be even more humiliating than walking away from the fight. He didn't want Mike to see him beaten. He had to get his anger out somehow, so he started running. He didn't care where he went, and he didn't stop until the ball field was far behind him.
Kelly didn't know how long he'd been playing pool in the bar when Mike found him. He'd known a confrontation would have to come, and he was glad it was away from the other Bears. He could finally say what he'd been wanting to since he was a small boy. He wasn't sure what he expected Mike to say—to make excuses or to have a good explanation—but Mike seemed to think it was too late. He thought too much time had gone by.
Whose fault is that? Kelly thought angrily, but he didn't interrupt. He'd said his piece and it was his father's turn now.
Mike left him with a question. "If you hadn't needed a coach, would you still have looked me up? Think about that."
Not a chance! Was Kelly's immediate thought. But after all, hadn't it been in the back of his mind since they left California? Even before that—wasn't it the reason he'd come on this crazy trip? I wouldn't have gone to see him if I'd known. I'd have been better off to stay away. I was a fool to think things could ever be like they were. We're completely different people now.
He leaned on his pool cue and closed his eyes, trying to close out all thoughts about his father. He wanted to sleep and forget about everything.
Kelly hated to think what would happen after the game. If he didn't show up, could he face the guys again? How would he get home? Even if they could get away with driving the van back, he doubted the other Bears would want his company. He might be able to afford bus fare, but he wouldn't be able to buy anything to eat. Calling his mother crossed his mind, but what could she do? Better not to worry her.
Whatever happened, he didn't want to ask Mike for help. He thought of the guys playing ball without him. They don't really need me—anyone can play left field. But he knew that his presence made all the positions on the team stronger. If they lost they would resent him for it. If they won, it wouldn't be his victory. It would be Mike's.
Kelly looked around his hotel room at his half-packed bag and everyone's stuff strewn across the floor. He exhaled a sharp breath and picked up his uniform from the end of the bed. He realized he'd always known what he would decide. He'd just needed time to work up his nerve.
To his relief, the team welcomed him as if nothing was wrong. They all went out to the huge stadium together and played their best. When the umpire called Kelly out after an intense run, he had a severe flashback to the last seconds of the Bears' first championship. He'd always berated himself for being not quite fast enough, even though no one had blamed him. After all, he'd gotten the final hit that had brought them so close to tying the score. He shook it off and tried to concentrate. This would not end up like that first year. This time they had to win.
It was Tanner who was the real hero that day, refusing to leave the field when the game was called. But everyone did their part, and when it really mattered, everyone made their runs. Kelly knew if he hadn't played he would have been kicking himself for the rest of his life.
Dizzy with exhilaration, he paused at the drinking fountain before following his excited teammates inside. He was well aware that this would make him last in line—and that Mike would be waiting for him. But it was clear in his mind now, and he wasn't afraid.
"I was wrong," Kelly admitted. "I would have."
Mike smiled. "All right," he said. When he held out his arm, Kelly let him put it around him and they walked on together.
Maybe it wasn't how he had hoped. But it wasn't how he had feared, either. Maybe they could at least keep in touch…
"So, Ahmad tells me he has a little brother," Mike said.
Kelly blinked. "Yeah… so?"
"So, maybe he'd like a new bicycle," Mike suggested.
It took a moment for the words to sink in. "Uh…"
"I mean, you're too big for it now, and it's just sitting in your basement, right?"
"Yeah. That's true… good idea. I've had a Harley since I was ten anyway."
Mike did a double take. "You have a Harley Davidson?"
"Yeah. It took a long time to save the money."
"I'm impressed. How'd you earn it?"
"Lots of ways. Errands, allowance, air hockey…"
"A dollar a game," Kelly said proudly. "I got pretty good at it. Also got myself a reputation as a loan shark. That racket alone got me thirty-five dollars in the clear."
Mike whistled. "Guess I can't judge, since I wasn't around to do anything, but…"
"Exactly. I never lost my batting arm, though. Guess you got it stuck in me. I'd go to the cage every once in a while to practice. And I was always running around, so I stayed pretty fast. When the Bears practically begged me to join them, how could I say no?"
They fell silent when they caught up to the others.
The evening was spent celebrating in style. Kelly ate his share of pizza and drank so much coke (and a little beer from the Budweiser man, when Mike wasn't paying attention) that he wasn't sure if he was drunk or just on a massive caffeine/sugar trip. When his head finally hit his pillow he welcomed the sleep that quickly took over.
Mike came to see the team off. They were going home on a bus and letting the police work out what to do with the van. Much as he had enjoyed driving on the highway, Kelly was glad he wouldn't be spending that much time in the driver's seat again so soon.
"Well," Mike said, heaving Kelly's bag into the bus's storage space, "I guess this is it."
"Yeah." Kelly nodded. He put on his brown fedora and braced himself to say goodbye. He didn't think he was in danger of crying or doing anything else to ruin his reputation, but you can't be too careful.
Mike lightly touched the feather on Kelly's hat and smiled. "Try to keep these monkeys from annoying the bus driver too much, ok?" he advised.
"I'll try," Kelly agreed. "But… you know the Bears."
"Yeah. Say hi to your mom for me."
Mike held out a hand and Kelly shook it firmly.
Don't make this awkward, Kelly prayed. Don't suddenly hug me or anything… just let it go…
Their hands released and Mike backed away, smiling. "Have a good trip." He looked over the other boys getting their things in place. "See ya later, fellas," he said.
"Bye!" the Bears chorused. "Thanks for everything!" "If you get time off come to California for a coaching session!" "Yeah, our coach back home's a meanie!"
Mike laughed and waved to them. "Your welcome, guys. Safe trip." He turned away.
Kelly turned to follow the other boys onto the bus.
Kelly paused. No emotional stuff, please… "Yeah?" he said, turning back.
"Maybe if it's ok with your mom you could visit sometime. Christmas or spring break or something."
"Um…" Kelly's mind raced. Why are you springing this on me now? We had all last night… "Sure… maybe," he said.
"I'll be in touch."
Kelly nodded. This time he was able to get onto the bus without interruption. He made his way to the very back and sat by the window in an empty row. He saw that Mike was still standing near the curb, so he waved to him. Mike waved back. He was still standing there motionless when the bus made its first turn, cutting off Kelly's view.