Mike is not the kid's real name. Tallyho.
Years ago, I managed my son's Little League team, the Pirates. Everything broke right for me on draft night and the Pirates were stacked. We had a team that was simply loaded with talent. Sure, we had some cannon fodder that I had to pick in the last few rounds of the draft, but every team did. After draft night, I figured we'd go 18-0, we were that good.
I was egotistical about the team. All that mattered to me was winning so I spent my time trying to figure out how to play the cannon fodder as little as possible. In Little League, everyone gets to bat and everyone has to play at least 2 innings in the infield, so I came up with a 3rd base rotation that locked my worst players in a dungeon on the field.
Within two weeks of opening day, two of my pitchers went down. One had a broken arm, the other a broken leg. All of a sudden, my superteam was in super trouble. I needed pitchers in a bad way. I went through all of my neglected kids, looking boys I could teach to pitch. One of the kids I found was Mike.
Mike didn't have a father. No one had ever worked with him before, so while he had above average athleticism, his baseball skills were poor. He was socially awkward. Kind of weird, even. He played, but didn't really enjoy it because he couldn't hit, couldn't field and couldn't throw.
Mike's mom had two other kids. She was obese. She loved her kids, but she couldn't help him with sports. She was a good mother, but had no aptitude for being a dad. Single parents have to play both roles, you know.
Still, I needed a pitcher and there was Mike. I found that he was eager to learn and so I spent money and took annual leave and got him professional pitching lessons. Mike became my version of Orel Hershiser. He never had great stuff, but he could place the ball. He threw strikes and with a good infield behind him, he just mowed down the opposition. He grew to love the game and was accepted by his teammates. His mom was ecstatic. Her little boy was blossoming and she overflowed with gratitude. It was beautiful to be a part of it, even if the genesis was my own selfishness*.
We parted ways after that season. My son and I moved on to a different league and we saw nothing of Mike for a while. About three years later, he turned up in our new league. He was a wreck. No man had taken an interest in him since then. He had no confidence and was weirder than ever. The perfect candidate to end up on drugs.
Mike needed a dad. Not a social program, not an HHS worker, not increased funding for his school, he needed a dad. He didn't have one.
* - That season changed me. When the two pitchers went down, it became obvious to me that I had viewed my cannon fodder as just that. It made me sick and I never did that again.