J.D. Scrimgeour 

Say Hi to Your Dad

Wes’s game has been canceled. It’s been grey all day, and it rained hard for an hour in the afternoon. A fog covers the North Shore. Driving over the bridge into Salem on his way home, Ted can’t even see the water.

Cancellations are the worst thing about being a coach. It was so much easier back when he coached Wes’s Little League team, when the league posted cancellations on its website. The city’s Babe Ruth League, for 13-15 year olds, is more casual, less organized. Now he has to text parents, consult with the other coach to reschedule, and then text everyone again with the new date for the game. And a cancellation raises tension with his ex, Kayla, about the boys. If Ted wants to reschedule the game for this weekend, he’ll first have to make sure Kayla doesn’t have plans for Billy and Wes, that she’ll let Wes free for a couple hours.

Once he gets home, he texts her, but she doesn’t respond, so he spends the next two hours scrolling through Facebook, listening to the rain dribble through the gutters, looking up at ESPN every now and then to watch a highlight that he already saw the night before. And then he follows a link to a local article and learns about Jay Stark—that he died two months ago—and he feels bile burn his throat.

It is too late. Too late to go to the funeral, too late to take back that moment after the Salem-Marblehead freshman game, the lost look on Sammy’s face when Ted said, “Say ‘hi’ to your dad.” How Sammy just nodded.



Three weeks ago, Ted went straight from work to watch Salem High’s freshman team play Marblehead. When he arrived in the fifth inning, he heard from another dad that Billy, Ted’s older son, had been playing well, turning two double plays and lacing a single. Salem was up by a lot, and Ted saw Billy get his second hit, a line drive up the middle, which added to the rout. It was always nice to beat Marblehead. All their players spent thousands of dollars every summer to play AAU and get private coaching. Still, Ted had a soft spot for Jay’s son, Sammy, and when he recognized him walking back to the Marblehead bus, he called out to him. “You remember me, right?” Ted said, “I used to have more hair. I’m starting to look like your dad.”

“Yeah,” Sammy said, but he didn’t say much else, and he didn’t come over to talk. His blond hair had gotten curly, and his nose seemed more prominent. His face was between boy and man. Say ‘hi’ to your dad.

Sammy nodded, then got on the bus.

In the car, Ted told Billy that he’d seen Sammy. “Remember Jay Stark’s kid, the guys we used to play with?”

“Oh yeah,” Billy said. “Did you see the first double play?”

“No, I got there in the 5th. What happened?”

“It was to my left. A hard shot. One bounce. I got it and did a 180 and threw it to Ricardo. And he gunned it to first.”

“Sounds sweet. Maybe I’ll see the replay on Sportscenter.”

Billy grinned. “Maybe I’ll see you on The Bachelor.”

“I don’t have time for celebrity. I’ve got a baseball team to coach.”

Ted turned onto Warren Street, Kayla’s street.

“Tell Wes I’ll pick him up after school tomorrow and we’ll grab some food before his game. You want to come with us?”


“Then we’ll pick you up when the game is over. Tell your mom.”

Billy nodded. Your mom. Ted wondered when he had stopped calling Kayla just “Mom.”

What had they been talking about? Sammy and Jay.

“That Sammy used to be a good player. Did you notice where he played? What position?”


Ted pulled over in front of Kayla’s condo.

“You remember him, though?”

“Yeah, but I didn’t recognize him.”

Billy opened his door.

Ted wanted to say more. He thought of how overjoyed Billy and Wes used to be when he’d drive them over to Marblehead on a Sunday morning, how they would leap from his car and rush to the field, leaving him to carry their bats and water bottles. Jay would be there with his two boys, Sammy and Gregory, who were the same ages as Billy and Wes. “The Say-Hey Kid!” Jay would call out as Ted came onto the field, “What’s the news from Salem?”

But Ted said nothing, just popped the trunk, and Billy grabbed his bag and set off around the corner of the building. Kayla liked the boys to leave their cleats on the back porch. Ted pulled away.


One September Sunday five years ago, a year after the divorce, the boys wanted to take some swings and ground balls, but when Ted drove them to Forest River Park, they were digging up the field to put in a new drainage system, so Ted drove them the extra five minutes to Marblehead.

Ted always smiled when the bumpy, potholed Salem road changed abruptly to smooth asphalt when he crossed the Marblehead line. No wonder his shocks always needed replacing. Salem beat up its cars, and its cars weren’t Marblehead cars to begin with.

Marblehead and Salem were both on the ocean, but they were two separate worlds. Marblehead was rich and nearly all white. When Ted was in high school, Marblehead got itself put in the different half of the conference, so it only had to play schools like Salem once a year. Salem High had been mostly white back then, not Spanish High, like the kids call it now, but Marbleheaders had still looked down on them. One time in the state tournament, Ted had pitched against Marblehead. He struck out 10 guys and Salem won easily. That night, half the team snuck into Marblehead High and took dumps on the table in the cafeteria. Even now, when he bumps into one of those guys at the mall, they’ll joke about it: “Excuse me, I need to go to the Marblehead.”

That morning, at the Marblehead park, Ted and the boys threw the ball around, loosening up, and then Ted lugged his bag of balls to the mound, Wes put on a helmet and grabbed his bat, and Billy jogged out to shallow left-center to chase down Wes’s hits. Soon after they started, a father and son appeared, then several more boys and a few more dads. They all were ready for baseball, with hats, gloves, and cleats, but they wore shorts and t-shirts, like Ted and his boys. It didn’t seem like a team practice.

“Ballhunt,” Ted called out after Wes had hit through the bag of balls, and they began gathering them. They called this collecting “ballhunt,” and, when the boys were younger, they would pretend to be predators, scooting around the field and pouncing on any ball nesting – oh so innocent – in the lush grass. Now the name remained, though the game had stopped. Billy, at least, would have been embarrassed to do it with those other boys looking on.

Ted walked toward the dugout. Three balls that Wes had fouled off lay up against the fence in the scrim of dirt between dugout and grass ellipsis in the morning sun.

“Hi,” said a man who had stepped through the gate onto the field. He was 40 something, stocky, short. He wore black knit shorts, like a soccer ref, a royal blue shirt with a big Chicago Cubs icon, and he had a Cubs cap on his nearly bald head.

“Hi,” said Ted.

“This field is reserved for 10:00,” the man said, “Sorry.”

“Oh,” said Ted. He looked over at the group amassed at the fence, about 10 boys of various ages and four or five adults—all guys. They were all white, mostly blond. Marbleheaders. This wasn’t a Little League team, though. The kids were different ages, and they weren’t wearing baseball pants. Was it some family reunion? A sports picnic party?

“Oh sure,” said Ted, “No problem.”

“Take your time,” said the man. “We’re not in a rush.”

Ted gathered the balls in his glove like a heap of small boulders and, holding them against his chest, made his way out to the mound. Billy and Wes were already there, trying to toss balls into the ball bag from a few feet away.

“Curry for three,” Wes said.

“Guys, let’s load up the bag. We can’t stay. The field’s taken.”

Billy looked over at the people at the fence. “Who are they?”

“Some Marblehead program, I guess.” The boys quit shooting the balls and quickly filled the bag.

“We could give Billy one round,” said Ted.

“No,” said Wes.

“Wes, you had a turn. Billy should get one, too.”

“That’s okay,” said Billy, looking over at those waiting, then looking sadly into the outfield. Ted sensed with aching clarity what Billy was feeling: it was such a stunning day, a mix of sun and clouds, warm, but not too warm, with a little breeze, the air fresh, dry. He wanted to be outside, to play somewhere.

“Maybe we’ll go to the beach,” Ted said. Moments like this were when he regretted the divorce the most. Kayla had always been able to come up with things for them to do on the weekends. She’d bring the boys with her to swim in some girlfriend’s pool, or she’d pack a cooler and get them all down to Winter Island, where Ted would drink beers and then, pleasantly, lightly buzzed, would horse around with the boys in the gentle waves. Sometimes, they’d even venture out of Salem: blueberry picking at Brooksby Farm, or the Children’s Museum in Boston. Now, Ted never seemed to come up with things to do when his weekends with the kids rolled around. If they went anywhere, it was to a field, or, in winter, a gym. But when it was just the three of them, it could get boring – for all of them. Then in the afternoon he’d take them to Salem Beer Works for a burger and fries and watch the Red Sox on the big screens until the boys said they wanted to go home.

Home. It was still home, even though Kayla didn’t live there, and the boys only lived there half the time. Ted didn’t want to leave the field and spend the day in his living room watching the Pats or the Sox while his kids played video games in their bedroom.

The three gathered the rest of their equipment as the kids and dads flooded onto the field. Fathers playing catch with sons. Ted watched the guy in the Cubs shirt tossing the ball with a boy he assumed was his son, a kid about Billy’s age.

“Just a minute,” he said to his boys. He walked up beside the Cubs shirt.

“Hey, I’m just curious. What is this? Some team practice?”

The man caught his son’s ball and flipped it back to him. It wasn’t particularly graceful. “Oh, no. This is just some kids who want to play baseball.”

“From Marblehead.”

“Yep. Are you from Marblehead?”

“Salem.” Ted looked out at everyone playing catch. “I think my boys would like to play. Could they?”

The man looked over at Wes and Billy, who were watching the kids warm up.

“Sure,” he said. “ How old’s the little guy?”


“He might be kind of young, but sure. My boy, Gregory, over there with the white cap, just turned eight. And there’s one or two others his age.”

The man pointed to the boy he was playing catch with. “That’s Sammy. He’s mine, too. I’m Jay…”


And so, for the next two years, the boys spent most Sunday mornings from August until Thanksgiving in Marblehead, playing a joyous game of pick-up baseball. Even on their weekends with Kayla, Ted would swing by on Sunday mornings and bring them. It wasn’t like he was doing anything else.

Jay, in his blue Cubs cap, always pitched. He’d toss the ball slowly, so everyone would hit. They didn’t bother with a catcher. A dad stood against the backstop and scooped up the pitches. For several innings they wouldn’t keep score, and then, for the last hour, they would. All the kids, even the young ones, knew the game, all of them could swing a bat and understood rules like tagging up.

The kids were friendly enough to each other, although they liked baseball more than socializing. They noted each other’s bats and gloves, they practiced celebrating like the pros after a great catch or clutch hit, jumping and bumping chests. Ted imagined the future, when they were all in high school, some playing for Marblehead, some at the local private schools, his boys at Salem High. They’d play each other, shake hands and reminisce before the games.

The dads who weren’t catching either sat in the shade of the dugout or stood in the outfield, filling in gaps where there weren’t enough kids. One time Ted was out there and made a nice over-the-shoulder catch on a deep line drive by Jay’s youngest, Gregory. Ted saw Jay deflate a little and immediately felt bad. It had been a hell of a rip for an eight year old. When Ted tried to apologize to Jay after the inning, Jay just laughed. “That was a great catch. Willie Mays would have been proud.” After that, Jay started calling Ted, “the Say-Hey Kid.”

The dads didn’t talk too much about their lives, but he sensed they were different than his. They had jobs that let them afford Marblehead, jobs that always were taking them out of town. One talked of going to a Mariners game on a trip to Seattle, another went snorkeling off the California coast. Ted’s own job at the Department of Motor Vehicles had taken him to Danvers, one town over.

Ted really liked Jay, though. He was always nice to Ted’s boys, always praising them, asking them about their seasons. When the Marblehead kids, who could get bossy, wouldn’t alternate positions, Jay made sure that Billy and Wes got their turns in the infield.

Sometimes, even after Billy had started middle school and they stopped going to the Sunday games, Ted would be sitting out on his front porch, having a beer in the late afternoon, and a car would slow on the street and he’d hear “Say-Hey!” from the open window. Usually, Jay would honk and keep going down the street, but sometimes he’d pull over and they’d catch up – what the boys were up to, why the Red Sox were losing. Even after his boys got too old, Jay still showed up at the park and ran the pick-up game for the town’s kids. He’d tell Ted to come by – “we always need outfielders,” he’d say.

Part of Ted wanted to say “Sure,” to go help out. His life was narrowing. His boys did less and less with him. He felt too young to just sit on his porch watching cars pass. Still, did he really want to wake up on Sunday mornings and play baseball with nine year olds? “Nah,” he’d say, “I’m good right here.”


And now he has Jay’s death, which he only learned about because some baseball dad has written a tribute for the Marblehead Reporter that pops up on Facebook. Jay had died in late March, about a month before Ted had seen Sammy. Now it was mid-May. Say hi to your dad.

It’s a wet Friday evening. Kayla, who still hasn’t texted back, has the boys. He’s promised his neighbors that he will help stain their new porch, but other than that, he has no plans for the weekend. He takes his chicken alfredo TV dinner and two beers out to the front porch and sits at the little table he and Kayla picked out together at Walmart back when they bought the house. The table was as old as Wes. Ted remembers Kayla carrying Wes in a snuggles – is that what those things were called? – through the aisles while he wheeled the shopping cart awkwardly loaded with the boxed table set, Billy skipping ahead of them. And then how Wes started crying while they waited in line to pay, and Kayla took him to the car to nurse.

A car roars down the street. Too fast, thinks Ted. For a moment, he imagines hurling his beer at them, or at the next car that zooms by without considering that people live there.

Right there, in the street some 25 years ago, the husband of the old Italian widow across the street was shot dead. He’d been philandering and his brother-in-law accosted him as he returned late one evening. Ted and Kayla had both known the daughter; they were all in the same class in high school. She left school and didn’t come back until after Christmas break. Twelve years later, when Ted and Kayla bought the house, they talked about the story, joked about whether the neighborhood was haunted, if that was why they got such a good deal.

Their own break-up had been so tame. A few years of not speaking much, then six months of bickering, and then she moved out.

It’s too late. Jay had been jogging. He had a heart attack. Ted imagines Jay, his tight referee shorts, his t-shirt just beginning to V with sweat, starting up an incline and stumbling, falling to the side of the road. He thinks of Jay’s face, how it must have tightened with incomprehensible pain, the shock, and then the eyes glazing over.

Two summers ago, Ted was coaching in his last year of Little League, and they were playing for the city championship, the final game. Wes was pitching, and he was cruising, but so was the other pitcher, and in the bottom of the sixth the score was tied, 0-0. There was a runner on second with two outs when some big kid came to the plate who Wes had struck out easily earlier. The kid had trouble with the fastball, and Wes had a good one. Wes’s best pitch, though, was a nasty change up that dropped half a foot. Ted called for the change up, Wes threw it, and it didn’t drop. The kid whacked it off the fence and the guy on second came around to score. Just like that, the game was over, Wes’s season, and Little League career, were over. Ted was proud of how Wes just watched the play, then walked off the mound and went through the line shaking hands. No tears.

Ted himself could barely hold back tears talking to the team afterward. They had come so close! Before the game, he kept thinking of Jay’s description of Sammy’s team winning the Marblehead championship. “We ran the table,” Jay had said, and described the kids acting just like the pros when it was over, piling deliriously into a heap in the infield grass, taking a victory lap around the field and waving to the parents. Ted had wanted to give Wes, and the rest of the boys on his team, that joy. Joy could be hard to come by.

In the weeks and months after the loss, and even now, two years later, when he replays the game in his head, some feeling kicks in before logic, and he thinks that he can just go back and fix that last inning, that he’ll call fastball instead of changeup, and they will win the game. The game exists unfinished, as if what really happened was simply visualized, and, in real life, Ted can avoid the mistake he made, and the actual game will be played tomorrow, whenever tomorrow is. He can have a do-over. The game is going to start, the lights will kick on in the second inning as dusk comes in from the ocean, and Wes won’t throw that hanging change up.

All this swirl of promise and hope before he realizes that there is no going back, the ball flies off the bat and rattles the fence, the other team’s runner steps into a mob of ecstatic teammates at home plate, and he and Wes won’t ever win a Little League championship. It is too late.

The chicken alfredo tastes the same as always, but tonight Ted isn’t enjoying it. How many of these has he eaten in his life already? He knows what it tastes like too well. He puts down his fork, pushes his plate away from him, and takes a swig of beer.

The fact of Jay’s death feels like something in his house, something useless, something no one else wants, like the boys’ old bats from little league that he keeps in a laundry basket in the basement. Over their several seasons, they had gotten dented. They’d been used so much, they were dead. The ball didn’t pop off them anymore. By the end, when the boys hit with them, they made a hollow sound, not a sharp ping. Not even the poor Dominican kids in Salem would want those bats now. Why hasn’t he thrown them out?

Ted finishes his first beer and stands up. He collects the plate with the lukewarm dinner and the other, unopened bottle, and heads back inside. He drops his plate on the counter, grabs his car keys, and walks out the door. He’s going to the Marblehead field.

The mist has thinned, but the air still feels damp. In his car he twists off the cap to the second beer, takes a drink and puts it in the cup holder. He clicks the radio on. Best of the 70s, 80s and 90s.

“Taking Care of Business” screams at him. He turns the radio off and drives in silence. Past that dive, The Tin Whistle, where he and his friends would go after high school, past the Eastern Bank and the college and its fancy new dorms. Ted went there for a year, but when he got cut from the baseball team, he lost interest.

He turns on Raymond Road, the shortcut to Marblehead, and a memory rises in his mind.

One Sunday morning that first year, Wes got caught in a rundown between third and home, and in the middle of the frantic scramble, Jay accidentally lobbed the ball into Wes’s back as he was diving toward third. The toss had been very slow, but Wes immediately let out a wail. And he kept wailing. And wailing – “I want to go home! It hurts so bad!”

The dads and kids just stood around, waiting to resume the game, puzzled at Wes’s sobs. Jay kept apologizing, “I couldn’t have thrown it slower,” he said. Ted had felt embarrassed – for himself, for Wes. It was clear to Ted that Wes had gotten overexcited in the drama of the rundown, but he didn’t want to just say that. It would have only made Wes scream more.

So he picked Wes up and carried him over to the bleachers. Ted remembers how, for a second, Wes’s cleat had caught in the pocket of Ted’s shorts, and he had wailed even louder. Billy looked over anxiously, and Ted made a calming gesture with his hand, letting him know it would be okay. It was awkward, sitting on the bleachers with Wes as he continued to sob, and Ted tried not to get angry. Now, as his car crosses the Marblehead line, Ted feels glad he had that moment, as unpleasant as it was, the feeling of his arm around his shuddering son.

Ted tries to recall the last time he put his arm around Wes. Was it a couple years ago, when Wes graduated from elementary school? And what about Billy, who is nearly Ted’s height now? Ted can’t remember.


The park is empty. Ted pulls into the lot and parks facing the field. He puts his seat back and grabs the beer. But when he clutches it and feels the condensation, he decides he doesn’t want it. Why drink it just because that’s what he planned to do? He opens the car door and walks through the dark to the trash barrel. He thinks about pouring the beer out on the ground, but he doesn’t want to leave the scent for kids to smell the next day. He places the full bottle in the trash carefully and walks back.

He doesn’t want to drink. He wants to … to what? To say something. But there is no one in the park. And no one, he thinks, outside of the park either. Billy and Wes won’t care about Jay. And the dads of Marblehead who still bring their kids on Sunday mornings? Ted can’t really come down to that game now.  It will be a new group. He imagines how creepy he would seem, some guy with no kids showing up at the field, hoping to talk with someone about a dead person.

When he gets to his car, Ted notices that Wes has left some books and notebooks in the back seat. He sits in the driver’s seat, looks out over the shadowy field. Beyond the fence, a few bats flicker around a streetlamp. They have bats in Marblehead, too, Ted thinks, smiling. He reaches back and grabs a notebook. A pen is lodged in its spiral spine. Ted nudges it out and opens to a blank page.

He thinks about what to write, but only comes up with a small collection of words: I need to go to the Marblehead. Ballhunt. Say-Hey. Your mom. Say ‘hi’ to your dad.

And who could he write to? Those other dads? They knew Jay better than he did.

His own boys, whose lives are shooting forward in such a blur? They don’t care about looking back, about some 50 year old who had been a small part of their lives.


One time Jay asked Ted about his wife. “We got divorced last year,” Ted said, “Probably a good thing.”

Not Kayla.

Jay, Ted recalls from the article, had been married. Maybe he can write a letter to Jay’s wife, just a little note.

Dear…he’ll look up the name later, I just want you to know that Jay was a great guy. I only knew him because I took my sons to his Sunday morning pickup games. Those games meant a lot to them. They meant a lot to me.

I think I liked going out there those mornings more than almost anything, more than swimming in the ocean, more than playing a sport myself, more than sex. Ted crosses out that last phrase. Too puzzling. But it’s true, he thinks. He probably won’t send this note anyway. more than sex. Seeing your children grow, and, at the same time, the interaction of body, the play, the game. I think Jay got similar joy from those mornings, and it’s what made them so… Ted thinks about the word he wants: beautiful? precious? valuable? great? But it was simpler than that: happy.

We never said this to each other. We were just casual friends, acquaintances really, so it would have seemed weird.

Or maybe it was so obvious it didn’t need to be said.


About the writer:
J.D. Scrimgeour’s short story “Say ‘Hi’ to Your Dad” is from his manuscript Hit by Pitch. Stories from the collection have appeared in Aethlon and Sport Literate. Scrimgeour is the author of three books of poetry and two of nonfiction, including AWP Award winner Themes For English B.

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