I still remember the day they brought home my baby brother Jack.
I remember because I was mad.
I already had a brother. I wanted a puppy.
As my baby brother, it became his appointed duty to follow me around. He was the classic tag-along: If I headed out the door, my parents made sure he went with me.
I don’t think they had any idea just how much trouble he, our brother Randy and I could generate.
From the time Jack was old enough to pick up a bat, he was playing baseball with my friends and me. Jack, Randy and I had already played a million-billion games of catch, and we’d knocked dings in the house with our batting practice. I knew the kid could play.
When I picked him for my team in those pickup games, my older friends would snicker, thinking I only picked him because he was my brother. When it was Jack’s turn to hit, the other kids would move in, expecting him to bunt or hit a baby ball.
Little brother don’t bunt.
It was my turn to snicker when he’d smoke a line drive past their faces. I’m convinced facing older competition gave Jack an unfair advantage when he started Little League, which he dominated. He’d been playing against older guys for years. What chance did anyone his age have?
Same with football. I’d pick Jack for my team, and the other kids thought he was a gimme. I still remember playing quarterback in one of our pickup games and tossing Jack a screen pass. A friend of mine — a pretty big kid — came after Jack, smiling condescendingly, expecting the little boy to go down easily.
I’ll never forget Jack lowering his head and absolutely trucking the guy on his way to a long gain.
Basketball? Jack never had much vertical leap, but when he was on my team, he didn’t need it. I’d kick a pass out to him, and he’d knock down his shot. Later, as he grew bigger, he learned to set picks to give me room to score. We were such a deadly two-on-two duo that years later (we were grown men then), we encountered a couple of much younger guys at a public basketball court. They challenged us to a game — I swear I could see them smirking — and my baby brother and I flat schooled them. Jack set one screen on a guy, and it’s still set more than 30 years later.
As his older brother, I’d love to lie and say I was responsible in my duty to provide an example for my younger sibling. Nope. I’ll just say that on one regrettable (sort of) occasion, Jack had to serve as my designated driver after a day trip to the lake. Yes, we were playing hooky. I’d signed him out of school with a fake doctor’s letter.
Jack was 12.
Then we grew up (sort of) and life took us in different directions. I went off to the Marine Corps, and Jack entered college. He found his calling in journalism — the absolute perfect career for guys like us. We were full of crap for free for all those years. Now somebody was gonna pay us to be full of crap?
Jack comes by his tale-telling honestly. Our old man could spin a yarn like nobody’s business. He’d tell us to sit down for another one of his war stories, and we’d reply we’d already heard it.
“Not this version,” Dad would say. “I just made this one up.”
Did Little Brother work his way up the ranks of sports writers? Heck, no. Little Brother don’t bunt. He spent a short time as a reporter before taking on the sports editor job at The Lufkin Daily News. That’s a big danged jump, especially for a 21 year old. For several years, he did most of the sports stuff himself. He’d go in early to lay out his pages for what he knew was on the day’s schedule, then he’d go out and cover the games himself.
A few years into Jack’s new career, the Marine Corps gave me an option. I was tasked with taking over a recruiting station, and Lufkin was one of the options. I’d never heard of the place except for knowing my baby brother worked there. One phone call with Jack convinced me it was my turn to tag along behind my brother.
It would take an entire novel of epic proportions to relate all our misadventures, especially when I ended up moving in with Jack. Instead, I’ll try to keep all this family-friendly.
We enjoyed our bachelor life together, then Little Brother messed up. He met Rachel. My other brothers and I didn’t see it working out. Why would anyone as pretty and awesome as Rachel want to latch onto a sports writer? Had she not noticed the weird hours those guys work?
But while we were gathered to watch a football game at my mom’s house, we got a big clue. A Cowboys’ playoff game, and the score was tied at the half. At halftime, Rachel asked Jack if he would go for a walk. They left, and we felt sure he’d be back within minutes. It was a playoff game. The score was tied. Nobody leaves a tie game.
We didn’t see them for the rest of the day. I looked at my other brothers, and we all nodded knowingly.
Stick a fork in Little Brother. He’s done.
Not long afterward, Little Brother proposed. Did he profess his love in a small, intimate gesture?
Heck, no. Little Brother don’t bunt.
He dropped to a knee at the Astrodome during a high school football playoff game, and his proposal scrolled across the scoreboard: “Rachel, Will You Marry Me?”
It’s been more than 30 years since Jack became a sports writer. He’s covered every single kind of sport imaginable, and he made sure girls’ sports received just as much coverage as the guys’ sports. His dedication to publicizing all of them would be admirable enough. He could have bunted his way along just doing the bare minimum.
But then he screwed up. My little brother suffered the same issue about which anyone working with young people can testify.
He got attached to the kids.
He went way out of his way to try and make sure every kid received recognition. If little Bubba got a single in a high school game, Jack tried to find a way to write it into his stories. He once managed to sneak a local kid’s name into an Astros box score.
Tomorrow, Little Brother is going to receive the 2020 Distinguished Service Award from the East Texas Coaches Association. He’s not just getting some cool certificate or other small gesture.
No, sir. Little Brother don’t bunt.
He’s going to be inducted into the association’s Hall of Honor.
How about that? My little brother, a Hall of Famer.
Shoot. I’ve known that for years.