Jill was unnerved to discover that it was nothing like shopping for bras. There was no designated department. There were no helpful size charts or swooping sales women who had the exact same one at home in three colors. There was just a pegboard panel with hooks on a wall in a row with the shin guards and the mouth guards and the masks that covered entire young faces. And this was not about anything as frivolous as sagging. Grandchildren were at stake.
“Excuse me,” Jill said. Gus instinctively drifted off toward the bat display as a carbuncle-cheeked sales boy answered Jill’s call. “Maybe you can help me.”
Jill held two cups up to the clerk’s reddening nose. “This one here says Youth Small, which is a size six to eight. And this one here is a Youth Medium, which is a ten to twelve. So what do you usually recommend for an eight going on nine-year-old?”
The teenager eyed Gus’s hiding place by the bat rack enviously. “I really couldn’t say, ma’am. Would you like me to get the manager?”
“Yes. Why don’t you do that.” Turning to position Gus in her eye line, she held each cup up in its imaginary position, one, then the other, like a cameraman plotting his shot.
A man with a dated mustache rounded the corner. “I’m the manager. May I help you?”
“I just need some advice on these cups.” Up and down the neighboring aisles, boys scattered like delinquents. “I’m concerned that this one might be too small, but this one,” she said, holding it up to the light and rolling her eyes, “Looks way too big, don’t you think?”
The manager looked over at Gus who shoved his hands in his pockets and whisper shouted, “Can’t we just get both of them?”
“That’s probably best,” the manager offered quickly.
“Are they returnable?”
“I’m afraid not.”
“Well, I’m not going to spend $9.99 on a cup you’re never going to use. That’s just a waste.” Turning back to the manager she said, “Isn’t there some way you could help size him for me?”
The man smiled so tightly his mustache brushed his jaw line. “Not really, no.”
He’d left her no choice. Squatting down, Jill held each cup up to Gus’s zipper line.
“If you want to play baseball you need a cup that fits. That’s all there is to it. I’m sure Ronald Clemens’s mom had to do this when he first started, too.”
“Roger,” Gus corrected.
“Roger,” Jill said, then stood up with a resigned sigh. “Well, I’m not sure either of them is perfect, but, I say the safe bet is the big one. You can always grow into it.” She tilted it on its side and squinted, as if measuring flour in its capacious hollow.
Gus’s eyes widened at the prospect of the vast, demanding shell. Unable to articulate the particular threat of the larger cup, he merely shook his head and, raising his index finger up like E.T.’s, pointed to the smaller one.
(excerpted from The Pitcher’s Mom)