"That was the most important thing," says Demetrius, now an instructor at a local batting cage. "He told us about how Hank Aaron worked for an ice company in the off-season, and that's why his forearms and wrists and hands were so strong--from carrying blocks of ice. And about all the African-American players who came before and didn't have a chance to play in [the majors]. It made us appreciate the opportunities we had."
Charles, who moved the family to Brandon when Chone was one and now drives a truck for a carpet company in Orlando, played competitive slo-pitch softball on a traveling team composed mostly of five of Eva's seven brothers and their extended family and friends. The team barnstormed Florida playing weekend games, which became impromptu gatherings of the Figgins and Callins families. A coed team played from time to time; Eva was a first and third baseman. Chone cut his teeth in the kids' pickup games, tossing and slapping wadded paper cups until he was old enough to swing a bat. "Groomed for it, I guess," he says.
Because money was tight, Charles had his sons help him work odd jobs around Tampa. "During the summers I remember we'd clean a building, buy chicken wings and come home, lay on the floor and watch baseball all night," Charles says. "They were my sons, but they were like my best friends."
Now Figgins is most at ease in the routines and rhythms of baseball. He visited Pierre in Miami last winter, arriving late on a Friday night, and after dinner and a few drinks at Mansion, on South Beach, the pair found themselves up late at Pierre's apartment, talking, bats in hand. "He said, 'You want to go hit?'" Figgins recalls. "He knows me. So we went to the stadium, nobody there but us, and hit for an hour or two." It was good to be home.
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