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One tiny white house
One bed, shared by boy and father
One big cardboard box full of used bats, gloves, bases and catcher's gear, purchased from the Sacred Heart yard sale for $3
Place the father on a chair on the front stoop of the tiny white house in Lincoln, Nebraska.
Place the pudgy boy on the gravel road. Have him throw baseballs to the father, who catches them with a glove on his right hand, tucks the ball beneath his chin, whisks off the glove, grabs the ball and throws it back with the same hand because his left one is gnarled and useless.
The boy must throw with accuracy. Otherwise he must chase the ball because his father's left leg is dead.
Repeat, hour after hour, day after day. See if the boy's passion is as big as his big league dream. See, when he's five, if he'll suit up in the catcher's gear and let the father bounce baseballs off his body. He does. See if he stops playing catch when it starts snowing. He doesn't.
Anoint the boy with a nifty nickname when he's a toddler. Something that makes him feel special even though his home is motherless and his family just scrapes by. Doesn't matter that the kid doesn't know the nickname's meaning. Tell him it was just a sound uttered by his cousin, a two-year-old Winnebago girl who was trying to pronounce the name of her older brother, Joshua, 20 years ago. Joba. Pronounced JAH-buh. So much more dynamic, Joba Chamberlain, than Justin Chamberlain, decides the dad, Harlan. So befitting his dynamic little boy.