"Ariel, if you break a window, I'm gonna break your head," the father said, sounding neither stern nor threatening.
"It's a rubber ball," Ariel said without stopping. The ball met the wall with a hollow thud.
His friend chimed in, "Then you'll have to get him a new head and buy a new window."
Luis ignored this comment as he shared the latest details of Ariel's media adventure. Television stations 7, 9 and 47 had all come for interviews, in which he was painfully shy, and someone from TBS called this morning. Luis was in serious talks with producers from Jimmy Kimmel Live! (He would appear on the show on July 21.) Tomorrow night Ariel would throw out the first pitch for the Somerset (N.J.) Patriots of the independent Atlantic League. Clearly some people believed the video, while others wanted more evidence. On Monday we would meet a TV crew from Univision at The Hot Corner in Lyndhurst, N.J., where Ariel would return to the cage for a live demonstration.
"Dad," Ariel said, "can we go to the basketball court?" It was almost 10 p.m.
"I love to kiss this one," Luis said, scooping up Gordo. "You love your daddy? You love your daddy?" A siren howled.
"To survive around here, you gotta kinda blend in," Luis said. "I gotta be cool with the drug dealers and the guys doing robberies." But one time a dealer put heroin in the Antiguas' mailbox, he said, and that was too much. "I kinda told him, 'Listen, I will f---ing kill you if you sell drugs around my kids. ... I was gonna hit him with the bat."
Ariel ran to Jessica. She picked him up, and he wrapped his arms and legs around her. We went inside, through an apartment whose mustard-colored walls bore the scars of innumerable ball games and wrestle-fights, and out the back door to a rectangular patch of brown earth about the size of a racquetball court, surrounded by high walls and chain-link fences.
"This is a real big backyard for Jersey City," Luis said. They used to have a much larger apartment, with four bedrooms, for $100 less per month, but they moved so the boys could have their own place to play outside.
"Daddyyyyyyyyy!" Ariel said. "Pitch!"