I attended my first baseball tryout in 1989. I wore cotton baseball pants, a 3/4 sleeve baseball shirt and a Simple Green cap that was too large for my head. It was at Annex in Aiea. Before the exercises began someone running the event pinned a piece of paper to my shirt. It bore the number 8. “That’s the day you were born,” I remember my dad saying just before letting me go to line up with the other kids. “It’s good luck.”
The number 8 has been my jersey number of choice since my sophomore year of high school. I wore for three years at Damien. I put a sticker of the number 8 on my old car. I wore the number 8 on a jersey I wore for Orange Bhang, a team I played on in a Culver City League; that jersey also featured the name “Prime” (as in Optimus Prime) in place of “Higa” and I did not realize the simian pun I had accidentally made until I saw the back of the shirt on the night of the first game. I played NBA Street with a team of Antoine Walker, Latrell Sprewell, and Kobe Bryant because they all wore 8. I got my ass kicked in that game a lot. I’ll love Troy Aikman forever, but I’d love him a little less if he wore any number other than 8. Back in the early ’00s, when it was fashionable to wear t-shirts that featured numbers, I bought every single one them I came across. “8-shirts,” I called them. Before heading out, I would shout to Lynnette “Have you seen my 8-shirt?” She’d shout back “Which one?” And I’d say “The gray Gap one”, or “The red one with the navy sleeves”, or “the OG A and E one”. Lynnette owns one and it is my favorite shirt of all time. At 35-years old, I still insist on 8.
“What number are you going to pick today?” I asked Madison before we left for her first day of the Winter Soccer season. “I don’t know, I didn’t get to pick last time,” she said. “But if you get to choose?” I asked. “Eight, of course,” she said.
When it came time for jerseys to be distributed, Mad and I made sure to be first in line. “In extra-small I have… 6, 7, 8, and 9,” her coach said. Madison and I looked at each other. She was smiling. I probably was, too. “Eight!” she said. When she put it on and walked off toward the field I really was afraid I’d cry. Parenthood, man.
To be honest, I’d rather Madison find her own number. I want for her to find some kind of reason for attachment to it – hopefully one that isn’t as unhealthy as mine has been – to make it her own. “You can pick your own number if you want, Mad,” I remind her. “Whatever you want, it’s totally up to you,” I say. I mean it. “I don’t have a favorite number, dad. And I wanna be like you – a true Higa athlete,” she says. That KILLS me every time. I don’t even want to be like me.
She doesn’t know any better yet, but she’s got it wrong. In a few years I hope to make signs to Mad’s high school games. They’ll be huge, obnoxious, and – if I have my way -feature some horrific puns. I’ll probably even end up being one of those guys who gets t-shirt jerseys of their kids’ ones for family and friends to wear. Obviously, I wouldn’t mind another reason to wear my old number again. But I’d be even happier to wear hers.