A Baseball Moment

Only one Terror is taking part in baseball this year. Only one. As much as I am enjoying the lack of juggling practices, it is breaking my heart.

Strike one:

I am sure it comes as no surprise that the Rookie is not taking part in baseball this year. It has been a while since he has willingly spent time on a baseball diamond. Not his speed. Not his style. Apparently he has decided if there is no risk of concussion, it isn’t worth it.

Strike two:

The O Man was always a “sure, I’ll play baseball” guy. It never really got him excited. This year, he has decided that he wants to concentrate on his shooting. After not being able to shoot little orange disks out of the sky because of basketball, which he LOVES, he wasn’t about to risk missing time at the range for something as bland as baseball.

Home run:

J couldn’t wait for baseball to start. He is spending a lot of time riding the outfield (gotta pay your dues), but he has pitched a few innings and it showing great improvement in his base running skills. He holds on a fly ball, and runs on anything with two outs. You wouldn’t think that would be such a big deal, but just ask any coach and they will do a headslap when you talk about base running. Watching him do it well without someone yelling at him brings tears of pride to my eyes.

He also seems to have given up his extreme and rather perplexing love of bunting. His first at-bat he squared off to bunt. I gave a giant eye roll and thought I would have to live through another season of him striking out on fouls, when to my delight the Coach barked at him, did some signs (yes, he is on a fancy team with signs now), and then J started to swing away. He has had some impressive hits which has luckily made him even more excited about swinging the bat. Its good he has the ability to bunt in his back pocket, but outfield singles are easier on his Mom.

There has been a major shift in the way J plays baseball that took me a little while to truly see. J now plays for himself.  Baseball is his sport, the way football is now the Rookie’s. It is where his heart is. It is what he loves to do.

There was a moment last year where J was charging towards home plate. He slid, beat the tag, and was called out. Our side of the bleachers went crazy (I say that to show that it wasn’t just me who thought it was a lousy call). J came off the field in tears, disappointed in the call and probably himself. I wouldn’t know, because that moment happened. The moment where it was more important that the team commiserate with him. The moment where anything his mother said was going to be pointless and disregarded. He didn’t want my opinion and he didn’t need my reassurances. Baseball now belonged to him. He would deal with the disappointment himself. I sat on the bleachers amazed that he was maturing before my eyes, and a little wistful that he had taken another (necessary) step away from me.

Since that “moment” happened, I no longer have to hope J will be a good baseball player… He intends to be a great one.

I still want to throw up when he pitches, but I can see that he has confidence in his skills. He can’t wait to get out there and pitch. He dares the opposing pitcher to try and pick him off. He wants to be the one catching the fly ball for the last out, instead of the kid murmuring don’t hit it to me, don’t hit it to me. The game, with all its victories and failures, now belongs to him.

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Boys of October

What a great post season this year! True, the Cubs are about as far away from October baseball as humanly possible, but there are (were) small market teams, which makes me very happy.

Since I route for a team that almost never makes the play offs, I am in the “pick your reason” category for who I route for in October. Do you route for the team representing your Division, even if they are your arch rival? Do you route for your League, simply because you just can’t support the other one with designated hitters? Do you route for the team that is closest to you geographically? Of course, that philosophy can cause problems in towns with two teams, since fans of one usually despise the other. Though, despite myself, I do always route for the White Sox when they go deep into the post season.

Most seasons I find myself routing for the small market teams; teams that don’t get a lot of love or attention unless they are actually winning. A post season slot can mean a lot to them: for money, exposure, growing a fan base, and money. Of course, sometimes being really good still can’t fill seats, but it can’t hurt.

This year, I had teams on all sides of the argument: Detroit (my new home state), the A’s (small market), the Reds (my Division). But I realized last night that my heart truly belongs to the Nationals.

You might think this is because they haven’t been to the playoffs since they were the Senators, and in the American League, in 1933 (I am not counting when they were the Expos because why would you?). But even though as a long-suffering Cubs fan, that type of story resounds with me, it is not.

You might think that it is because they finally let Teddy Roosevelt win the mascot race. And while this warms my soul (he created all the National Parks I love so much), it isn’t the reason either.

This year, my heart belongs to the Nationals because of a silly little t-ball team.

I can’t help but think of two of my Terrors, regaled in National’s uniforms. I’ll never forget J hitting home runs and O-man actually catching a fly ball in right (even the opposing team wept tears of joy on that one). I can’t help think of the first time I talked to Coach, begging him to let O-Man on the team (they split the Terrors between two teams…not gonna happen). I remember the fun and the munchkins and all the things that came to mean so much to me over those crazy t ball years.

So tonight the Terrors and the DH will be, mistakenly, routing for St. Louis. I’ll probably go down in flames, since the Cardinals seem to always be on the right side of luck. But no matter how much I love my St. Louis family, I want those Nationals to win

Go Nationals!

Undefeated

In the interest of equal time, it is time to talk about the baseball season for the Big Boys.

I can’t lie, this will not be as good a post as my wrap up of our time with the Mariners. I have no great personal attachment to the Greenline Wheels. The parents were nice and we all got along, but we didn’t hang, and the adult refreshments didn’t go down quite as smooth. It was no one’s fault. As my fellow Mariner parents are learning this travel season, pitch ball just isn’t the same.

J and O put up good seasons. J managed two home runs this year. He got to touch ’em all during the AL Championship Game, earning him the game ball. There were times on the pitcher’s mound (his favorite position), but also turns at first and second, and some time in the outfield.

O, with the smallest strike zone in history, learned not to swing over his head and put up some nice numbers. He walked, but he also got some really solid hits. He rode the outfield a fair amount (he was the youngest boy on the team), but he also got a few turns at catcher, his FAVORITE position.

My favorite were the few times J would pitch and O would catch. You could have lit the field with my smile.

The team was a bit stacked, and we went 22-0. They liked getting the big trophy and being on a winning team. They learned a lot about baseball. And I hope they had enough fun to want to play again next year.

It is with great pride that I present to you…

The Undefeated Season

Closing Time

The uniforms have all been washed and put in the regular tshirt drawer. The cleats have been relegated to the storage bin. The gear bag hasn’t been opened in days. The steak is marinating and the sangria is steeping for the parents only party.

Baseball season is officially over.

Some of the boys from the teams are soldiering on with travel ball, but my Terrors are settling into the drab routine of the summer slow down. There are no more practices. No more eating on the run. No more taking it easy because they have a game tonight. I can’t tell if they are happy about this or not, but there is always a sense of deflation after the last game of the season.

I have been awful about keeping everyone in the loop about the boys’ seasons. The big boys had a season for the record books, and I will post about that next. But first, I have to tell you about my Mariners.

I couldn’t have written a better experience, so I am going to wax nostalgic about the whole thing, not just this season.

We started off three years ago as the Nationals, with eight kindergardeners and a handful of bigger boys. There was little chance of us winning many games, and truth be told, I don’t think we managed even one “W”. But none of us even cared. The kids were having fun. They were learning about how to play baseball, not just learning how to play to win. The little munchkins got to play infield positions. The big boys hit some home runs. The little guys started to catch the ball instead of cringing when it came near them.

While the comedy that is rookie t ball took place on the field, the parents slowly started to forge friendships on the sidelines. We learned all the players’ names, then started to learn each other’s. Water bottles and juice boxes gave way to carefully disguised adult beverages. It wasn’t long before we were getting together off the field. We started to run into each other at school, at the pool, at the grocery store. There were backyard BBQ’s and parties. We formed a community, and for the first time I felt intertwined with my neighborhood, my school.

For our second year, our Coach calmly entered the offices where Those-That-Make-the-Rosters reside with a list of our players. This was our team. This was non-negotiable. They got their revenge by switching us to the Mariners. This meant our gift to Coach of a Nat’s jersey became a little useless, but gave us the chance to purchase him a new silver and blue one.

By biggest son moved on to pitch ball, and it made me realize what a special gift my Mariners were. While I enjoyed the new league immensely, I found myself looking forward to my Mariners games with a special smile. I would get to hang out with my friends.

Coach expected more of the kids, and they did their best to deliver. We now had all first graders, with the Rookie and four older boys. Balls streaked through the legs of infielders, soared over the heads of outfielders, and sometimes, just sometimes, were thrown with authority into the outstretched glove of our first baseman. They were becoming little baseball players. We even won some games.

I suffered through another off-season bulking the boys up with steroids and raw beef, and then realized with some sadness that only the Rookie would be with the Mariners this year. The older two had graduated to the next league up. The Mariners had also lost two families from the line up, both of whom would be sorely missed. But I had to enjoy this, my last season of Mariners ball: all of our Coach’s sons (and thus the Coaches) were moving on up at the end of the season.

They tried to split us up. Apparently having eight kindergardeners is having an expansion team, but having those same boys on the same team as second graders is stacking the team. Coach would have none of it, and went around collecting our boys and giving the head office what for. Again, this was our team. This was non-negotiable.

Coach, either drunk or insane, decided that if I was going to spend all season yelling “RUN!” at the base runners from the sidelines, I might as well be the first base coach. I, either drunk or insane, agreed.

I encouraged them until I was hoarse with gems like  “What are you looking at? Run!”, “Faster, it’s a race!” and “When you get to 2nd you stand on that base and look at Coach!”.

I got a t shirt and an awful picture of me on picture day (note to self, ponytail under baseball hat is NOT a good look for a portrait). I also got the excuse to go to practice even if the Rookie couldn’t make it. I got to gently remind Coach that the boy following the Rookie in the line up would certainly pass him on the bases. I got to be in on the strategy sessions, and got a copy of the line up every game, and I got to slap the hands of all the little All Stars-to-be in the “good game” line at the end of it all.

My Mighty Mariners were catching infield flies. Our crack third baseman had learned that bruises heal and threw his body in front of anything that came his way. Our hitters found the outfield in a big way, and grand slams were not uncommon. There were moments of brilliance interspersed with the inevitable mental lapses. We welcomed two new Rookies who never once looked at the ball when they ran to first (they were my favorites). We went undefeated for the first few games of the season.

We hit the playoffs with an 0-2 record in the post season. We won our first ever playoff game with style and what looked suspiciously like skill. Our next game was against a really good team. Imagine how proud we were when we won. Not only did we win, we played well. Despite our best efforts the little buggers had actually learned the game. They played their hearts out and showed us how much they had grown while we weren’t paying attention.

The Rookie goes back and forth about playing next year. He can’t comprehend t ball without the Mariners; he cannot remember a time without them. The thought of playing for someone other than Coach makes him a little nervous. Truth be told, it makes me a little nervous too.

I don’t know what baseball is going to be like going forward. There will be no more guacamole. There will be no more going out to dinner if there is a rain out. There will be no more Mariner’s family, and, to me, that’s what we became.

I’m sure I will still see everyone around town, at the occasional BBQ, or at a sandlot game. At least, I hope I will. But it won’t be the same. That’s the thing about life that consistently sucks: things change.

So, for one last time, I give you:

The Mighty Mariners

(I am linking to a Gallery instead of embedding this time…)

Another Year of Baseball

As another season of mitts and bats dawns around us, my mind wanders in and around that glorious game: baseball.

The game is almost mind numbingly slow.  Six innings in tball can run over 2 hours.  Yup, with no commercial breaks or technical time outs, they can top two hours.  And this is without pitching!  Add the scratching and stalling that usually goes with all of that, and we would be clocking cricket times.  This isn’t without it’s advantages.  It’s nice not to have to be paying attention every single second.  It affords time to catch up with friends at the game, or make new ones.  But it is hell on the bed time routine…

Real Major League games are slower than molasses in January as well.  They have implemented all these new fangled rules to try and speed up the game.  But how can you speed up a game like baseball?  You would have to shave an inning or two off the top, and I don’t see that happening any time soon.

It’s a goofy sport: you control the ball on defense and only have one player at a time working on offense.

It is a non contact sport, well, at least it is supposed to be.  No one gets throttled, there are no pile ups, and there is very little violence.  Bench clearing brawls are rare.  Managers might get kicked out but it is more likely to be due to saying nasty things  then for being physical.  When a batter gets hit by the ball he is tough only if he shrugs it off.  In what other sport do you show your mettle by not wiping the dirt from your uniform?  Shouldn’t your uniform always be dirty?  This is supposed to be a sport, after all.

The season for the bigs is insanely too long.  You start when it could be snowing and end when it will almost definitely be snowing.  Heaven forbid the Twins ever make it to the Series now that they don’t have a dome.  I wonder what the rule book says about playing thru flurries?

Baseball players wear slacks and spend the majority of the game sitting on a bench or standing still on the field.  Most of the sweat is generated because of atmospheric conditions.

So why do I bother signing up the terrors for whatever form of this game they are eligible for every year?

I usually prattle on about team sports and learning how to put the team first and not having all the pressure on you blah blah blah.  If I am honest, I don’t know the real answer.  I don’t see any college scholarships in their future.  I love to play, but that doesn’t amount to a hill of beans for the boys. But the thought of them playing Spring soccer instead…well…what? Soccer? It’s time for BASEBALL.

I was not a Mom who bought them mitts before their first birthdays.   I never assumed my love of the game would translate to having boys who played.  I didn’t even sign J up for tball his first year of eligibility.  I asked him (in February, when you sign up) if he wanted to play and he said no. Of course once the sun was shining he changed his mind and ended up playing. But I will not let it take over our lives. It would be possible for them to play baseball all year, but they get through the regular season, that’s it.

I tear up every year when they put their uniforms on for the first time.  It is an American right of passage. Somehow it anchors you in our country’s past, while at the same time makes you part of its future. Because no matter what changes in our lives, boys and girls will always swing for the fences come good weather.

And I will be there, with a hot dog and a cold beverage, to watch.

The Real Reason We Celebrate Today

You might think today is special because it is Valentine’s day. Well, you’d be

WRONG!


 

PITCHERS AND CATCHERS REPORT!

That’s right ladies and gentlemen, baseball season is, for all intents and purposes, underway. Well, for the Cubs at least.  The Sox don’t call theirs until the 17th. Pussies  (sorry mom).

All across Arizona, the Boys of Summer are coming by plane and by limo, shaking off the winter blues and reporting to their respective Cactus League parks. The Cubs will have Matt Garza in the “new faces” category and Kerry Wood in the “haven’t I seen you here before?” one. Kerry and Ryan Dempster are the oldest men in the pen, birth year 1977. The youngest pups were born in 1988 (I just threw up a little in my mouth).

My sister’s favorite player, Carlos Zambrano, will be back on the mound. Can’t wait to see how all his off-season anger management classes went. I hope not too well:  I would miss his hissy fits in the dug out. Sometimes they were the only thing that made the games worth watching.

My sister’s real favorite player, Geovany Soto will be reporting to try to whip these pitchers into shape. Let’s hope he comes out swinging. We’ll need him.

Will this be the year? I’ve been a Cubs fan long enough to not worry about that anymore. Sure, I would love to stand on Michigan Avenue while we shower the boys with a ticker tape parade…hey, now that Daley won’t be Mayor it could actually happen. But while statistically, someday it must happen, I have no illusions that it will be during my lifetime. Nope, now I just sit back and enjoy the game. Sure, sometimes they play worse than the Terrors’ park and rec teams, but sometimes they actually do play like the pros they are. And those moments make even a craptastic season worth watching.

So, you might love today because it’s all wine and roses and chocolates and lovey dovey stuff. I love today because we are back in business boys. Back in business.

With those who don’t give a damn about baseball, I can only sympathize.  I do not resent them.  I am even willing to concede that many of them are physically clean, good to their mothers and in favor of world peace.  But while the game is on, I can’t think of anything to say to them.  ~Art Hill

Pitchers and Catchers report.

I’m Back

Can’t blame anyone who had given up on me.  Sorry for the huge gap.  It isn’t as if nothing has happened:  O-man took a misstep in his spelling bee (spelled howl beautifully, but the word was hobbled), J had his very first orchestra concert (not as cringe-inducing as one might have thought), the boys made dinner one night (fried bologna, scrambled eggs, strawberries, carrots, and pistachios), and the Golden Globes were on (have not watched them yet, so don’t tell me who won). Then there was also the ground-swaying news that you are no longer supposed to put two spaces after a period. I am struggling. Struggling!

The most recent thing to happen in my world was baseball signups. Every year, in the bowels of winter, the OPYB/S association makes us haul our collective asses to a park district building, utility bill and birth certificates in hand, to make sure the Terrors all get a spot on some poor, unsuspecting Coach’s roster.

The older boys had to choose between try out ball, and the “non competitive” league. That always makes me laugh, because if there is one thing all baseball is, it is competitive.  The nice thing about the “n-c” league is that when J said he wanted to try catching last year, his coach let him catch.  That would almost NEVER happen in the try out league.  So, I prefer they play ball for fun.  Plus, this will almost guarantee that they’ll be on the same team.

The real surprise this year was the Rookie.  I was asking the older Terrors which league they wanted to be in, and he proclaimed that he wasn’t playing tball this year.  He was playing soccer.  After the older two revived me I had a nice little talk with the Rookie about how it would be the same Coach, and almost all the same kids.  I gave him a rousing pep talk and he said he would play this year, but that was it.

How he can share my genetic material and not want to play baseball is beyond me. It is America’s game.  It is the hands down best reason for being outside with a beer and a hot dog. And for every time it breaks your heart, it lifts you up again. Soccer…not so much.

The real problem with the Rookie skipping t ball is that I would miss my friends. I look so forward to seeing all the Moms and Dads that it would break my heart to know that they were watching and socializing without me.  What if the soccer Moms looked down on bringing sangria to the evening games?  What if all of them only cared about watching the game?  Who would I talk to?  I don’t know squat about soccer, and I worry I am too old to learn a new sport.  I simply couldn’t bear to have one of the children know more about something than I do, not yet.  No, that must not happen.

I talked him into just the one last year of t ball.  I know it was selfish.  If you could see me now you would see my head hanging in shame.  But in the end he won’t even remember he wanted to play soccer. And it means so much to me.  Aren’t I worth it?