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…)

Mariners’ Opener

Wow, being the first base coach is hell on my photographic responsibilities. I don’t have a single picture from our opening tball game! But can I just tell you how fun being the first base coach is? We have two true rookies this year, and both of them made it safely to first on their premier at bats. The smiles on those faces!! Well, I wished I had my camera!

My Rookie did very well. He hit safely three times, never got passed by Larry (who bats behind him and runs faster than Marion Brooks) on the bases, and made a spectacular play at second. Alright, he basically fielded a grounder and threw the runner out at first, but to me, it was amazing!

Offensively, we were on fire. There were some minor base running mistakes, but who wouldn’t be a little rusty after a year off? Normally I would blame the base Coaches, but seeing as how they refuse to listen to us yet…

Most impressive was the double play. Yes, I said double play. Our short stop caught an infield fly and we doubled up one of the base runners. Truth be told we could have gotten a triple play out of it, but we don’t play that way (not yet, anyway).

If it doesn’t rain buckets this weekend we should have the Big Boys’ opener as well. Fingers crossed…

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.

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?

The Trophy From the Black Lagoon…

A posting or so ago, I talked about the O man and his pizza pie-sized award for sportsmanship.  The other award that they all get every year is the dreaded Bobble Head Trophy.

I cannot describe how much I despise these stupid trophies.  Before I continue my rant, take a good look at the creepiness that is the OPYB/S Bobble Head trophy:

gasp, shriek, recoil with hand to heart, heavy breathing…

If that isn’t the f*cking creepiest trophy in the WORLD, I’ll eat my hat.  They are actual, functioning bobble heads.

I have 5, yes that’s right FIVE of these things staring down at me from various locales in my home.   I should have more, but due to just plain luck, some have never crossed into my home.  Stay back demons!  You are not welcome here!

The worst part of it is that no one can remember a time before the bobble head trophy.  This means that not only have they been getting them since time immemorial, but that it looks like they will continue to get them forever.  Which means I expect to have these things multiplying like psychotic nodding rabbits on my mantle until the terrors finally give up on organized baseball.  And since you all know me well enough to be reading this, you know that that will be a long time coming.

I don’t understand why we can’t get a trophy with a baseball on it, or a glove, or a base, or anything other than this vacant eyed Chuckie impersonator.  Perhaps they were breaking the mold and you could get shipping containers full of the things for practically free.  That’s gotta be it, since it’s hard to imagine anyone willingly handing over cash money for them.

Some people might like the continuity of a giant queue of the same trophy over and over again.  Or maybe the guy in charge just really likes them (really?).  I know I shouldn’t complain.  Participation awards aren’t about aesthetics, they’re about building the boys’ self esteem.

I should just shut up and just enjoy the thought.  That’s what’s supposed to count, isn’t it?

look at bobble head trophy.  shudder.

The All Star Break

Seeing as how the Bigs are gearing up for the All Star game, I thought it was about time I got off my duff and told all of you about the All Stars here in the OP leagues.

Al’s Grill sent J to the 9 year old All Stars.  He was really proud, and felt that this was only fitting given how marvelously he pitched this year.

You could drink the air (when did I move back to the tropics?) and we had a heck of a time keeping the boys hydrated.  But J couldn’t wait to get out there and make some history.

I couldn’t have scripted that scene better.  Look at my boy, playing the all American game in front of Old Glory.  Brings a tear to your eye…

His first at bat of the game he got his second hit of the season.  Couldn’t have come at a better time.  He hit a screaming line drive over the outstretched, leaping glove of the shortstop.  These boys know how to play, though, so he was held to a single.  He went on to steal both second and third, and his teammates hit him home to put the first run on the board.

After the first inning in the outfield, J got to pitch.

Tell me that isn’t a kid putting everything he’s got into each pitch!  He gave up a hit or two, but struck out three batters and didn’t allow anyone to score.

His next at bat he took one for the team in the arm, and again blazed around the bases in a streak of stealing glory.  This time he had to settle in at third, they couldn’t quite bring him home.

All in all, a great performance and a great day.

O man, didn’t actually play in a game.  Instead, he got the Sportsmanship Award.  What that is exactly, I couldn’t tell you.  And O man was certainly curious.

He was presented the award by our beloved Coach Joe, and then quickly opened the box to see what all the hullaballoo was about.  Well, if I am a sucker for K.A. gear, O man is a sucker for an award.  And this one is about the size of a dinner plate.  Not only is it huge, but it has his actual name engraved onto it!  He immediately requested a shelf be put up in his room so that it might be displayed in all it’s resplendent glory.  Well, that was after he insisted we get it back in it’s box ASAP so it wouldn’t get dirty, or broken, or dirty.

The Rookie didn’t get an All Star nod this year.  Even with a .990 on-base percentage, he just couldn’t compete with the bigger Mariner stars.

Congratulations to Taz, Soda Pop, Potato, and Dizzy Dizz!

Now we switch focus to the trading deadline…

It’s a Long Season and You Gotta Trust

This will be the last slide show for the Mariners this season.  Hope it isn’t too long…

The O man felt that there should be more O man in it.  (“You’re in it O!”  “Yeah…but barely.”)  I tried to make sure that everyone was represented.

Hopefully this version won’t get muted by grumble grumble John Fogerty.  If it does, I am honestly beyond caring.  Make sure you watch it soon before the lousy lawyers get to it.

So, without further ado:

“I’d walk through hell in a gasoline suit to play baseball.” -Pete Rose

Waiting for Inspiration

Still working on the slideshow (grumble grumble John Fogerty grumble grumble)…

And since I can’t think of anything to write about, I will share with you a song I stumbled onto while trying to find a replacement for the slideshow.  He wrote it to play at Cooperstown (home of the baseball Hall of Fame).  It was a two hanky song for me.

(if you want to skip the intro…go 30 seconds in)

A Letter to My Mighty Mariners

We lost a heartbreaker to the Angels, ending our playoff run.

So another season of tball is behind us.  There will be no more driving down to the field hoping for the shady side.  It is the end of 5:15 dinner before the games.  I will have to do without the unmistakeable “plink” that a metal bat makes when it hits a tee.  Ah the joys of America’s game, I will miss you.

To the Boys:

I apologize if I yelled at any of you, because I know I must have yelled “RUN” at most of you.  If I ever do, feel free to ignore me (how often does an adult okay something like that?).

You are, hands down, the greatest group of boys.  I had such a great time watching all of you play this year.  You really tried your hardest, and it showed.  It was a pleasure to be one of your fans.  Thank you for a great season and I can’t wait ’till next year.

To those of you moving on to pitch ball:  Good Luck, and we will miss you.

To those younger siblings coming up next year:  Can’t wait to see you in a Mariner’s Uniform!

To the Coaches:

Thanks again for trying to teach the O-Man and the Rookie how to play the greatest game in the world.  I know it isn’t easy, or at least, they don’t make it easy.  You helped the O-man deal with being afraid of getting hit.  You taught the Rookie how to growl at the opposing batters.

Where you find the patience to deal with the scheduling, the crying (kids and parents), the practices and the games, I’ll never know.  I admire your willingness to take on something so demanding and do it with such grace and fun.

A sincere THANK YOU.

To the Parents:

I apologize if I yelled at any of your kids.  Please know that I do it out of love, and because sometimes I lose control of the “filter” section of my brain.

Another year of gossip and carefully disguised adult beverages.  You guys make watching the slapstick on the field so much more enjoyable.  I couldn’t imagine tball without you, and hope to convince the Rookie to play again next year.

People ask me what I do in winter when there’s no baseball.  I’ll tell you what I do.  I stare out the window and wait for spring.

~Rogers Hornsby

Mariners Cake

Coach had a birthday yesterday.  So we hung out after the game and had adult beverages and ate cake.

I volunteered to make said cake, ’cause that’s what I do.

Turned out pretty good if I may say so myself.  The boys loved the mitt, and have declared that they want one on their birthday cakes next time around.  My personal favorite was the rally cap on the “ground”.

The whole thing made it to the field in one piece and though I remembered the sparkler candles, I forgot to bring a lighter.

Happy Birthday Coach.