Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Play Ball!

Well, it's that time of the year and the all-American pastime has us in its grips. Mickey is playing baseball with the Cal Ripkin League, which is a coach pitched league. At least it is coach pitched for the under 8s. And believe it or not, they have me out there on the field helping the kids with batting and catch practice and then during the games I'm out there somewhere between second and third base screaming at the players in the field to get the ball and throw it, usually to first. Regardless. Sometimes I mixed it up and scream at them to throw it to third. They have no idea. If I can get them to stand up and pay attention to the player at bat, I'm doing good. I had this one little guy on second and I was trying to get him to understand what all was about to happen and he says "Oh look! A jet stream!" Yeah, yeah kid. A jet stream. WE'RE PLAYING BASEBALL! Then he says "Oh look! A dump truck!" Hello. We're playing baseball. Doesn't matter. We're all having fun. The two guys who are coaching are great with the kids. From what I understand, the Cal Ripken League is known for having an emphasis on fun and not on competition. The Little League, apparently, is the one with the screaming parents. Well, I did not hesitate to inform everyone that I was afraid I would be the screaming parent here. And I do scream. This one little girl got up and after she hit the ball she just kind of stood there. I screamed, "Run! Run!" She turned to me and rather pointedly informed me that "Run!" was not what one was supposed to scream. I looked at her like she had twelve heads and screamed even louder, "Oh yes you are, now run! RUUUUUN!"

I remember going to the ball field when my brother and sister played ball and I always looked for something else fun to do. Mickey's ball practice takes place in Greene Park, right behind Town Hall in the Town of Monterey, the town just north of our town. Just off the ball field is this merry-go-round. Unfortunately, even during a game, it can be a distraction for Mickey. I'll be searching the field or line up for Mickey and he'll be no where to be seen. I'll look over and he's left the game and is playing on the merry-go-round. How embarrassing.

The first day of ball didn't start out too well. One of the two coaches forgot to show up, and problem was, he had the balls. So Coach Jim did his best to explain how the practice would proceed without them. The kids had no idea what he was talking about.

First, Coach took them around the field and introduced them to home plate and each of the bases as well as the pitcher's mound. He then had them run the bases, as a group and then one by one. Stalling.

After everyone ran the bases, twice, Coach Jim was at a loss of what to do next. Then, as luck would have it, one of the parents had an unopened bag of whiffle balls in the trunk of her car. Whew! Batting practice was able to proceed. Coach demonstrated the proper way to hold a bat and how to swing.

Step out . . .


After batting practice, the players were sent to the dugout to get ready for a game. I was left in the outfield to gather balls into the storage buckets. As I was picking up the balls, I heard "Daddy! Daddy! Look!" I turned to see Mick, beaming, with his team uniform in hand. He was so excited and so proud!

I never played baseball growing up. I got hit square in the forehead with a wooden baseball bat by Jennifer Stubblefield during recess in sixth grade. Totally by accident - I was day dreaming and standing too close to her - but man did it hurt. Of course, I bled like a lunatic and had to have stitches. But I think I had already made my mind up years earlier that I wasn't interested in baseball when I saw some kid get whomped by a baseball during a game my brother was playing in. Just didn't make sense to me. What fun could there be playing a game in which you could get mortally wounded? There are a thousand other theories why I didn't play ball, but we wont' go into those here. Nonetheless, taking Mick to baseball practice and actually taking part in the practice, and in the Parents vs Kids games that we are now having these last few practices, I am having the time of my life. Probably even more than Mick! I'll say, though, he is a good sport. During the games, the parents aren't supposed to hold back. So, a ball was hit right to me. I managed, miraculously, to pick the ball up and get it thrown to first base, making the little blond boy player out. Oh, boy, did he cry. He skulked off to the dugout and refused to participate the rest of the game. Good grief. If he only knew just how funny it was that I, ME for God's sake, was able to get ANYONE out in a game of ball, he simply would have laughed. Mick, on the other hand, while disappointed when I got him out, exited the field like a good sport.

This coming Wednesday is the last practice. Dang it. It seems like we just got started! After the game is a cookout. Fun. I tell you, the two guys who run the league for these players have my admiration. It has been fun, and such low pressure for everyone. Well, low pressure until I get into the game. I can't wait until next spring!