Sunday, June 10, 2012

Take me out to the ballgame


I didn’t grow up a sports person.  We never watched it on TV, went to any games, and while there were hundreds of baseball and kickball games played in the street, that was as far as I got.  The thought of a schedule and uniforms and all that jazz didn’t appeal to me.  My one-year stint at tee ball was productive in the literary sense, because while standing in the outfield, looking at the clouds, I wrote a poem.
Ball?  What ball?
My kids seemed to be traveling on the same path as I, turning down organized sports, not keen on practice and competition.  And I, who would rather not spend my time flattening my behind by sitting on a metal bleacher for twenty years, was OK with it.  The pressures, mental and physical, that small children endure during sports just weren’t something I believed in.  
But then along came baseball.   More specifically, little league.
This is not a game I ever really understood.  The games can potentially last forty zillion hours.  In the beginning of the season we bundle ourselves in winter jackets and you’re wondering if you could sneak a knit cap underneath your kid’s batting helmet without anyone noticing.  Mid-season baseball is often non-existent because it’s been raining for days.  Anything you’ve ever owned that is white, well, is no longer.  And by the end of the season, everyone is sweating, the infield starts to look like a desert and the kids start wandering off to a slushy mirage somewhere around third base.
Not only the weather, but there’s also the fact that parents plant themselves in chairs or on the ground and spend most of their time corralling other people’s children off the field.  Someone is always hungry.  Someone always has to use the port-o-potty, and you wonder if it was last cleaned during the previous year’s baseball season.  There are mosquito bites and poison ivy in the overgrown sections around the field, and at times the worst thing to deal with are the overzealous parents who scream and yell about things that really don’t make a lick of a difference in life.
But this year I realized there is something more to all of this baseball stuff.  For us, it’s a group of boys, all smashed together on a tiny, weathered bench, and even though it’s not quite big enough for the whole team, they make it work.  They bonk helmets, they wiggle, they laugh.  I’m pretty sure they tell fart jokes.  They give high-fives when one of their teammates gets a home run and when one of their teammates strikes out.  When it’s their turn at bat, they immediately turn on their very serious face and the rest of the boys slide down, returning to their usual banter and giggles, never losing focus of the game.  (OK, well sometimes.  But it’s little league and if you’re not having fun, it’s just not worth it.)
If you ask any one of them the score of the game, they’ll say, “I dunno.  But I’m pretty sure we’re winning.”  Likewise many of them think they have won every game, despite the actual outcome in the scorebooks after they’ve walked through the line and slapped hands with the opposing team.
The whole way home I have to hear about every replay of the game.  This play, that hit.  “Didja see that mom?  Didja?  Didja?” he asks me over and over.  And without skipping a beat, I answer, “I sure did.  You guys were just amazing tonight!”  
I don’t have the heart to tell him that while my eyes were fixed on him, my mind was wandering off, writing poems about spending the every springtime of my life perched on a metal bleacher, and the flatness that will proudly ensue.  



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