Monday, May 5, 2008


Opening Day has come and gone. It was as cold as I expected. At least the rain finally stopped, even if we were forced to relocate to a field with better drainage.

The league provides umpires for a few special games like this one, teenagers mostly, hoping to make a little spending money. Coach P. approached ours before the game and asked, "Can I kick some dirt on you now to get it over with?" The ump laughed nervously and backed away.

We gathered the players together before the first pitch to remind them baseball's about having fun. They're not all convinced. In fact, we heard through the grapevine there had been some trash talk behind the scenes at a recent practice, prompting Coach P. to remind the boys,"We don't badmouth our teammates. We don't badmouth our opponents, our parents, our coaches, our umpires. We don't badmouth anyone." The prime suspects avoided my glare but the message got across.

We're also still a little unsure about a few of the parents. It may be winning is important to them. It may be they don't believe it's not that important to us. Or it may be I'm worrying without any reason. We'll find out soon enough, I guess.

The game itself went well. My kid smacked a home run at his first at bat, then pitched two perfect innings, striking out five of the six batters he faced. Everyone did well for that matter, getting hits, making plays, acting more like a team than we'd expected this early.

It wasn't a textbook display by any means. The last inning in particular was a bit of an abomination, featuring some particularly Chaplinesque fielding by everyone involved, my son included. I made the mistake of asking him about it after the game.

"Dad, I mean Coach, I was paying attention, I just misjudged it, you make mistakes Dad, I mean Coach, you make lots of mistakes, remember yesterday, what Mom, I mean Coach, I mean Mom said, that was a big mistake, wasn't it, see, you're not perfect, you make mistakes too."

"I made a mistake when I had kids," I told him.

"Except me," said my oldest son.

"Shut up," said the youngest.

It never ends.

The best part of the day, though, was when our quiet, tentative player came up to bat after striking out in his first two appearances. He played for us briefly a couple years ago and while he's gotten better, he's still learning.

"Why'd you pick him?" someone asked us.

"He's shy. We wanted to make sure he didn't get lost in the shuffle," Coach P. replied.

So the boy came to plate for the last time that day. Two pitches, two swings, two misses, and then he made contact. The ball dribbled toward the infield and he hustled toward first and the pitcher bobbled it and he was safe, standing on first looking like he'd just won a prize, which I suppose he had. I gave him a high five and looked across the field to where Coach P. was dancing around like he'd just won a prize, which I suppose he had too.

When we got back to the dugout, I told him he was batting .333 for the day. "Do that in the majors and they'll pay you $15 million a year," I said.

"Really?" he asked, his eyes getting big.

"Yep," I said. "Don't forget, I get ten percent as your agent."

His brow furrowed as he did the math.

"Have a sunflower seed," I said, holding out the bag.

He grabbed a handful and sat down on the bench. A couple of the other boys stopped by to congratulate him. His mother, who was keeping the book for us, smiled to herself as she watched her son become part of the team.


zombie rotten mcdonald said...

Nick Cave never sang any baseball songs.

Adorable Girlfriend said...

That's a great story! The team has a lot of potential this year.

Jennifer said...

Good job, Snag, I mean Coach.

zombie rotten mcdonald said...

But Sigmund Snopek has released a whole CD worth of baseball music....

Many of which are jingles for local bars.

Brando said...

When do you teach these kids to throw at a guy for breaking one of the 872 unwritten rules of baseball?

Righteous Bubba said...