Wednesday, May 14, 2008


This year's cold, gray slog of a baseball season feels like the siege of Leningrad, with fewer jokes.

Tuesday night we played the Yankees, coached by a nice guy who was as excited on draft night as we were. It stopped raining shortly before game time but stayed overcast and cold until the hypothetical sun allegedly set. The adults huddled together on the side lines; they're getting to know each other and talk about the neighborhood and the school during the long delays occasioned by spotty pitching. When a parent's son comes to bat, mom or dad will pay attention for a bit, but then return to the torpor that's enveloped all of us.

Coach P. and I are struggling with it too. We help the kids with the catcher's gear, slap their hands when they score or strike out, and then resume eating sunflower seeds and muttering under our breath as another ball rolls through someone's legs into the outfield.

Although we hadn't planned on it, by the fourth inning we put my son in to pitch. Some of the kids just don't have the arm strength yet to go a full two innings and we were running out of options.

The fourth went well enough, three straight outs capped by a nice diving stop on a ground ball by my kid, who flipped it to first. It didn't matter; he was still mad at himself for going 0-3 in his previous at bats and a good outing on the mound wasn't going to change that.

In the fifth, he went back in to pitch with the game tied up. He got a strikeout and then a batter hit a gentle fly to right field and Coach P.'s son drifted under it and then, in an apparent attempt to add some drama to the night, made an unnecessary slide toward the ball. It hit his glove and rolled out and suddenly there was a runner on first. Coach P. looked at him and shook his head. He turned and walked back to the outfield, mortified.

The next batter was thrown out at first on another diving play by the pitcher, but that still left a runner on second base. Coach P. called time out and went out to talk to my kid. "This next batter's good," he said. "Throw him junk. Whatever you do, don't pitch to him."

Next pitch, down the middle for a strike. "He's ignoring me," said Coach P. to nobody in particular.

Pitch after that, down the middle for another strike. "Jesus Christ," said Coach P.

Pitch after that, down the middle, for a dribbler to the left side, where the infielder grabbed it and threw it away and now they had runners on first and third and my son was avoiding my glare.

I wandered over to where the spectators were sitting and said, "Count this game a success; the coaches' kids are both on the verge of tears." The parents who don't know us very well laughed nervously and shifted uncomfortably in their chairs.

The next batter, he hit a ball up the middle and the throw came to the catcher, who grabbed it and tagged the runner, and we all turned toward the ump, a volunteer dad, and he was standing with his back to the play watching the game on the field next to ours. The silence finally got to him and he turned around, realized what had happened, and smiled weakly. We looked at the opposing coaches and they looked at us.

Their head coach said, "I don't know. Let's call it an out." He waved at his team. "C'mon guys, that's three." Everyone started running off the field.

Coach P. whispered to me, "Did you see it?"

"Not well enough to be sure."

He waved across the field. "You guys have a better angle. Was he safe or out?"

There was a pause. The third base coach cleared his throat and said, "I think he was safe."

"Good enough," said Coach P. "Guys, get back at your positions." Our team, which had made its way to the bench, gathered their equipment and went back out to finish the inning.

Next guy up got a single and there we were, two runs down. I wandered back to the spectators.

"Tonight's lesson. Good sportsmanship makes you a loser." More nervous laughs.

In the end it worked out. We scored some runs, Coach P.'s son threw a shutout half inning, and the team chalked up another win.

Afterwards we went out for ice cream, as we often do. The boys liked it, of course, they always do. I still don't have the rhythm, though, and Thursday calls for more rain.


zombie rotten mcdonald said...


Good sportsmanship makes you world-class.

Didja see the game where Sara Tucholsky hit a home run, ripped her ankle at first, and since the ump declared that she couldn't have a sub runner or be helped around the bases by her team mates, the opposing team carried her around the bases? For the winning run.

Here's the article:

Eff the pros. That's real baseball.

zombie rotten mcdonald said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
zombie rotten mcdonald said...

oops. double post. I blame Bad Religion.


Bad Religion and SALLY.

fish said...

"Tonight's lesson. Good sportsmanship makes you a loser." More nervous laughs.

I absolutely love this. Unfortunately in my neighborhood, I would get knowing nods instead.

Brando said...

This year's cold, gray slog of a baseball season feels like the siege of Leningrad, with fewer jokes.

I just took a rifle off my dead comrade, and boy are my arms tired!

Great post, Snag. You have to teach these lessons early, before the kids starting 'roiding up and are too full of hormonal rage to listen.

Kathleen said...

In Soviet Russia, the baseball outs you!

Snag said...

I met a German soldier who said he hadn't had a bite in five days. So I bit him!

I loved that story about the women's softball team. That's some combination of good coaching and good parenting. Twenty years from now, everybody involved should remember that story with fondness and pride.