I grew up watching baseball. I played softball, both slow and fast pitch, through all four years of high school. My summer job until the age of twenty was working in a ballpark, keeping score in a small wooden building behind home plate, crossing my fingers that I accurately counted every run crossing home plate all while chatting it up with friends who frequented my little hut about the latest teenage drama unfolding in our small town.
I have always loved the game. And then my children started playing.
This isn’t the first year of little league for my sons. They have played previous seasons, on various teams, for several years now. However, the difference this year is that at the ages of nine and seven, they became serious about their love for the sport that brings them such joy. And to make matters worse, so did their coaches.
The season began with nightly practices, for both Chase and Chandler, held at different times and different locations all of which initiated my descent into baseball purgatory. Keep in mind that school was still in session at this time, and for some reason, those rascals known as their teachers still expected my children to perform. Even as they had baseball practice until the wee hours of the night, homework assignments and projects deadlines continued at the normal pace one keeps to successfully leap into the next grade level all in the name of progression.
All while having baseball practice 180 hours a week. Those teachers have some nerve.
Practices transitioned into games, and with a sigh of relief, I falsely anticipated that the frenetic activity in our home would slow somewhat. But then I realized that those in charge of the league schedule were not concerned with bedtimes, or proper baths using washcloths and soap, or the learning of multiplication tables, or the inherent evil associated with the overconsumption of preservatives tossed haphazardly from drive-thru windows.
Those baseball schedulers have some nerve.
The month of May found us attending eight games a week. Some nights there were two games at the same time and we found ourselves in a parental quandary: which parent goes to which child’s game and how do we each see each child play without borrowing a parent that does not belong to our family?
And could you follow all of that?
End of year school activities and performances and parties and award ceremonies were all somehow folded into the dust cloud of red dirt that followed my Expedition from one field to the next. I’m pretty certain Mother’s Day and my birthday occurred in between some of the innings, but it could have been my imagination, or temporary delusion caused by the numbing of my backside when sitting on bleachers for hours on end.
School ended and tournament play began. This would deem the champions of the world in each age division, bestowing a large shiny trophy to the winner and some coveted normalcy to our lives.
Chandler, 7, finished his tournament first. Unbelievably, they ended up winning first place, designating his coach as the one who would choose the all-star team to represent our league.
(You know where I am going with this. And why I am chewing on sedatives as I type.)
Chandler was chosen for the team, sending us back to square one of nightly practices followed by insane scheduling of games. It was like the Groundhog Day Movie version of the baseball season with a perpetual cycle of beginnings and ends.
Chase finished his tournament play in a nail biter that landed them in second place. A beach trip with two friends and their families was delayed by a day, but worth the hours lost when witnessing the maturity with which my son held up his chin as he clapped for the winning team that was not his.
We travelled back from the beach a day early for Chandler to play in the all-star tournament. They have lost two games and won another, and I am starting to see this baseball chapter mercifully come to a close. At the end of yesterday’s game, my five year old daughter looked up at me, seriousness and fire in those green little eyes, and said, “Mommy, you know that I am going to play next year, don’t you?”
To which I responded, in as sugary tone as I could summon, “Honey, that’s not going to be possible. There is not a league in our town for little girls.”
And the lie tasted as sour as the hundreds of dill pickles purchased and consumed from the concession stand this season, but one I refuse to retract. Maybe when this season – and the sedatives - are but a distant memory will I reconsider my regrettable and untruthful statement.
But for now, I’m going with it.