Team Sports R Us

Just yesterday tension-filled games concluded in ecstatic victory or grueling defeat as dreams were lost and won. And then mere hours later, the snug feel of leather cradling the thumb replaced vinyl bouncing back against the hand and across the polished court. Basketball season had ended, and Little League baseball had begun.

Carl Stotz, a random dude from Williamsport, Pennsylvania, founded Little League Baseball in 1939, but the first time I experienced a season was in 2012. For my younger and more obviously athletic kid it started with a lot of energy and promise, whereas the other kid spent one windy practice with teeth chattering and categorically refused to play again. He sat out a few more practices before we finally consented to remove him, but only if he started Karate.

Now that he’s quit that, his father is forcing him to play Little League again. Seeing as I am the one who will often be dragging him by the hair to practices and games, it should be interesting to see how that goes.

Little League operates differently all over the United States. There are probably other teams in other places that have the benefit of some Major League retired players helping at practices. But because of the showbiz aspect of professional sports, it seems that an inordinate number of them end up in Malibu, California pitching to our kids.

Where their father had a local electrician from Wooster, Mass attempting a knuckle ball pitch, we had a guy wearing a championship ring, who happened to be one of the kid’s dads.

They were lucky indeed as when I was their age all I had was dance lessons, and those did not breed a heck of a lot of communal feelings with the other ballerinas.

The two practices and one game a week is brilliant at first, a skeleton on which to hang the rest of the week. For a writer this kind of structure can be so helpful, making one more productive and at peace. The kids too benefit from the consistency and camaraderie. But gradually as the season wears on, and one has already gawked at the other cute dads (again, in Malibu these are likely to be peppered with movie stars) even they lose their luster. One starts to feel that one has been driving children to and from practice for eternity, the Pacific Coast Highway a kind of purgatory between assignments. Practice and home to cook. School, practice, home to cook. Homework, bed bath and beyond, an endless rubric into eternity.

Roughly halfway through last year’s season I started to feel that I had never not been a baseball mom, had in fact been driving them back and forth and sitting in the whipping wind watching them get mud on those white acrylic pants since the beginning of time. The other mothers and I huddled together like lost prisoners of war, with intervals of sheer joy in between when some kid had a triumph, a stray smile when a personal best was beaten or a ball thwacked against hollow wood, but mostly just hours of endless tedium, watching the life you imagines for yourself evaporating before your eyes…

Then again, maybe that was just me.

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