Monday, March 12, 2007

Field of Dreams

Today I feel like a prize-fighter who took all of the punches to his face. Spring has a vicious affect on me with my allergies. On my way into work this morning I was reminded about other spring things that begin to happen which are not my favorite things: little league baseball, and mowing lawns.
When I was seven I joined a little league baseball team and really don't know why I did that. It might have been something that my Dad thought was a great idea. Mind you we never played catch out in the yard or even attempted any sport for that matter. Dad is a tinkerer and likes to keep to himself. I spent most of my days outside in the imagine nation. Always lost in some sort of play. I cannot remember how me and baseball came connected that ill-fated spring, but it happened.
My baseball playing skills were nill. I could not hit the ball, the ball was very good at hitting me however, tended to duck and cover if a ball came my way, and thought it redundant to run bases. I was already where I needed to be, why would I have to run away from that place only to try and get back there. If I managed to hit the ball that should be good enough, give me a point and let's move on down the road.
Every time I went to practice I can remember standing in the outfield longing for it to be over. When I was out there all alone I would always go to another place, a much happier place. Some fat bumble bee would be clumsily making his way through life, or some lady bug would be away from home tending to the business of the day. Clover patches were great for the basic insect viewing population. "Spoon! SPOON! Get in here." Is the typical call that brought me back to reality. Dad stayed in the tuck and read the paper. Looking back I wonder if he stayed in the truck and hid behind the paper. I was really bad, really bad.
On one occasion at practice I was determined to hit that ball. As I stood at home, feet firmly planted, eyes peeled to the coach, hands gripping the bat with steeled determination. When I assumed the "hitting" stance I reared back a little too much and whacked myself in the head with the bat. The bat I was holding. Yes, I hit myself with the bat. It hurt like crazy. Coaches don't really like you to take your base when you have hit yourself with a bat. Even though the rules clearly state that, "if a player is hit they take a base." Not a banner day on the field of dreams let me tell you.
Games were a different story. I was in the outfield right behind first base, whatever part of the field that is. I can tell you that nothing comes your way--NOTHING. I stood out there playing in the grass, picking dandelions, watching the creek across the street babble a long. Just about anything that didn't involved paying attention to the game. I don't' think I ever fielded one thing. I never played any other position either, just that lonely spot behind first base. The coach would usually hit some pop flies for the outfield to keep us warm. When it came my turn he would just wave me in. I loved his graciousness.
There were times that I had to go up to bat. I really hated to bat because all eyes were on me. I didn't like to have any attention drawn to myself and this was not the position I longed to be in. As I would come up for my turn, coach would wrap his arm around my shoulders and say, "lean in son, lean in." By leaning in I would guarantee a hit. The ball hitting me and me taking a base. I can remember a couple of games where I managed to get a few of the runners into home by this "lean in" trick at the plate. Oh the running, I really hated the running. Baseball is just not my game.
There were two great things about little league though, Dairy Queen and 10th inning. We always ate at Dairy Queen before the games, that meant delicious coney dogs, ice cream, and fries washed down with root beer. After the game and we all lined up and walked past our team mates giving "five" and saying, "good game." We got a free canteen drink. I always, always got the suicide. Boys love to create things that are totally revolting and then eat them. For me it was mixing all of the drinks together and chugging away. That free suicide was all I needed to make the experience of playing ball worth it.
I have returned to the field of dreams to watch other little leaguers play and enjoy that very much. I mostly watch the parents, and the child who is ceremonially holding up the spot behind first base. It's great. The parents in the stands act as if there is a pennant on the line or their child's career is at stake. It's just a game, let them play and have fun for heaven sake. Parents are yelling at the other children, griping at the coaches, hollering at the referee, or is it umpire--they wear the black and white outfits. I just can't believe some of those parents. There is always that one team that has taken it to the limit. They all wear the team shirts, have bumper stickers, and tailgate parties for their 2nd grader's game. It drives me crazy.
The only other sport I love more that little league is soccer. I love to watch toddlers play soccer because they all run to where ever the ball is--priceless. Children just want to play. They wear white pants that are made to grab and retain as much dirt as possible, then slide into the dirt and not get into trouble. There must be some special dirt shipped in that is made just for baseball fields that is the most stubborn, stain-release fighting element on the planet. In addition to being absolutely filthy and not get in trouble, they can scratch what ever needs scratching, adjust what ever is out of place, spit, and wipe out in public and not get in trouble. It's just baseball. What boy wouldn't want to play baseball?
I guess as long as there are little boys and now girls whose parents are convinced they have the next baseball super star on hand there will be little league baseball. I am sure I will be a parent watching my children out there. Thank God my two boys didn't come from my gene pool--that means they have a chance! I just hope I can stay calm, cool, and collected at least until another parent yells at my kid, then I'm taking a bat and going CAPONE!


Tracy said...

the dairy queen sounded like fun LOL. i also hate those crazy parents who think the world is gonna end over a little league game. they've lost the entire point of the game now haven't they. the fun. and dont get me started on learning good sportsmanship. the sad thing is they pass their craziness on to their own kids.
I am sure if your boys play one day they'll have the dad who will be there for every game and will be hangin on every play they make - but in the good, normal parental way - hoping your kid does well and feels good about himself. and i am darned sure you'll be making a stop at the DQ on the way home LOL