Baseball Dreams and T-Ball Go Together

(An essay from my column in The Beach Reporter on 6/11/1992.)

As some of you may have guessed from my last column, baseball is not my favorite spectator sport. At least in football and hockey things move fast. But in baseball you can go half an hour before anything happens to wake you up.

Not so in a T-ball game. For those of you who are unaware of this fabulous sporting event, T-ball is a scaled-down version of baseball for kids who are too young for Little League. Most of the kids are six or seven years old. The teams are mostly boys still, although there is the occasional girl on a team. The girls have their own softball league, but they are allowed to play T-ball or Little League if they choose to.

The big premise in T-ball is that all the kids play different positions on the team and the games are supposed to be low-key and non-competitive. I’ve seen professional hockey games that were less competitive than the average T-ball game. Let’s not forget that the South Bay is full of overachiever, Type-A parents, and that on a baseball field they can’t help but let their true personalities show through.Sure they say things like, “Good eye, good eye,” but you know they’re thinking that the kid couldn’t hit the ball if it was as big as a pizza. They shout out, “Wait for a good one!” when they really know that the kid can’t help but swing at anything within a 10-mile radius.

We’ve all taken the same parenting classes and we know the buzzwords, “Joshua, I really like the way you hit that ball” (even if it only went three feet). “Alex, I like the way you waited for a good pitch” (if he had waited any longer, the grass would have grown another foot.) Everyone is so cheery and upbeat, it’s truly nauseating.

Of course there is no person more cheery and upbeat than the team mom. The team mom has been put on the earth to make the rest of us look bad. The team mom volunteers to hand-sew the banner, cross-stitching the name of each player and designing a logo out of quilting scraps.
She organizes the rest of us into some kind of order, doling out coveted jobs like trophy-orderer, end-of-season party planner, sweatshirt buyer, snack list maker, and buyer of the coach’s gift. These are all very important jobs, which we take very seriously, mainly because we don’t want to upset the team mom.

Of course we can’t forget the very most important person – the coach. The coach will take your six year-old – who is barely four feet tall and doesn’t quite weigh 50 pounds and wears bifocals – and turn him into Orel Hershiser. The coach always says that it doesn’t matter who wins, but we all know better. The coach loves to win but he doesn’t let it show because he is a good coach.

Then there are the various dads who come out of the woodwork every Saturday, and who are experts on every facet of the game. Manhattan Beach attorney dads who went to USC are the worst type to have in the outfield. Trust me.

Last, but certainly not least, are the kids. All elbows and knees, they wear their uniforms proudly and swagger when they carry a bat. Out in the field they may be picking daisies, but when they come up to bat it’s a serious matter. We’re talking World Series concentration.

I learned lots of things during T-ball season. I learned that it’s possible for a ball to be resting on the T and still be missed six times in a row. I learned that the scores are usually something like 26-24, unheard of in real baseball. I learned that a ball can be hit 30 feet, go through the legs of six kids, and become a triple. I learned that the chances of a six year-old on the pitching mound catching a ball and making contact with first base are quite slim.

I learned that when my little boy was up at bat I would pray silently to whatever gods are in charge of T-ball to let him get a hit. By the end of the season I actually learned to like it a little. Don’t expect me to be Team Mom though.

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