I remember three things from my own T-ball experience, many moons ago, with the Shaw Park Yankees.
One, there was a guy on my team named Steve who hit a home run every time he went to the plate.
Two, Steve wore real, white baseball pants. I wore Toughskins with patches on the knees. I was certain that the only difference between Steve’s towering home runs and my weak dribblers to the pitcher’s mound was our mode of trouser.
“Dad, can I get some real baseball pants like Steve has? Real baseball players like the Atlanta Braves don’t wear jeans when they play,” I humbly stated.
Pre-cable, the Atlanta Braves were the only professional baseball team I had ever seen. Apparently, my father knew that.
“Well, you play for the Yankees, and the New York Yankees of major league baseball wear jeans,” he said without a smirk. “You look just like Oscar Gamble with your uniform on.”
To those not immersed in major league baseball trivia, Gamble was a journeyman outfielder in the 1970s, and he possessed a mammoth ‘fro roughly 6 feet wide by 8 feet high. About a year later, I purchased his baseball card and realized I had been duped.
The third thing I remember is that after every game, I would ask my coach, Steve’s brother – who was probably in the ninth grade – if we won, and he would reply affirmatively. Midway through the season, I got into a verbal altercation in the boys’ bathroom with some kid named Robert who said his team, the Royals, had won every game. I knew this not to be true, because Steve’s brother said we had beaten the Royals twice. The argument ended when Robert stabbed me with a pencil – a scar that remains on my right index finger to this day.
I weave this back story mainly to amuse myself, but also to celebrate we are in the midst of another youth baseball season.
My children have graduated from T-ball, but I recently caught a few moments of T-ball at the local recreation park, and the memories came surging back of my children’s first experience with “competitive” sports.
Little has changed in T-ball since my kids played, or even when I played in the dark ages.
They still don’t keep score. There’s still one guy on every team who hits a home run every at-bat.
Every inning, there is one kid who suddenly leaves his position at first base and bolts across the diamond to go to the bathroom. Once a game, there’s also a kid who runs to third base instead of first. Most of the outfield is chasing butterflies. Every infield hit ends up in a pile of little bodies scrambling for the ball. The kids slide into every base.
And at least once a T-ball contest, sometimes twice, while some kid edges his bat carefully next to the teed-up ball, then brings his bat back, then edges it up to the ball again, then pulls the bat back, then slowly moves his bat to the ball, another kid (it used to be mine) will scream loudly, “HIT IT ALREADY!”
It’s a comedy of errors – literally – and a lot of fun for the crowd, unless your child doesn’t make it to the bathroom in time.
“Dad, did we win?”
“What was the score?”
“24 to 36.”
That will satisfy them, or at least confuse them enough to avoid a bathroom altercation.