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Category Archives: baseball

Cooperstown

“Heads up!!” We yell, from our fabulous protected viewing area, shielded from both the hot midday sun and fly balls. Immediately, all the siblings dash out to be the one to retrieve it. Within minutes my middle son is back having secured the treasure. “I gave it to Olivia,” he tells me with a shrug. “I got so many.”

“That’s nice,” I smile. With captured balls spilling from his duffle bag he can afford to be generous.

It is day six at the Cooperstown Dream Park, a tournament culminating my oldest son’s little league experience, where his team (and coaches) along with over a hundred others, stay on the compound in barracks for the total baseball ‘experience’ while my younger boys and I, along with the other families and siblings get a slightly different ‘experience’ at a nearby $69 a night hotel charging $250.

I turn my attention back to the game but it’s hard to watch. Our scrappy town team has made an impressive showing this week but this game is sloppy and all signs point down, especially the big one looming over the field showing us in need of five runs.

“We’re losing!” My youngest states matter of fact, in much the same way he announced the game before that we were winning. Either way doesn’t matter to him, he has more important issues to discuss. “Can I have money for a snack?” He asks with a sly grin.

I shush him, intent on my boy up at plate. The count is 3-2, and he has fouled off two balls already. He postures like a threat; his energy palpable. I wonder if he can see with his overgrown hair. “Smash it,” I whisper to myself and him over and over.  And he does; hard, high and to the left. “Heads up!!” We all scream again to any unknowing passersby, and the littles, including my snack seeking son, scamper to retrieve the foul.

At the plate, my son gives the bat a test swing and a little twirl while my stare burns a hole in his helmet. He locks and loads and this time drives the ball hard between second and third, getting on base. I breathe, cheer and toss the stress over to the next mom.

This has been a week of damn good baseball. We watched our boys’ rise to challenges, swell with confidence and leave the field with their feet ten feet off the ground, although compared with many of the other players who dwarfed our boys by length, width and facial hair, it may not be so easily noticed.

There have been homeruns (and near homeruns – mere inches!!) that catapulted us from our seats; catches to the wall that drew our breath, seamless plays that made us grin wildly and nod to each other with pride and a merry go round of pitching that gave every player the opportunity to buy the “I pitched at Cooperstown’ tee shirt.

There have also been hits and bangs, broken fingers and broken spirits, slaps to the head for both the amazing and the devastating, great coaching and mentoring that exceeds the expected; knowing just when a kid needs a pat on the back or a kick in the butt, and allowing each boy the opportunity to feel proud and important and really experience the best in themselves.

Even on days like today, where the negativity buzzed around the dugout like flies and we beat no one but ourselves, when it is over any stray tears will be lost as they run, dive and barrel over each other like puppies in the dirt.

These times, like these boys, are so fleeting and these days are the ones to remember. We will look back on the laundry, the sun and bugs, the wine and the whining, the strategizing for the games and the schlepping to get there. We will remember these families who have become like family of our own and these boys with the balls in their gloves and the glimmer in their eyes, their swagger and innocence and the arms around each other’s shoulders and we will long for it all.

Heads up boys, we win.

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#Go Legends

Striking out (with Dad)

He didn’t hobble toward ball field number two; he shoved his walker with purpose. Even tilted, he looked pretty good; eyes alert, dress casual and passably clean, disposition aloof but present. After three weeks in New York and countless years fantasizing about it, he finally felt well enough to make one of my boys’ baseball games.

“You gotta swing when it’s 3 and 2, kid!” he yelled at some boy I didn’t know, garnering a dirty look from some boy’s father.

I grimaced. “Dad, maybe keep your enthusiasm for the members of our family, please.”

He smiled,” clearly amused by himself. “Yeah, that guy didn’t appreciate my comment.”

This was the best I had seen my father in a long time and I tried without much success to appreciate the moment.

These last weeks have been enormously stressful. Applications for disability, transportation services and a downstairs unit had to be filled out, the right doctors found, Medicaid benefits approved to secure home health aides, visiting nurses and blah blah blah. We stand at the foot of a mountain of paper work, details and calls not returned.

But by far the biggest challenge is him.

He accidentally flooded the woman’s apartment below him by letting his sink overrun. Then he accidentally did it again. He accidentally pulled the emergency cord in the bathroom. He was confrontational with the nurse practitioner who came to help set up his medications. He didn’t go down to let in another NP.

Never ending, exhausting conversations saturate every space between the dramas. Pep him up, talk him down, find reasons for him to live. Be the happy voice, the scolding voice, the voice of reason. Even thinking about it makes my throat constrict.

Yet right now, he seems okay – his glassy eyes light as he watches the game, my other boys shyly stand near him and engage, he abandons his walker to hold on to the fence.

“Nice catch!” He yells to my son then turns to me, “Do you see the way he throws? He’s got confidence.”

I nod, glad that after weeks passed out in his chair, he’s found his voice and it’s not angry or miserable. It’s cheering.

Maybe we’ve turned a corner. Maybe it’ll be alright.

I allow just the smallest, tiniest, most miniscule molecule of hope to slip in, although at this point I don’t know how it’s even possible. Hope is a sneaky bastard.

The next morning social services call. They had just seen my father and found him extremely agitated and hostile with pills scattered everywhere. They regret to inform me that “mobile crisis” has been alerted and are on the way.

Maybe this is where it ends. Maybe it’s for the best.

At least he made it to a game.

My happy cage

hopeless

My Seat on the Sidelines

My butt feels like a cold slab of concrete but what do I expect after five hours on hard bleachers. Of course I brought a chair, but early on my 7 year old laid claim to it. Usually I would kick his little butt out and designate him to the blanket on the grass but his two older brothers played in two different baseball tournaments this weekend and I am extra guilty.

“Is it almost over?” he asks from the first inning of the first game to the last inning of the third.

“Almost,” I say, happy, that like a puppy he still distracts easily.

Skittles and pretzel through game one.

Hot dog and Slushie through game two.

Mr. Softee during game three.

As the youngest, it’s his job to join me at these games where his dad coaches and his brothers play because we support each other… and because he has nowhere else to go except where we schlepp him. Nope, life isn’t fair, no one promised him a rose garden and along with the cherries come the pits. Still, I acknowledge that sometimes, especially on the excruciatingly long games, or the cold, drizzly ones, that it sucks for him (and often for me as well) which is why he subsists on a steady stream of guilt foods. It’s disgusting but this is his payment for time served, as well as the cost of my peace of mind.

Our baseball game schedule is obnoxious causing many who don’t engage in youth sports to roll their eyes and sometimes their whole faces. Even myself.

Not that I don’t love watching the boys play. Many days the weather cooperates, the team makes it all look easy, my sons are on their game and every cheer brings me bursts of giddy happiness. But at times it is too much. It’s not just the games and the travel to them. There are the practices, the meetings, the laundry.

Even with all the trips to the snack bar, it’s a lot of sidelining for a 7 year old. Of course he has a bunch of other hostages to help entertain him. Sometimes, they have a catch or stomp up and down the bleachers or sit under them for some shade, ripping pieces of pretzel while they stare at a video game. It’s certainly not the worst way to spend a day.

“Great news,” My husband exclaims on the way home after one son’s episodic tournament of almost champions and the other’s crash and burn fiasco.

I am immediately afraid, sensing a catch.

“They changed the rules for 8U travel,” he booms.

Yup, a catch, and a throw, and possibly a bat to my husband’s head.

He turns around to address our 7 year old, “Hey buddy. You want to play travel ball this summer?”

My son’s eyes light up while mine start the slow rollback. I was sure I had at least one more year. Three boys playing travel means three times the insanity. It means me racing from first to second to third, just dreaming about going home.

I have no idea how I’m going to manage it.

But I do know that I’ll have a chair to sit in.

The newest Legend!

The newest Legend!

Play Ball!

I interrupt my son and a bunch of his friends unwinding after a hard day’s school; lounging all over the grass like beautiful wild colts, playfully running around and taking swipes at each other.

“Your mom’s here,” one of the boys call out to my son. I know that boy, I think, squinting for a better look. In fact, I know all these boys, but they only remotely resemble the children who once played on my lawn.

Thirteen is almost an unrecognizable age. Faces morph, becoming more angular, bodies lengthen, voices change, along with dress, hair styles and personalities. When they greet me these days, I always need a second look. And it’s usually up.

His friends have grown, not only in stature but socially – most have or have had a girlfriend (I know!), all text, Instagram and Snap Chat. My son isn’t there yet; lingering a bit on the outside throwing free shots, cruising round their savvy on a ripstick, dashing through their long legs like a pup. At times I worry that he doesn’t quite fit in, but he has something in common with all these boys that links them tighter than their years of elementary friendship.

He is an athlete.

Even though they play a myriad of sports: baseball, lacrosse, basketball, football, whatever, they are all competitors who play hard and play to win. They respect that in each other, as friends, teammates and rivals.

There’s been a lot written lately about youth sports, about diehard coaches exceeding the limits of responsibility, about parents and their crazy antics from the sidelines, about kids pushed to be too much too soon.

Of course all that stuff exists. There are assholes out there both on the field and off. I’ve seen them white knuckled and pacing, heard their megaphone shouts. But they are by far the minority.

With three boys, I live sports, baseball especially. My husband coaches and he wears his cap with pride. I watch him on the fields with all his boys and am in awe. The way he brings them up but doesn’t baby. The way he unites them as a team but works with them individually. The way he volunteers his time to instruct, guide and encourage. The way he shows up for the games and practices, even if it means his wife might be waiting in the bleachers in a pretty dress to go out for their anniversary (or something like that). The way he supports them emotionally and watches out for them physically. The way the boys all look at him, and whether they say, “Thank you, coach,” or not, I see the respect in their eyes.

As I am leaving with my son from his friend’s house, the ice cream man’s merry song fills the street. Hypnotically, all these Kings horses rise and start a slow gallop toward the sweet promise. They laugh and shove each other almost tripping over their new limbs.

I am so thankful for these boys and for coaches like my husband who ground them with positive, productive and life learning experiences that bond them at an age where everything is changing and growing, including their characters.

Because as enigmatic as they now seem, I know that these young men, these young athletes are my son’s team, his tribe and his friends; that they have his back and that for years to come I’ll be seeing them in each other’s backyards, lives and out there on those fields of dreams.

 

Let's hear it for the boys!

Let’s hear it for the boys!

Victory and Defeat from the Mom on the Sidelines

Yesterday…

I hold my breath, huddled in the minivan staring at my phone in frustration.  The Iscore site that generally gives me the play by play of my oldest son’s baseball game won’t load, so instead I wait impatiently patient for the texts from the other moms to fill me in. They are there in the trenches, their butts numb and frozen to the bleachers on this chilly evening tensely watching our championship game which is down to the final at bat with bases loaded.

The major leagues wrapped it up weeks ago, but we’re still out there. I am using the Royal ‘we’ of course, because once again my son gave me the official ‘hug off’ before leaving early with Coach Dad for warm ups.

“Bye Mama,” He said, his head nuzzled against my chest.

“Have fun,” I answered, squeezing him.

“Are you coming?” He asked, not looking at me; the hopefulness in his voice piercing my heart.

“Do you want me to come?” I asked, equally hopeful but knowing better.

He shook his head, looked up and gave a bashful smile. “No.”

I nodded. I know the score. Apparently I make him nervous. I get that he wants to impress me which is sweet, but also frustrating, especially when you’re hiding behind trees. Still, I generally respect his wishes, especially on freezing November evenings when my younger boys have a birthday party to go to anyway.

But now the party is over and we are minutes from the field, sitting in our heated car in the restaurant parking lot where the team – win or lose – will be celebrating after their final game of this Fall season. The name of the restaurant is Champions. I hope it’s a premonition.

So I stare at the screen willing a text to appear while my youngest climbs back and forth over the seats, and my middle hangs over mine, breathing hotly into my hair, watching with me. The game is a batter away from over. Bases loaded. 2 outs. We are up 5-4. It’s not my son on the mound – he did his stint admirably in the first
4 2/3 innings, but I feel for his mom, shaking in her shoes on the bench watching her boy up there. That is the kind of pressure on your 12 year-old that makes you want to throw up.

It is taking f o r  e v  errrrrrr! I have nothing to do but whip off text after text to the moms allowed to attend. “I am freaking out!… What’s happening?!…. Come on, Boys!! Do it! Do it!…. ARRRGGGHGhthtghghtitheifrp!!!… Guys!! Tell me what’s happening!!”

Granted they are biting their nails through their gloves, sweating in the 40 degree temps, and their cells screaming silent shouts for attention is not a priority. But they are good to me and after painful, torturous minutes we finally hear, or more accurately see the verdict – WE WIN!!!  photo (14)

I picture my beautiful boy’s joyous face and those of his teammates and friends all jumping on one another, up and down, smiling with pride and relief. It’s the best feeling in the world – winning and knowing you’ve earned it.

And in the bleachers, the dugout and the minivan, the moms and dads exhale.

Today…

I am again sitting vigil in the minivan grinding my teeth, the younger boys in tow. Yesterday’s win was awesome but it’s a new day and right now it’s the final cuts for the middle school basketball team.

Forty boys have already been let go, and they are down to the final 20, but only 15 will make the team. It’s dark, almost 6pm, and the parents tensely line up outside the gym, engines humming restlessly, ready to either bolt for home or do donuts in celebration.

Finally the boys emerge, a few at a time and then a mass of long shorts and growing limbs, patting each other on the backs happily. In the commotion and anticipation, you almost don’t notice the random boy sneaking off to the side, his head hung low. There will be five of those boys and my eyes frantically scan the group.

Will he or won’t he? It could go either way.

Then I see him and I know.

I suck my breath in deep, hold it and try not to cry.

Tomorrow…

 

Mom on the sidelines

So I’ve been officially banned from the baseball field today.

Apparently I make my kid nervous. That’s what he says. I don’t completely understand it because my husband is the coach, the baseball guy, the one who wants him to play his best and be his best. I of course want that too, but I’m happy just to watch him and his team play, be among friends, hug him when he’s done and go for ice cream. I’ve even been known to bring a book to the game. How am I the intimidating one?

Half the time I’m bitching and moaning that I even have to go. With three boys, it’s all baseball all the time. There’s always another game on the horizon. So why do I even care? Why am I stomping around, huffing and puffing like I’ve just been benched?

Because I’ve just been BENCHED! Damn it. Who wants to be sidelined?!

I feel like I’ve been denied something owed to me as baseball mom; the reward for schlepping them all over, for the mounds of laundry, for the days and nights sacrificed for the game.

And yeah, I love watching him play… well, usually. Sometimes I’m cringing and my stomach is in knots and I kind of want to throw up. And I’m not even the one playing!

Wait a second. I’m having an epiphany over here….

I’m not the one playing. It’s not about me.

Crap. Well that’s annoying.

Fine.

My oldest is my most competitive. He likes to be the hero, the star. We’ve never put those labels on him, but he’s a natural athlete and puts them on himself. And for some reason, his need to impress me just adds to the pressure.

No matter how much his dad and I explain that no one hits home runs all the time, or even most games, that sometimes the balls just don’t bounce your way, his confidence is still wrapped up in his performance.

My middle son is the total opposite. His team has lost practically every game this season by mercy. It’s cover your eyes, slap your head painful to watch, but he still loves having as many people come and cheer him on as possible. He wants to win, but he can laugh about it too. His temperament can take it and move on. He doesn’t beat himself up like my oldest.

I wonder if all goes back to the birth order thing? Firstborns must succeed. Middles must mediate and negotiate (and sometimes throw tantrums). Babies go with the flow. There’s no exact science there for sure, but it definitely holds true for my boys.

A few moms have told me to ignore my son’s wishes and go to the game anyway but I’m not going to do that, at least for now. This is a big game and he has enough mental pressure without me adding to it.

I know it’s easy to say, “It’s just little league.” Or “You won’t even remember this when you’re older.” But whether your 12 or 22, when you’re in it and it matters to you; the pressure is real and should never be minimized.

These teams work hard together and as individuals. They support each other on and off the field. They play to have fun and they play to win.

Of course it matters to them if they lose.

Of course certain games make them more nervous than others.

And of course I will be there beside him even if it’s only in spirit; because my job as a mom is to be my kids’ best cheerleader, no matter where I’m doing the cheering.

jack bball

Shhh… I’ve discovered iscorecast.com, where you can watch the games LIVE on your computer or phone! It’s genius!!

 

Follow the Bouncing Balls

Follow the Bouncing Balls

“Mommy! Get that ball!” My five-year old calls out as I’m walking out the door, holding a coffee in one hand, a water bottle under my arm, my 40 pound pocketbook over my shoulder, two camp knapsacks over the other arm, and a bag of dirty clothes for the dry cleaner.

A wrapped granola bar for my oldest dangles from my mouth. “Oh yeah,” I mutter, through gritted teeth. “Let me get that for you.”

“What?” He jumps in front of me. “What?”

“Get the ball, mommy!” My 11 year-old calls out, leaning on his wiffle bat.

I’m struggling with the keys, trying to press the button that automatically opens my mini-van door and not drop my coffee, or I’d freak on them.

“Mommy? Can you get the ball?” He asks again. Seriously, does he not have eyes? Or legs?

Only my 8 year-old has the ability to see outside of himself.

“Can I help you? He asks. “I can take my bag.”

I try to smile with my eyes, the only unencumbered part of my body, but I keep moving. Any disruption would cause everything to drop faster than a pair of old boobs on new twins.

I make it to the car and dump everything onto the seat, except my coffee, which I gently place in its holder.

Whew. 8am and I’m already done, but of course, it’s just beginning. I need to drive the oldest to baseball camp, the middle to day camp and the youngest…  Damn, the youngest has no camp.

“Mommy! You didn’t get the ball!” My 5 year-old accuses, which I ignore.

“Get in the car, please.”

They pile in and once settled, I run to retrieve the wiffle ball and toss it on the lawn. We’re ready.

First stop! Camp for Boy 1 in next town.

Second stop! Camp for Boy 2 in town next to next town.

Then me and Boy 3 drop the dry cleaning, stop at the supermarket and head home to play legos,haveacatch,drawpictures,watchshowwhileidoelliptical&eatlunch.

Pick-up time!

First stop! Boy 1.

Second stop! Boy 2.

Third stop. Train station in totally different town to pick up daddy.

We get there in about 20 minutes, but have almost an hour before the train. My middle has a game tonight so he changes into his uniform in the back while they eat the snacks I packed and watch episodes of the Brady Bunch on the minivan TV. All hail the minivan TV.

This is our down time. Hope you’re enjoying it. Want a cheese stick?

Once husband/coach is in the car, we head straight for the field.

Throw. Catch. Pitch. Strike. Run. We win. Yay! Or, we lose. Boo!

Either way, we head home.

Once inside, I collect their dirty clothes and send their dirty bodies to the shower.

“Look, Mama,” My 5 year-old says over and over, and every time I do, he’s in a different naked position displaying himself.

Balls. Balls. Balls.

I hear my husband click on the TV, and the room fills with baseball.

No way he’s going to score tonight.

Catching zzzz's

Catching Z’s