“Where is your umpire partner?” I asked. “He didn’t show up. I have the whole field.” he said. Oh. My. God. I felt like I was releasing my child to a pack of rabid wolves seated in folding lawn chairs. His voice gets deeper here.He stands taller and adds a swagger to his walk. His usual smile disappears and he takes on an unimpressed blank stare. “Do you want me to keep the…count..or something?” I asked. He looked at me. “Mom. Really? It’s my job.” I was at the same time impressed and terrified, knowing he was right.
“Can I have the coaches at the plate to discuss ground rules?” said a deep voice that I did not recognize. Until I did. That was my kid. He doesn’t need me.
“Ball four.” he said clearly as the 9-year old pitcher on the mound hung his head in frustration having just walked the bases loaded. After the inning ended, out of the corner of my eye I saw this boy sitting on the end of the bench. His loud, hulking coach was kneeling very close to him, speaking right into his face. “IF you don’t change your attitude you KNOW what you are going to do when you go back out there? You are going to keep walking people. I HATE how you are trying so hard to hit the strike zone. HATE it.” as the boy starting bawling.
I felt the rage rise within me. It took everything I had to stay planted in my chair and not walk over to tell that boy how hard this game is; how if he keeps practicing he will be fine;how it happens to professionals who get paid millions to do it; how to never let some fat, washed-up coach chip away at his dreams.
The next pitcher was far more accurate. My son, at umpire correctly called most of his pitches strikes. The first pitcher was alone now, hanging his head trying to process the terrible advice from his coach. He started studying the pitcher on the mound, then got up to say to his teammate:
“He’s throwing exactly what I was throwing. I threw the same exact pitches he did (he, uh…didn’t) and the ump calls his pitches strikes. It’s not fair. This umpire sucks.”
Sigh. Welcome to baseball.