Stream of Consciousness

I may or may not have warned you of my perfectionist tendencies and how this can often be just a very advanced form of procrastination. I have deceived myself into the idea that every post here should really  be some earth-shaking, riveting commentary on the (discussed for centuries) topic of baseball. I worry about things like research and grammar and spelling and sentence structure. Until today where you have found me between a practice, a game and my son’s umpiring another game that starts in fifteen minutes. My husband just said “Hon,we are going to leave in about five minutes…right after the New York Giants make their pick!” I think there is some sort of draft going on for some other sport of which I have little interest.

I have been pondering the irony of owning a baseball blog and then having so little time to write on it because I am either watching baseball, reading about baseball, cleaning baseball uniforms and equipment, packing for baseball, driving to baseball, picking up from baseball, waiting for baseball to start, waiting for baseball to end, analyzing what just happened in baseball and what might happen tomorrow in baseball.

Breathe. Or don’t breathe. Just drive. Just throw the stuff in the back. Just ignore the parent who yelled “Hey! Is blue your SON? That ball went FOUL!” (More on that later). Make note of ridiculous behaviors to document here at a later time. Forget grammar and writing and any form of sanity. I have to leave for the game.

Cringe-worthy

 

“SWEAT DRIES.BLOOD CLOTS. BRUISES FADE AWAY. SUCK IT UP BUTTERCUP. ONLY TOUGH GUYS PLAY BASEBALL.” the t-shirt for sale on this “Baseball Moms” Facebook page read.

And then another shirt, possibly even more horrifying :

“I NEVER DREAMED I’D BE A SUPER CUTE BASEBALL MOM BUT HERE I AM KILLING IT!”

Stop. Please stop now. Having been to several youth baseball tournaments I have seen a lot of baseball moms. Some carry baseball-themed totes with their team’s name embroidered on the side. Some pace the sidelines like a cheetah in captivity while others calmly watch the game. Some are screamers, some are braggarts, some are anxious, some are indifferent. But never could I imagine any of them wearing either of these ridiculous t-shirts.

Another post on this page showed a cute sign for a kid’s bedroom that read:

“To fall asleep, I count baseballs instead of sheep”

To which a commenter wrote:

“That is MY SON TOTALLY to the max all day every day baseball is all he thinks about and it is probably my fault because I have had him in tournament ball since he was 4.”

Gee, and we thought that 8u was young. Do they even have tournaments for 4 year olds?

And another sign that read simply:

“EAT. SLEEP. BASEBALL.”

To which a gramatically-challenged reader replied:

“Sounds about right don’t it Joni?”

Hey, by all means eat, sleep, baseball. We all do.

Just please don’t do it wearing one of those t-shirts.

There is Crying in Baseball

I am generally not a crier. Maybe it is my East Coast urban Irish-American coal mining roots, but you probably won’t catch me watching “The Notebook” or The Hallmark Channel.

Yesterday I was on a long drive alone returning from a trip to visit family in Upstate New York. “Have you left yet?” my husband texted. “Ten minutes.” I returned. “You are waiting for the game to start. :)” Oh, where would I be without you Sirius XM radio?

With a win against the Tampa Bay  Rays, the Baltimore Orioles became the only undefeated team in all of Major League Baseball. Wellll…its a longgggg season….come on now…only five games in in the AL East?…enjoy it now because… I don’t care. For just that moment, the team that is so often doubted, disrespected and disregarded – was on top. Who knows what the season will bring but for now, this patchwork of veterans and rookies and outcasts and superstars are coming out on fire.

Joe Angel, the play-by-play announcer on the Orioles Radio Network said his famous “And the Orioles are in the WINNN column!” and with that, the tears started flowing.

Baseball will do that to you.

Talk Softly, But Carry a Big Stick?

Last night  my son completed the umpire training program and he may now officially serve as an umpire this spring. The baseball director gave some parting advice at the end of the training. He said, “Remember, if someone gets in your face, it is a good idea to speak very quietly in order to calm them down,” and then added, “I did that last year and the guy just walked away and kicked over the Port-A-John.”

It is going to be an interesting season.

Adam’s Choice

I will start by acknowledging that none of this is really any of my damn business. I generally can’t stand people commenting on other people’s parenting decisions. But somehow I am overcome by the temptation to weigh in on this semi-controversial topic and where else but my own blog can I better exercise my freedom of speech?

It is now well reported that Chicago White Sox/former Washington Nationals player Adam LaRoche has decided to retire after White Sox President Ken Williams requested that LaRoche limit the amount of time his 14-year-old son Drake spends with the team. According to reports, LaRoche’s son is in the clubhouse on a daily basis and Williams seems to find this a bit excessive.

Can I agree with Williams without sounding family-unfriendly? I have a 14-year-old son. I am sure that he would much rather be playing catch with Avisail Garcia than getting up at 6AM to get on the school bus to go learn about the Industrial Revolution. But, I think that’s where he needs to be at this time of life. Developing his own identity outside of his father. Focusing on his education. Grinding it out on his own team instead of shagging balls and cleaning the cleats of major leaguers.

Now, no one begrudges a boy time with his father or a man time with his son. I deeply and sincerely respect Adam LaRoche for putting his personal principles over money and career and for his dedication to his son. But I just can’t see how hanging around an adult workplace that much really could be the best place for a kid that age.

I asked a real 14-year-old what he thought: “Oh, man, that would be so cool.” and then, “I don’t know. Not like I am saying that school is super-fun or anything, but there are people there. People at lunch, people you call names, guys on my team, you know…”

Baseball is Back

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If your spouse itemizes on a separate return or you were a dual-status alien, check here.” (What?!) It has been several hours now and the numbers on these IRS Forms 1040 are beginning to spin like psychedelic prisms.I need to stop before I screw something up and possibly commit the egregious act of giving the federal government a single penny more than they are owed. In fifteen minutes he will be here. We are heading to see some NCAA Division 1 college baseball starring the University of Maryland Terrapins versus the University of Delaware Blue Hens.

The long missing sun now shined on a pristine turf field. Organ music was playing. Some of the finest college baseball players in the country were right there in front of us, sparkling in their excellence.My son was entranced, intently studying their every move. The lead off hitter strode confidently to the plate and neatly placed his feet in the batter’s box. “Play” the umpire called and so it began.Not having it for all of these months made me realize just how much I need its particular order and rhythm. Suddenly, my eyes were tearing up.Baseball is back. Who else knows this feeling better than my fellow baseball bloggers? Thank you for understanding.

Umpire Training Has Begun

The arduous process of training fourteen-year-old umpires has begun. The trainers have condensed sixteen hours of training into eight intense sessions taking place every Friday night in the elementary school building. The fields are just outside their window, dark at this time of night, with a few piles of dirty snow still standing defiant against the impending Spring. Given the warm weather forecast, they won’t make it past this week.

The guys at this training are serious, speaking in hushed tones. “Have any of you been in the championship?” the baseball director asked the group. My son raised his hand and said “twice” recalling the two epic, grinding games that resulted in two of the trophies on his shelf. A few members of the rival team in the room shot him a dirty look. They remember.

He is taking notes that are more detailed than any he has ever taken for a class in school. He has drawn stars next to things like”infield fly in effect here” and has underlined things like “don’t forget to say have a good game, coaches.”

“They told us that if the parents say anything rude to us, that we should not say anything at all back.” Good advice.

The teacher was wearing a T-shirt that sums up what he will really need to know once he gets behind the plate. It read:“Rule number one: I am Judge, Jury and Executioner.”

He should definitely make a note of that.

Baseball Lessons for Life

It was so hot one day that a team waiting for the next game in the tournament removed their shirts and sat in a group in the shade of a pine tree. “Oh my God, they took of their shirts,” I said to one of the Moms who spun around but was quickly disappointed to see the scrawny chests of a group of 11-year old boys. “Ohhhhh” she said, laughing “I didn’t think you meant THEM.” Smile. I was cowering from the sun behind a tiny beach umbrella that I had fastened to my chair. My husband was leaning against the fence, melting. Someone noticed and called out “Do you need anything?” to which he replied “Yes. One more out.” A spectator was whipping around a soaked towel sending refreshing droplets of ice water all over the crowd.

“Come on EASY OUT here!” a parent yelled.”Just play catch with him. Throw it right there into his glove!” yelled another, stating the obvious. “Hey GET YER ELBOW UP BOY!” “Hey, you are COLLAPSING HERE!” “Just like in the batting cage! Come ON!” “This pitcher has nothing, you got this!”No EXCUSES.” “They do NOT RESPECT YOU out there!” “UN-believable.” Eye roll concealed behind sunglasses.

Suddenly, an errant fly ball seemed to seek out and find the most vulnerable target: the cheekbone of the seven-year old sister of one of the players who was practicing ballet pirouttes a bit too close to the foul line. Fortunately, she was OK, but her love of baseball seemed to wane after that.

That was just one day. There have been many days. Some have involved injuries with blood and purple bruises and red brush burns and concussion tests and ice packs and Band-aids.Some have involved parents screaming over the game, over the other team, over their kid, over the state of their marriage. Some days the balls flew off the bats and guys crossed the plate, kicking up a cloud of dust, one run, two runs, three runs in a row. Some days our boys hoisted shiny gold trophies and smiled for the cameras. Other days their team name was at the bottom. The tournament record 0-6 as we walked silently back to our cars. Some days were so cold that the field seemed to crack and the damp early Spring wind stabbed sharply through thick winter coats. Some were so hot that you could see the heat rise up from the infield in a clear zig-zag shimmer. Some days I was starving, thirsty, exhausted, frustrated, anxious and sunburned waiting to record that final out, only to hear “Ball four take your base.” Expletive under my breath.

As much as I love baseball, there were days that I thought “Why are we here?”

But then, I know why.

Not just to “win” (although I will admit, winning is a lot more fun than losing)

Not just to “have fun.”

But for my son to learn the invaluable life lessons offered through playing the game of baseball.

Lessons like:

How to work with others on a team towards a common goal.

How to use a strong work ethic to improve one’s skills.

How focused effort can create concrete results.

How to handle high-pressure and stressful situations.

How to handle failure, disappointment and defeat.

How to be humble and gracious in victory.

How to tune out negative comments and negative people.

How to keep emotions in check.

How to tap the strength to push through challenges.

How others opinions do not define who you are.

How there really is an objective reality that is not subject to individual interpretation.

How you must make your own name, instead of only following in the footsteps of others.

How we don’t always get what we want or think we deserve.

How to respectfully disagree with others who may have a different point-of-view.

How to learn to plan and anticipate.

How to read people.

How to adjust to quickly-changing circumstances.

How to have patience.

How to match your behavior to rules of etiquette.

How to know when to take risks (and when not to).

How to persevere through frustration, injury or loss.

Mastering these skills is so much bigger than learning to hit, throw, catch and field. And best of all, they last a lifetime.

That’s why we are out here.

The Waiting Game

It is Valentine’s Day and I long to hear my beloved whisper those words that every woman wants to hear:

Pitchers and catchers report on Thursday.”

It is the time of year when you start to forget what baseball feels like. It is 18 degrees. The fields are blank white pages waiting to be filled with the season’s stories. The baseball being played indoors seems like a cheap imitation. Crisp plastic astro-turf grass. Fielding drills without a field. Hitting off the predictable, soulless mechanical arm of a machine. Being Yasiel Puig on Playstation 4 instead of you. Soon we will be taunted and harassed by images of swaying palm trees and sunny, blue Florida skies.

The closer we get, the further away it seems.

Papa Had Wheels

Stories of his speed on the base paths are the stuff of baseball legend. Perhaps most famously the story described by Satchel Paige that he was “so fast he could turn out the light and jump in bed before the room got dark.”

Or that he scored from first on a sacrifice bunt. Or that he was recorded as rounding the bases in 12 seconds. How pitchers feared walking him because he could often steal second and third, easily scoring on the next play.

He finished his career with a .341 average, hitting .391 in exhibitions against MLB players.

Named to the Major League Baseball All-Century team, he was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1974. He ranked 66th on The Sporting News’ list of Baseball’s Greatest Players; one of five who played all or most of his career in the Negro leagues.

One of his teammates, Ted Page said that he was “an even better man off the field than he was on it. He was honest. He was kind. He was a clean liver. In fact, in all of the years I’ve known him, I’ve never seen him smoke, take a drink or even say one cuss word.”

One of his quotes, to me, describes the essence of being a baseball player and even a fan.

Because of baseball I smelled the rose of life. I wanted to travel, and to have nice clothes. Baseball allowed me to do all those things, and most important, during my time with the Crawfords, it allowed me to become a member of the brotherhood of friendship which will last forever.

In honor of this February’s African-American history month, we tip our caps to one of the all-time greats –  Hall of Fame center fielder in the Negro leagues from 1922 to 1950 – Mr.  James Thomas “Cool Papa” Bell.