Spent the evening at Thing # 1’s baseball game. The whole family goes – Thing # 2 and I sit on the sidelines, toss a softball back and forth. I’m trying to learn all the kids’ names. I cheer for every hit and yell out encouragement for every almost-so-close-you-nearly-had-that-good-hustle! bobbled catch and wild throw.
The air is redolent with fresh cut grass, bug spray, sunscreen. The light would be perfect for pictures and I’ve got my camera all ready to go, but hubby has decided to help coach. So I’ve got my hands full with younger brother, keeping him happy and occupied behind the backstop when all he wants to do is have a go at hitting the ball off the tee.
About half the kids really want to learn. They listen carefully to the coaches. They have the stances they’ve seen on TV down. They swagger. They tap the head of the bat smartly against the ground before they step up to the tee. They yell “strike one! strike two!” even though strikes and balls count for exactly nothing in tee ball.
The other half don’t want to be there. Their parents have signed them up because it’s cheap entertainment for the summer – $60 for two nights a week in the great outdoors, under someone else’s immediate supervision. They spend their time in the outfield, throwing their gloves up in the air. They scrape their feet through the infield dirt, making pictures. They never seem to know what they’re supposed to do, or where they’re supposed to be.
No one seems to care. The dads in charge don’t put up with much; there are frequent calls to “wake up, get your head up, stand up, we don’t need four people playing first base!” They don’t always see what’s going on in the dugouts and I step in, with another mom, getting the kids to put down rocks, sit on the bench, cheer on their teammates. It’s a team effort, getting every kid up to bat twice in a one-hour game.
The hardest lesson to drill home for little kids starting out in baseball is that when playing defence, you must always throw the ball to first base. Always. It’s an easy out. To remind them where the ball is supposed to go, first base has a squeaker in it. The entire hour, rhythmic squeaking noises echo down the first base line.
It’s chaotic. It’s noisy. It’s humid and sticky, and there are bugs.
It’s such fun. Score isn’t kept in tee ball. Every kid who hits, comes home. There are no winners, there are no losers. These kids are playing just to play, in the absolute purest sense. It’s infuriating. It’s beautiful. It’s my goal to capture it, with words, with pictures.
I have two months.