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Bats, Balls & Bladders – Hilarious But True Little League Stories
I sat down last night and tried to count how many times I’ve played youth sports for my three sons over the years. I’m not sure why I’m doing this. Maybe I’m bored. Maybe it’s the realization that my youngest son is turning 13 and that this period in our lives will soon be over. It’s nearly impossible to calculate, but each of my several estimates puts me closer to 1,000 games. Is that really true? And I didn’t even try to guess the number of exercises to start. By any measure, it all adds up to a lot of time kids spend playing sports. Most of them are very interesting.
I think when you combine all the time spent at youth sporting events with the basic realities of humanity and emotion, it’s statistically inevitable to witness a variety of events, from the funniest to the warmest Heart, and then to the most shameful. Unfortunately, when I think back, I can’t help but remember that almost all the adults were responsible for every shameful act I witnessed, while the kids monopolized ownership of these hilarious and heartwarming episodes. Interesting how it works.
While the disgraceful behavior of parents and coaches makes for amusing and light-hearted news columns and blog posts, there’s plenty to entertain when it comes to hilarious and heartwarming stories about kids. Thankfully, these stories greatly outnumber the scandalous ones. This is just one that popped into my head the other day.
One year I had a boy on one of my little league baseball teams, I called him Simon. Simon is, by my definition, a typical minor leaguer. He comes early to every game and practice. He’s always in baseball gear, with all the coolest accessories like double-wrist sweatbands, flip-up sunglasses, and a big glob of bazooka gum neatly tucked into his cheeks. His spitting ability is second to none, and his knowledge of MLB statistics and trivia would make Tim McCarver blush. He loves baseball. Unfortunately, his athleticism and coordination didn’t match his love and enthusiasm for the game.
Simon was ineligible for the “big league” due to his weaker skills, so he played on my “little league” team with younger players. He’s about to go into his final year of minor league eligibility, and while Simon spent his first few years in the league on the bench, pulling a lot of right-field duties and mostly hitting last, if There are words (believe it or not). He never went to the mound, except across the mound on the way to right field. His parents wrote to me early in the season that his past was frustrating and almost crushed his joy and desire to play. Their stories of past experiences are disturbing to say the least, and potentially brutal by any standard of decency. I assure his parents that Simon is on the right team this year.
On a special early spring night, we had the pleasure of playing a game under the lights of one of the premium ballparks in town usually reserved for older players in the “big league.” This will be the first time our team will use real infield grass instead of dirt, real dugouts and 200 feet of fencing to line the perimeter of the outfield. It’s cool stuff for a group of 9 and 10 year olds who still innocently dance with the grand vision of baseball in their heads. For Simon, it was baseball fantasy rubbing shoulders with reality as he jogged across the lush grass, giant overhead spotlights illuminating manicured diamonds. He steps onto the court with his usual professional stride, gleefully ignoring the possibility that any ball that hits him will never land safely in his glove again. For Simon, this isn’t a devastating problem. Like his past mistakes, if he made another one, he’d shake his head again, slap his glove, and raise his hand to our coach, as if to signal, “I should have that, coach. But I’ll get the next one. ’.” We’d just give him the thumbs up and yell, “Great try, Simon!” It was a great arrangement; it was stress-free for all of us that way.
As he’s a true professional, I half expected Simon to tip his hat to a dozen “fans” as he walked to his place. One thing is for sure, Simon will enjoy every precious moment of his minor league experience as long as he is given the chance.
bat, ball and bladder
Unfortunately, as the minor leagues wind down, our excitement for the big game under the lights begins to wane around the third inning, when the opposing team goes on to score 10 runs with no end in sight. I’m sure you know this inning well; one walk after another, one error after another, one steal after another, one reliever after another. This is painful for all, especially on a cold, foggy night. As if baseball silliness wasn’t punishing enough, there was another side effect of this “bad news bear” moment. The inning went on for so long that I started noticing some of the players on our field wiggling, wiggling and pulling at the crotch of their pants. Suddenly, while my fourth reliever was warming up, our second baseman rushed from the field to our dugout.
“Coach,” he pleaded, “I’ve got to be bad.”
“Where to?” I replied.
“I peed so hard,” he replied with a look of desperation in his eyes. Damn 24 oz Gatorade bottle!
“Okay,” I said, “you go, but you go back, this game is long enough.” As he rushed to the bathroom, the first baseman was right behind him.
“Coach, I’m going to pee a lot too.”
I told him, “Go ahead, but hurry up.” Then there was the third baseman.
“Coach, can I go too?” he asked.
“Sure, why not?” I said. I’m thinking, from the look of our next pitcher’s so-called warm-up pitch, anyway, it’s going to be the longest inning in minor league history. Hell, I thought, I’d better go by myself. At least it’s probably warm in the men’s room.
I also noticed opposing coaches annoyed by these further delays as I glanced at my nearly empty infield and realized that our only chance at a double play was in front of two urinals and a sink. I can’t figure it out. I’m guessing he wanted to continue our carnage before his team lost any momentum. Maybe the Yankees’ future backup coaching job is up in the air. who knows?
To be fair, this round dragged on for a long time. But given the current state of my infield, my biggest concern is who else might be called by Mother Nature. Back on bladder patrol, I scan the field again for more squirming and crotch pulling. No one else seemed to be in overt discomfort, but it occurred to me that Simon was now also jogging from the outfield to the dugout. I met him at the fence and pre-empted his expected request, saying, “Yes, yes, Simon. You can go to the bathroom, too, if you have to.”
But Simon replied, “No coach, I don’t have to go.”
“What’s the matter, Simon?” I asked.
“I had to stop and rest my eyes,” he said.
Give your eyes a break?
“The huge spotlights are too bright, and they hurt my eyes. I’m worried they’ll hurt my retinas.” Before I could answer, Simon passively found a place on the bench, calmly took off his wrist strap and flip-top sunglasses. I didn’t even get a chance to ask him why he wore sunglasses to nighttime games, or — since he did — why he didn’t wear them to protect his retinas from the spotlight. Simon sat politely in the dugout, fired up a new bazooka, scanned the field with his usual enthusiasm, and uttered a few supportive “Come on guys!” He still believed his teammates could make a comeback. Simon isn’t one to let reality ruin his baseball fantasies. Why did he do this? This is what baseball should be like at that age.
Seeing Simon so matter-of-factly and comfortably on the bench, I thought to myself, this is the final key. Our team was battered, the game wasn’t even half over, the night was cold, my entire infield was pissing and missing in action (probably warming up under a hand dryer), and my fourth pitcher was on the way I was three feet in front of home plate while busy with pinball warmups, and now one of my players is out of the game for fear of going blind.
The coaches and I just looked at each other and laughed. You just can’t make up these things.
By the way, Simon finally got a chance to pitch for the first time that season. He gave up one walk, one hit and struck out a player. In that moment, baseball fantasy became reality for that boy. The smile on his face proves it.
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