O Lord, You know I spent many summer nights, sitting on hard bleachers, watching our baseball-crazy son and his team play T-ball. I slapped at mosquitoes and applauded every player (“Yay! You only missed that catch by 20 feet!”). OMG, You didn’t tell me that one day, I would watch my son coach his son too.
Like many Hoosiers, I am addicted to basketball. I count the days until the season’s first games, even watching Little Sisters of the Poor battle St. Insignificant. I will referee the NCAA finals forever and ever, amen.
To my utter surprise, I also have become a baseball fan.
Not that I didn’t love baseball as a child. In our tiny town, baseball comprised a weighty part of recess and sweltering-summer-evening entertainment. Teams ranged from two to nine players. We often invented convenient ghosts to run bases who were called out by nonexistent referees. I even played benchwarmer for the Taylorsville Hillbillies (and no, I am not making that up).
But that passion did not translate to professional baseball. I remember the World Series because boys smuggled transistor radios and earphones into class. Mr. Daily, my sixth grade teacher, also got in trouble for teaching while thus plugged in. I got in enough trouble for other reasons, so I skipped the Series.
Baseball reawakening took place decades later when I moved to northern Indiana. Vast numbers of Chicago Cubs fans thrived there, despite their not having won a World Series since 1908. My friend Joleen didn’t miss a Cubs opening day for 40 years. The Cubs did win a doubleheader the day she passed away. In her honor, I became their fan forever.
At the time, I was writing a book about Billy Sunday, an evangelist. Billy, a speed-of-light base runner, played for the Chicago White Stockings during the 1880s (which, paradoxically, later became the Cubs). Sadly, Billy suffered from Cubs Disease, a malady that survives to the present, in which batters develop a severe allergy to RBIs. Regardless, I cheered for Billy as the White Stockings/Cubs battled St. Louis in World Series contests.
When the Cubs finally won the Series in 2016, we fans anticipated blowing out the competition every year.
That has not happened.
Still, less than desirable World Series contests can prove advantageous. Due to lack of emotional investment, a kind-of fan wastes less time actually watching games. Instead, a “viewer” can sort socks, clip coupons, give herself a pedicure, address early Christmas cards and paint the family room ceiling — all during the first inning.
Who says watching TV sports accomplishes nothing?
Kind-of fans also sleep more than rabid World Series viewers. They doze throughout the game and retire early. This ensures productivity the next day — although well-rested fans discover the next morning that teams, indignant at abandonment, hit 15 runs.
A kind-of fan avoids the strain/overexcitement of winning the World Series.
At least, that’s what Cubs fans have been telling each other since 2016.
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Do you watch the World Series?
Fierce soprano voices yell, “Batter! Batter!” Super-sized helmets top skinny little necks. Pint-sized players wield mitts big as sofa pillows (and about as effective).
A hometown crowd cheers and munches hot dogs and popcorn.
It’s the season for Little League Love.
Unlike most onlookers, my husband and I are comfortable spectators. Our children are too old for Little League, and our grandchildren have taken different directions.
During our son’s baseball career, I spent years at ball parks with my eyes tightly shut — often double-covered with hands — only venturing out of hiding to visit the concession stand.
Now, I actually watch. These players’ ages range from nine to 12. Some kids probably do Gillette shaving commercials to supplement their allowances. Others might be mistaken for bats — except for hats, mitts and spit. For not only do they imitate favorite major league players with elaborate windups and batting rituals, they have mastered expectoration at near professional levels.
Moms don’t applaud this aspect of their game. But they cheer every catch, throw and at bat. Family members try to behave so their kids will. But when offspring are involved, the gentlest mom — and grandma — grows fangs when the umpire dares call their boy out.
I never acted like that. Though … I do admit going a little overboard in motivating my child, egged on by another mom.
Still, we helped our sluggish team morph into a slugging team. My friend jumped up and informed her 12-year-old that if he fanned again, she would dance for the crowd’s entertainment. I informed my son that I would sing. Very loud.
Not only did our boys smack the ball, we inspired the entire team. Yet nobody put our names on their trophy. Where’s the Mom Love in that?
A roar from the present crowd brings me back to the end of a last-inning 0-0 tie. On a wild pitch, a youngster steals home! After the good-sport slapping of hands, they adjourn to the concession stand, where winners celebrate and losers drown their sorrows in sno-cones — and all look forward to the next game.
It’s easy for me to laud the joys of Little League from my maybe-I’ll-go-to-the-game-maybe-not stance. For parents who spend enough time watching, waiting and transporting to earn a degree, Little League Love wears a little thin.
But one dad near us sees his sons’ games as win-win situations. If their teams win, he’ll return for championship competition. If they lose, he’ll stay home and run a combine over his neglected lawn.
This dad cares about his kids, but not too much about their games’ outcome. That’s the very best kind of Little League Love.
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What do you like best/least about Little League?
Do we really want a sunny, warm spring day?
Duh. Yes! I crave a sunny spring day more than a tax refund equal to the lottery. More than an overnight belly fat loss.
I do enjoy the changing seasons, including January and February — cozy months to enjoy a good book by the fire. Also, an excellent opportunity to thumb my nose at warm-weather friends who still must do yard work and jog.
Today, however, the sun peeks through my unwashed windows with na-na-na-boo-boo mischief.
Come outside. It lights up the green, green exterior like a marquee. It’s spring!
Where’s your baseball, your bat? Dig out your old mitt, even if it smells more like feet than hands. When Dad comes home from work, maybe he’ll play flies and grounders with us in the backyard.
It’s a perfect hopscotch day. Chuck that project. Ditch that deadline. You own a whole driveway of limestone, a treasure chest of perfect rocks that could draw a thousand hopscotch grids on playground blacktop only a block away.
The 1963 Taylorsville Elementary Hopscotch Champion in me trembles with anticipation. I might have to wear Spandex armor to keep my jiggly torso from smacking my knees with each hop, but must … play … hopscotch. …
However, the Responsible Adult in me proclaims, “You haven’t washed these windows since you moved in.”
True. Pristine sunbeams also touch our carpet and winter-dingy furniture as if they had cooties. Layers of dust comfortably camouflaged by dim winter days now scream for attention. They’re almost as needy as the lumpy, bumpy lawn outside, invaded by a crabgrass army. The sun leads me to our garden, covered with skeletons of brave, hopeless tomato vines.
This year, a friend offered me free horse manure if I want to shovel and haul it. Do I feel that ambitious for future vegetables?
Funny thing about sunlight — like its Creator, it gets nosy, peering into the grimy corners of my house, yard and life, seeing much more than I like. Instead of dissing me, though, the Sun Maker breathes a warm kiss of a breeze on my cheek and hands me the first flower of spring. So what, if it’s a dandelion?
He’s sent ragged robins, looking like refugees, to greet me, too. But they just can’t help singing.
Nor can I. Sure, our Maker will help me tackle the flaws in my home, yard and soul. But first, He, the sun, and I select the perfect rock from the driveway. We head for the playground and my first game of hopscotch in a long, long time.
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: What’s your favorite way to celebrate the first sunny, spring day?
A hometown crowd cheers and munches hot dogs and popcorn.
It’s the season of Little League Love.
Unlike most onlookers, my husband and I are at a comfortable spectator stage, our children grown.
So I can actually watch games, which I rarely did during my son’s baseball career. Like many moms, I spent years sitting on the bleachers with eyes tightly shut, only opening them when I visited the concession stand.
We fans really try to behave. But when offspring are involved, the most righteous dad sometimes lets loose a tirade. The gentlest, sweetest grandma grows fangs when the umpire dares call her grandson out.
Of course, I never acted like that. I do, however, admit to going a little overboard in motivating my child, egged on by another mom. My friend loudly informed her twelve-year-old that if he didn’t hit that ball, she was going to dance for the crowd’s entertainment. I informed my son that I would sing. High. And very loud.
Not only did our sons smack the ball as if their lives depended on it, we inspired the entire team.
Yet despite our critical role in the victory, nobody put our names on their trophy. Where was the Mom love in that?
A roar from the present crowd brings me back from nostalgia. On this diamond, where younger teams play, contact with the ball almost guarantees a home run and most successful defense is purely accidental.
The players appear deeply serious, but the coaches are less, and the crowd has a ball. Some mothers even watch with their eyes open.
They contrast with their glazed-eyed kids, several of whom snore at their positions, the sun having set. An infield player makes interesting dance moves, but I don’t think he anticipates a Dancing with the Stars career. He forgot to visit the restroom earlier, so the compassionate umpire grants a special time out.
It’s easy for me to laud the joys of Little League from my maybe-I’ll-go-maybe-not perspective. For parents who spend enough time to earn a college degree watching, waiting and transporting, Little League Love wears a little thin. But one sitting near us saw it as a win-win situation. If his son’s team won, they’d return the following night for another chance at the championship. If they lost, he could run a combine over his neglected lawn.
He’s a dad who cares, yet doesn’t care too much about the game’s outcome. And that’s the very best kind of Little League Love.
What’s your favorite kid baseball moment?
Only two words. But they set off fireworks in Chicago Cub baseball fans. We hug and kiss perfect strangers, whether at the ballpark or the grocery store. When police arrive at the latter, we embrace the officers — and our subsequent cellmates.
Why does a win excite Cub fans so much?
For decades, they have been professional baseball’s “lovable losers.”
Still, Cub fans often outnumber their competitors in their own ballparks.
Typical American sympathy for the underdog? Mass psychosis?
Hubby and I support the Cubs for a better reason. Our friend, Joleen.
For 40 years, Joleen never missed a single, freezing Opening Day at Wrigley. No matter how lousy the Cubs played, Joleen believed.
Diagnosed with cancer, she finally missed Opening Day. But she cheered the Cubs until the day she died, happy because they won a double header. Joleen was buried wearing Cubs earrings.
In her honor, I will always be a Cubs fan.
Yet by now, even Joleen might have wearied of their losses.
Viewing/listening gratis was bad enough. But of the six games Hubby and I attended, the Cubs won … zero.
With their improvement last year, we took our son, his wife, and Baby Jonathan — oh, so cute in his little Cubs shirt and cap — to Wrigley.
They lost again.
Unbelievably, Hubby told a nearby couple we’d never seen the Cubs win. They stared as if we’d grown goat horns. “Your name’s not Murphy, is it?”
The Cubs fell behind.
I avoided eye contact with our neighbors.
Amazingly, the Cubs pulled ahed.
Hubby cheered, “They’re going to win!”
“Right.” I rolled my eyes. “And I’m going to win Miss America.”
“You’d better practice your walkway wave, because they will do it!”
The last strikeout!
“Cubs win!” The cry echoed from Chicago to Lake Michigan. “Cubs win!”
Our neighbors hugged us. W flags bloomed. The happy PA system launched “Go, Cubs, Go,” and thousands joined in, dancing in the seats.
I see what you mean, Joleen.
Unfortunately, the Cubs lost six out of their next eight games. But after subsisting on the baseball equivalent of bread and water, I have tasted my first whipped cream.
I want more!
I imagine the Cubs do, too.
Do you think they’ll win the Series this year?