If I sit long enough at a t-ball game, I start to buy into the end-of-the-world speeches my dad likes to give. My dad believes that everything is being watered down, muddied, ruined in the name of equality, where no one gets their feeling hurt or, worse, loses.
I thought he was being a little dramatic until Nelson started t-ball, a game that has turned into random ball throwing and catching with no rules. At every game, I look about at the other parents, desperate to catch the eye of one brought up in the day when you’d kill for a point made in dodgeball off a kid with a busted arm.
Last night’s t-ball game was the topper for me. One little dude, we’ll call him Chicken Little (CL), outranked everyone in his total disregard for competition.
He was playing pitcher. Of course, in t-ball, there is no actual pitching. But the pitcher gets a lot of action because most balls don’t go much farther than the mound. This makes the pitcher the go-to guy, the one moving along the non-scoring game, throwing to base for not-really-out outs and occasionally catching doesn’t-really-count fly balls.
So, CL was playing pitcher when — wham! — another player, having first maimed a slow-moving coach with his back swing, hit the ball in a line drive — into CL’s knees.
Here’s when I knew I had a story worth telling: It took a moment for CL to realize something had happened. Several moments later, he still had no idea what.
The crowd went nuts: “It’s in front of you! On the ground! At your feet!” These came from our side, as CL was our secret weapon, our ace in the hole.
On the other side, they were screaming “Run!” at the assailant, followed calmly by the coach saying, “but only if you want to.”
Finally, CL figured out that we were all screaming at him. He realized, too, that his left knee was swelling up to twice the size of his right. By Jove, the ball was there, at his feet, a gift from God. He scooped it up, re-adjusted his glasses and made to throw that ball out of sight.
But, representing t-ball players everywhere, he released the ball a tad early, delivering it a few feet behind him and, just barely, under.
This may have been all a part of CL’s act. He had the crowd riveted. Would he? Wouldn’t he? Could he stop the hitter who was meandering to first base? Would he break the tie in the untieable game? And if he did, would it matter?
This total lack of suspense is where I take great issue with t-ball. If these children are old enough to brave an elementary playground, they are surely durable to the blows a t-ball game might dole out.
As for my own children, last night Nelson hit a biggie. Up it went, landing atop but not within, the 2nd baseman’s glove. For 2nd baseman had spotted a sheep in the clouds above.
“Good (dropped) catch!” I screamed out of habit at the second baseman, but to Nelson, I bellowed, “Run! Fast!” The other parents looked at me, Easy there, girl in the red rain coat a size too big. And I sent back telepathy along the lines of Your feet are too big.
But by then, Nelson’s run had turned into a sideways set of lunges and squats to give him a better view of the sheep sighting. Why even running is going out of style in this non-game.
I want to boycott the game, rally the troops — that we should teach them rules, skills, good sportsmanship, about how bad things befall slow runners and distracted catchers, and about how good things befall those running in a straight line and catching with their mitts open.
But when I talk about these things, the parents all look at me like I’m a monster, broke loose out of the backyard of a couple Yooper parents. But to you, I plead my case: All I want is for these kids to get a kick out of winning, which is even better after having lost.
For the record, CL never did complete that play. He landed his second wild throw in the dugout, and the coach snatched it up, offering him great kudos, and, I think, a trophy.