Guest Opinion

Tuesday, June 11, 2002

Living with one of the Boys of Summer

Whoever wants to know the heart and mind of America had better learn baseball." - Jacques Barzun

It's finally happened. My young son has joined the ranks of the boys of summer, donning a uniform, planting his feet and swinging for the fences. Baseball, America's game has come to our happy home and, I'm afraid, my windows are no longer safe.

I guess I knew this day would come. After all, it's gotten tougher and tougher to avoid the fact that my baby is no longer a baby. Little League was an obvious step in the growing up process. He's already realized that his parents can, on many occasions, be an embarrassment to him, he's taken burping to an art form, and he's far too mature for a kiss from his mother in public.

So, I guess it was time to give him up to the gods of baseball. That means that my husband and I have joined the ranks of the Little League parents (soccer or softball, football or track, tennis or golf, we're all in the same boat.)

We're the grown-ups who spend our summers rolling mile after mile over on our odometers heading for games.

We spend hours sitting on well-worn, but still splinter-producing bleachers, broiling in the sun.

We're up at 3 a.m. washing team uniforms. We learn all the names of the teammates, their parents and the coaches. We try very hard to remember that it just isn't kosher to yell, "Go Sweetie!" to our young son manfully planting his feet in the batter's box.

And, under no circumstances do we flinch every time the ball comes across home plate aimed directly at the skull of our Harvard-bound 8-year-old.

I was never a real baseball fanatic growing-up, and neither was my husband. That puts our young son at a disadvantage when it comes to practicing at home. As a former sports editor I know the rules and procedures, however knowing where the strike zone is doesn't necessarily mean I can pitch a ball into it. Also, I realized the strike zone on an 8-year-old is a VERY small piece of real estate.

Despite our lack of expertise in the game, the kid seems to be having fun, which is one of "Momma's rules of baseball:"

1. Try your hardest

2. Have fun.

Simple, easy to remember and guaranteed to keep the perspective where it belongs in these outings - on having fun and learning the game. The score, you soon realize in T-Ball, is irrelevant.

And every game is an adventure.

You've got boys in the outfield, backs to the batter. Boys in the on-deck circle waving at their folks. And, then there's the boy at the concession stand, buying Twizzlers. His coach expected him on third base, but Twizzlers seemed important.

And then you've got my son, sliding into first base - face first.

I realize that my son has joined the great fraternity of young men who learn the important lessons that baseball can teach them. And, I've joined the sorority of moms with sore rears and loads of laundry.

"I see great things in baseball. It's our game - the American game." - Walt Whitman