Sunday, May 26, 2013

Becoming a Baseball Mom

“Well, boys, it's a round ball and a round bat and you got to hit the ball square.”
― Joe Schultz 

I read that NC State faltered in a record-breaking SIX HOUR, 18 INNING baseball game against UNC-Chapel Hill last night.  Six HOURS?  Holy mackerel, those parents watching that game must've been EXHAUSTED...

Wait.  It isn't only parents watching the game?  Oh, that's right.  The game also beat an ACC record for highest attendance.  Over 11,000 people watched the game although I feel quite certain that not all of them lasted the 18 innings to see the run-scoring single which ended the game at 1:51 a.m.  I wonder if they had a 14th inning stretch?  I would've loved to hear the delirious crowd crooning Take Me Out to the Ballgame after midnight. 

Thing 2 plays ball
That game is a far cry from the season I've had (so far) watching Thing 2.  For one thing, it IS pretty much all parents (and definitely all relatives) watching.  It's been an interesting ride for both of us.  I've morphed into a Baseball Mom.  I take him to practices, both regular and batting.  I take turns with another mom keeping the stats for the game and I've even manned the scoreboard a time or two. (Believe me when I say that is, hands down, the MOST stressful thing I've ever done as a parent...try missing a ball or two on that scoreboard.  You'll hear about it. Trust me. Not to mention, I had ZERO training.  They handed me the remote and told me to keep score.  HELLO?  Good thing I never played football. [You'll get that reference in a minute...just keep reading.])  I've learned a lot about kid baseball this season and I am always, always grateful that the games last about an hour and a half or five innings.

The funny thing about baseball appears to be that the more you learn, the worse you perform.  Thing 2 could hit the ball to the fence almost every time at bat at the beginning of the season.  As he's learned more about his "stance," including foot position, hand position on the bat and follow-through on the swing, he's actually hitting the ball less and less.  Like his mama, he thinks too much.  It's heartbreaking to watch the kid who started as a fourth-position batter (fourth position is very good and also known as the "clean-up hitter" position) end the season as a seventh, eighth or ninth position batter.  As his batting has declined, so has his fielding.  So, after starting the season as a decent third baseman, he's ending in left field.  Sad.  And really hard to watch.

I have a few tips for parents eager to get their kids involved in the sport that boils everything down to the all-important box score.

  1. Don't do it.  Baseball is heartbreaking.  My kid really enjoyed baseball at the beginning of the season but I watch the stress in his face now at the beginning of every game.  He's developed this twitch in his shoulder every time he prepares to enter the batter's box (SEE how much I've learned this season?).  After every strike out (and there are many now that he's "learned" how to hit), his shoulders slump and his head falls forward as he slinks in shame toward the bench with all of the Baseball Moms yelling "It's OK.  You'll get it next time."
  2. If you must do it, don't let him "learn" anything.  Like I said, he smacked that ball consistently every time before he "learned" about how he was supposed to hit it.  Sure, maybe now he's developed the building blocks necessary to become a really terrific hitter, but his self-confidence is in the crapper now and I have no idea if he'll want to continue "learning" after this.
  3. Pick football.  His brain will hurt so much with all the pounding that he won't care if he drops the ball.  And he might get a college scholarship.  And then he won't care if he really learns anything in college after all those concussions.  And he can get a job as a sports announcer saying dumb things about other kids getting concussions.  The down side is there is no seventh inning stretch.  The up side is that he can date a cheerleader for your husband or significant other to ogle inappropriately.  Is that an up side?  I think I digress...
  4. Learn the game yourself.  Baseball is a lot more fun now that I (sort of) understand the rules.  I can tell you what an RBI is now.  I still haven't figured out errors or ERAs but I figure those things will come in time...IF he wants to continue (see number 2).  My next goal is to become an umpire.  I REALLY want to grunt "strike" or whatever it is they say with that finger motion to the right.  I also want to pump my fist when they miss that slide into home and yell "He's OUT!"  Who cares if I make a 10-year-old cry?  I get the cool uniform and the grunty voice.  Neither of my kids is excited about this new aspiration although Thing 2 thinks it might be slightly awesome to have a mom who's the only chick umpire in the league.  Until I make a few kids cry.     
  5. Care about his team mates.  This goes along with number 4.  I have a great time now at baseball games because I know all the players and I know to cheer REALLY loud when the kid who hasn't gotten a hit all season smacks one straight down the middle.  And I can yell "It's OK.  You'll get it next time." True Baseball Mom style.
It's almost over.  Thank goodness he opted out of trying out for the All Star league which would've cost me a kidney along with practically every single summer night (and no beer OR seventh inning stretch).  He does have a baseball camp this summer and still insists he wants to play "fall ball."  All right, kid.  If you jump, I jump, Jack.

If you like my blog, share it.  Or Like my FB page to get updates.  Or subscribe to the e-mail list.  Or make a comment below.  If you don't like it, well...just try not to hurt my feelings.  I'm sensitive.


  1. Great perspective, Kelly.

    If I may offer a "down the road" perspective. Here is what I learned in my time as a baseball player:

    1. Strikeouts happen. Everywhere. Learning how to deal with them now will better equip kids later on when they don't get the job promotion, or the raise they've been expecting. Life is going to screw you over, and striking out gets you ready for it. Success in life is much like a batting average. If you can get on base 33 times out of 100 for 10 years, you'll be a Hall of Fame baseball player. That's it. 33 hits out of 100. 67 failures. And that's for the best in the world.

    2. Baseball teaches you about valuing individual contributions to a team. The best ball players in Thing 2's league cannot win games by themselves. If you want to have a chance to succeed, you need to learn how to celebrate the efforts of others. The best ball players, like the best employees, use their gifts to motivate, teach, and inspire others to achieve an organization's common goals.

    3. If you want to control everything, you have to get dirty. As Thing 2 progresses in the baseball world, he (and you) will learn that the catcher, as the only player on the field who can see everything happening, controls the game. Of course, the catchers are filthy at the end of every game, but that's part of it.

    4. No matter how much you prepare, you're still gonna take a few to the giblets. All the protection in the world doesn't make it feel any better. Someone is going to break Thing 2's heart (and Thing 1, for that matter). It's a line drive right to the nether-region, and it hurts. Best to learn now, about how to take a moment to stop, catch your breath, and realize you're going to survive (even though you may temporarily feel that you won't, and you may not be sure you want to).

    Baseball is a beautiful game. It's a cerebral game, and one for which you and your kids are perfectly suited. Stick with it, and you'll find that you develop a love for it. Now, we're off to bed. We were up until 1:51 AM watching the Wolfpack and Tar Heels on TV last night!

    1. I think I like your hiatus from medical school since you have time to a) read the blog and b) post hilarious, accurate commentary. I love the metaphor you built of baseball as life. And I DID use the hall-of-famer example with Thing 2 when trying to make him feel better about his strikeouts.

      We should totally tag-team on this whole blog thing. Obviously, you have a gift.

      And I know you and Karrie are huge baseball fanatics...get some sleep. It's going to be a long summer...