May 2, 2009
We pull off to the school drop-off. A kid gets out, and here's what comes pouring out of our family car:
-- a hockey stick
-- $27.50 in pennies
-- a lacrosse ball
-- a box of tampons
-- two ticket stubs from Hollywood Park
-- a copy of Sports Illustrated
-- a tube of hemorrhoid cream
-- an old pregnancy test (flunked)
-- 14 Starbucks cups
-- a baseball glove
I drive away, leaving all of it, except for the baseball glove, the only thing of value in a car full of crud. See, it's T-ball season and we might need the glove.
The glove is what the little guy sits on when he gobbles treats after the game. The glove is what he uses as an extra hat when the sun gets too hot.
The glove can be a monster mask, a punching bag, a pillow, a pet. The mavericks on our little T-ball team -- there are several -- occasionally use their gloves to catch baseballs, but such occurrences are rare. On this team, any conventional occurrence is pretty rare.
A week or two ago, we had a game during which a helicopter flew over. The entire game just stopped. The batter, I think he was in midswing, dropped the bat and joined his teammates as they gazed up in wonder.
"Look," one gasped as if just born. "A helicopter."
Big deal, a helicopter. But to them, it was almost biblical, as if God were descending from the clouds. It was revelation and science, all wrapped in one loud little moment. Like them, the copter made many annoying noises.
Then the game resumed, and the batter, Scribner, clubbed the ball from here to Toledo.
They have freckles like umlauts and little red mustaches from guzzling postgame juice. They behave almost like mini-men: They don't breathe when they eat, choosing instead to inhale their food, then grunt and gasp as a sign that they are finished.
You can't coach this kind of stuff. It just happens.
And you should see the way their pants fit, even worse than mine. They cinch their belts as high as possible, between the nipples and the neck. Meanwhile, the shirts reach to their knees, like cocktail dresses. Really, it's a wonder they can run at all.
By the way, you should see this Scribner kid hit. Remember the tear that Manny Ramirez went on after he joined the Dodgers last season? Peanuts compared to what Scribner is doing this year.
"At home, he's broken four windows," his mother explains.
After the last window, Mom and Dad instituted the Four Strikes Law and took away Tyler's baseballs. Poor lad couldn't help himself and resorted to swinging at rocks all day in the driveway.
Such dedication to the game has paid off. Now, when Scribner sees an actual baseball coming his way, his eyes get as big as Michelins, and he almost vomits with anticipation. Scribner is going to the bigs, I'm pretty sure. The call from Colletti could come any second.
In fact, the Muir-Chase Plumbing Dodgers are loaded with talent, and I'm not just talking about the moms.
You should see these mothers, though: glorious, loving, devoted. They are focused on their sons like no moms before them. They know it's an increasingly tough world, and they want these little guys to succeed.
To a 6-year-old's mom, a bad play isn't just a bad play. It's a sign of his other deficiencies: his inability to focus, his reluctance to practice. One bad play, and they resign themselves to the possibility that the kid isn't going to Stanford after all.
But except for Coach Scott, we haven't given up on anybody on this team. We practice our hitting relentlessly and, over the course of the season, have recorded several impressive outs on defense.
In T-ball, a routine out at second is greeted with the response usually reserved for grand slams and Broadway openings.
On one play, I think I scored it 1-3-9-4-7-7-7-7-7, the ball ricocheted off my knee, hit our second baseman Keaton in the worst possible place, his glove, then rolled around the infield where the guys tried to pounce on it as if chasing an escaped Pekingese at a busy airport. The play lasted about 15 minutes and came to a halt only when the rolling ball threatened to knock over several morning mimosas along the first base line, at which point one of the moms laid out for the ball and prevented almost certain catastrophe.
You can't coach this stuff. It just happens.
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