"Want some lemonade?" one of the parents asks.
"Yeah, don't get too close to a fire," says one of the dads.
And that's how we begin our summer, toasting T-ballers, getting ketchup in our cuticles, sampling the drippy baked beans. For those of you waiting around for the good old days, here's a little tip: These are the good old days.
"Hey, would you like a mai tai?" whispers one of the dads.
OK, it's official. Prohibition is over, and they're celebrating here in this little city park on the outskirts of Los Angeles, celebrating the Sluggers' undefeated T-ball season, sure, but also the fact that the parents survived the last month of graduations, year-end recitals, school plays, spring carnivals, proms, baseball playoffs, hit-a-thons, etc. Each year, it seems, May and June become more like the holidays -- crazy-busy, a strain on the very family life they aim to celebrate.
Thank goodness for the Sluggers, perhaps the tiniest team in all of sports. A team that really knows how to kick back and chill.
Just to recap, T-ball is a vicious little sport played by vicious little men, some of them elves (you can usually pick them out by their chocolate shoes).
Yet, T-ball also represents sports at its finest. Baseball may get bigger, faster, more competent. But it never gets better than this.
As David Letterman described T-ball: "There is some kind of explosion and then everybody runs around. Then they all settle down, and there's another explosion and everybody runs around and it's like this for the whole game."
Certainly, the games are endless. Swing. Miss. Swing. Miss. If only the rest of their childhood proceeded this slowly. Swing. Miss. Thwaaaaaaaack!
"Come on, Adam! Run, Adam, run!"
Our season was so extreme, so full of wonder and joy, chaos and dread, that for the end-of-the-year gift, the parents gave me and my assistant coach cash. I think the message was: "Here, go have a shot and a beer at the tavern of your choosing. Try to forget. And if you can't, there's enough money here for a little therapy."
That's what I took out of it, of course. You'll notice that for a mostly sober man, most of my fantasies involve booze.
Anyway, our season blew by quickly -- like a dream, really. At first, the boys seemed to struggle with the very concept of T-ball -- that they could take a big aluminum stick and strike at something on purpose.
It seemed so counterintuitive. For the greater part of their five years, Mom and Dad had been yelling at them for their violent impulses. Now the boys were being encouraged to smash stuff? What's with that?
But soon, the Blue Jay Sluggers were swinging freely and without remorse. For the most part, they found T-ball liberating. They rarely left the ball field without a juice box and a smile.
And now, three months later, here we are at the park, with a spread befitting a hillbilly wedding, and I mean that in the sweetest sense. Everywhere you look, there are refreshments and comfort food and pretty mothers in summer wear. It's my idea of what heaven might be like.