Like most kids I was forced to play sports so my parents could make me someone else’s problem for a few hours.
I think that statement could be seen as mean but I’ve hung out with kids for 30-minutes and I wish I could send them away to someone else. Organized sports might be the best thing to happen to families since – uhhhhh – evolution?
The sport of choice was baseball. It was by far my dad’s favorite sport and I think there were hopes that I could make it to the major leagues one day. Playing at Fenway Park, hearing my name called over the P.A., hitting home runs over the green monster…for the Yankees, of course.
I was decent at baseball, not amazing. I didn’t care enough to try and play at a high level so I didn’t put much effort into it – much easier to fail and not care about having your spirit absolutely destroyed. Despite my minimal effort I did enjoy playing. It was fun to stand out in the field and do your best to not end up in the hospital after being hit with a ball that is traveling toward your face at 100 mph.
I started “playing” when I was probably 4 or 5. Playing is in quotes for obvious reasons. When you’re 4 or 5 you’re not playing the actual game you’re there to amuse family members who think you’re so cute in your little baseball uniform and small glove and bloody nose after getting hit by a bat wielding teammate.
At 4 or 5 you’re playing tee-ball. If you’re not familiar with tee-ball what are you French? Who doesn’t know what tee-ball is?
Alright, alright, I’ll tell you. Tee-ball is when a brave human being takes a baseball and puts it on, appropriately, a tee giving a child the chance to swing at the ball, miss it and therefore deleting any self-esteem. There is also the wonderfully amusing possibility of the child hitting the actual tee itself and then you get to watch annoyed “coaches” figure out how to put the tee back together. I said brave earlier because kids are basically being weaponized with solid aluminum bats that could cause damage even inside the puny little arms of toddlers. For some reason we were also taught to swing at the ball and not the much smarter “swing when we tell you to swing,” allowing the brave souls to run as far away as possible from a kid wildly swinging at a stationary object like the guys at the end of Casino when Pesci dies.
Side note: If you haven’t seen Casino and are now all mad, that’s your fault. Everyone in your life has been telling you to watch it for years.
There seemed to be a counter-intuitive aspect to the game when it was completed. After hours of being ridiculously bored, basically just standing around, you would think it would be the perfect time for a child to take a nap, BUT NO! Adults then take the kids to 7-11 to get Slurpees.
Because parents enjoy punishing themselves.
Slurpees are delicious, there is no way around that. They are this frozen concoction of wonderfulness that cools you down in the hot summer sun and they just make you happy. It’s a wonderful treat that should only be ingested by a human being once or twice in their life because it’s basically diabetes in a cup.
“Here is your Slurpee and information on our preferred endocrinologist.”
Since these drinks are rife with sugar it’s questionable as to why our parents would take us to 7-11 after the game.
“You know what you need? Energy…and A LOT of it.”
I don’t even remember what would happen after I drank a Slurpee. I think I would black out. Some memories are me walking out the door of a 7-11 and then I would be back on the baseball field again.
Maybe there is some secret trick you learn when you have a kid that will unlock the mystery to why parents would pump their kids full of sugar. I’ll have to wait on that.
When I did play tee-ball I was pretty good. My hand-eye coordination was much more advanced than my teammates who were reading and writing before me. I could be counted on to drive in a few runs for the rabid fathers who would scream about winning or losing during a tee-ball game.
I felt bad for the kids who had fathers that actually cared about the result of a tee-ball game. My dad – and mom for that matter – were sane so they only cared about me having a good time. Sure they were happy for me when we won games but professional sports shouldn’t matter to anyone let alone tee-ball.
I also played catcher which is arguably the most important position in baseball. He’s the one who “calls” the game, he chooses what pitches the pitcher throws, he adjusts the infield when specific people come to bat, he is basically the on-field coach. But that’s for real baseball when there’s a pitcher on the mound. I was the catcher for a tee-ball team making the position a lot less important because the tee took care of everything I would be doing. I was really just behind the plate in catcher gear to get hit with the bat when one of the kids let go of it because it was too heavy.
We had a pretty intense tee-ball coach. When I say intense it should conjure up images of Freddy Krueger, mostly because he was horribly scarred in a house fire.
That’s a lie but I’m writing this on Friday the 13th so I should’ve made a Jason reference but he wore a hockey mask.
Anyway…the guy was a complete psycho but he and my dad were friendly so I didn’t feel the wrath as much as some of the other kids did. One game I was on the bench with another teammate and we were watching the other kids play or, more accurately, chase around whatever bug happened to be near them at the time. I remember being content and fine with being on the bench – probably too distracted by the impending Slurpee – but the other kid not so much. He decided he was going to do something. He was making a power move and we were like 5. I’m actually pretty impressed that this kid worked up the courage to speak to the meanest person we had ever encountered until that point in our lives.
“Coach?” The kid asked.
“What?” The coach responded with the kind of raspy – smokes a carton of cigarettes a day – kind of voice you would see in the made for TV version of this story.
“Can I get in the game?” The sweet, innocent voice asked.
“No.” The coach snapped back at him.
“Why?” The boy said with a hint of sadness, which he was right to display.
“Because I’m trying to win a game here.” The coach snapped back at the boy. He hardly turned around when he said this to the child. No concern for his feeling, no explanation other than “you’re not good enough to be in this game right now,” which was only implied in his response and tone.
The boy stumbled back to the bench as if he had been shot, both of his hands over his heart and his eyes wide, searching for meaning in what just happened. I didn’t know what to do so I just sat there watching the game and deciding, “cherry.”