Take Me Out to the Ballgame

Baseball season in all its glory has begun: the all American tradition and rite of passage for so many of our boys.  The crack of the bat, an umpire’s resounding calls, and the smell of the grassy fields beckon… Spring is in the air.

All over suburbia kids have taken to the fields with high hopes of hitting home runs at the plate and striking out the batter from the mound, running and sliding into home to score the run in the nick of time before being called out, and catching that pop-up fly ball to end the inning.

Ah, baseball, that sacred American pastime, right up there with reciting the pledge of allegiance and seeing fireworks explode on the Fourth of July.  The benefits of playing together as a team are innumerable. Competition is healthy. Getting outside and exercising is ideal. Who could possibly find fault with such a deeply-entrenched cultural ritual passed down through generations from father to son?  What mom in her right mind wouldn’t be in favor of it? Me; that’s who, and at the risk of sounding blasphemous, I’m about to tell you why.

Baseball season in my house started around 2 or 3 weeks ago; I’m not sure which. It’s all a blur. Since then our schedules have been turned upside down. My kid is on 2 different teams,  an in-house and a travel team (both competitive leagues). I think I finally understand the lingo now. This means he has a game or a practice every night in addition to his regular religious school classes, music lessons, and homework. There just aren’t enough hours in the day for everything. But baseball season is here and everybody’s doing it. In fact most parents have more than one kid and have each kid participating in different sports that they have to shuffle them around to in addition to working full-time jobs. This constitutes nothing short of MADNESS to me. Come on Suburbia – get a grip.

At the risk of being extremely unpopular with the “take me out to the ball game” crowd, I’m not sure I see the merit in all of this.  One question I have is, when are we supposed to eat dinner? One Monday night after undergoing a full day of standardized testing in school, an hour-long piano lesson immediately after from 4 – 5 pm, my son changed in the car into his baseball uniform and I dropped him off at practice. I told him to call me when he was done.

When 7:30 pm had come and gone, I flew into a state of panic. My kid hadn’t eaten dinner yet! I immediately rushed up to Wawa and bought him a hoagie with the intention of ripping him off the practice field and providing him nourishment. Surely not providing dinner for him  constituted inhumane treatment. Fortunately, another mom stopped me in my fury and said that her son hadn’t eaten dinner either. She asked, “Do they look any worse for wear?” Admittedly, they all looked like they were having fun. No one was passed out on the field. I held back my motherly right-brained instincts and allowed my upstairs brain to think before acting. All the kids ended up going to Rita’s Water-ice for dinner around 8 pm. My kid at least had half a hoagie in the car.  If my kid is either practicing or playing every night from 5 pm – 8 pm, is dinner @ 8:30 pm? Or of course, there’s always the hot dog shack (“buy me some peanuts and cracker jacks”) for nourishment.

So here we are, in the middle of the insanity. Since my son is fairly new to the competitive league, he is either sitting on the bench or playing in the outfield. He, however, likes to pitch and even earned the nickname Bulldog last season because of his abilities. So we bought into the craziness: we got him  pitching lessons in the off-season to foster his potential, and hopefully fulfill his dream of being a star pitcher in little league.

That, and a dollar, won’t even buy you a hot dog at Citizen’s Bank Park!   So far, much to our chagrin, my son has yet to be allowed to play this position that he was trained for. He has to pay his dues, come up through the ranks, earn his pitching stripes, whatever. Trust me, my son is not going to be playing for the Major Leagues. Hell, he may not even play in high school!

Another conundrum in all this hubbub is how much time do we, in order to be good and supportive parents, have to spend watching our kids play the game at the expense of our own lives?  My mini-van has a chair and a blanket ready to go at all times. But am I any less of a mom if I don’t sit on (what this season so far has been) the freezing cold sidelines to cheer my kid’s team on? I mean, where would any good devoted mother rather be? I’ll tell you, for me, almost anywhere else. I drive him to the games, make sure his clothes are clean and ready, and provide him with nourishment when time allows. Don’t these other tasks show him that I care? Couldn’t my time be better spent do something other than sitting on the sidelines rooting for my kid and making small talk with the other baseball parents? Really, all the kids really do look alike in their uniforms, so much so, that another mom has to tap me on the shoulder to tell me that my kid is up to bat. Am I missing the “sports gene” that came along with the equally illusory “maternal instinct gene”?  Does it mean that I love my son any less by not choosing to sit through every game?

What clinched my suspicion that playing little league baseball is the antithesis of what is right and healthy for the American family was my son’s best friend’s injury on the field.  He was sliding into home to get that coveted run, when the 1st baseman through the ball to the catcher for the out and the ball hit the friend hard in the head. Fortunately, he was wearing a helmet, but that wasn’t enough to prevent the concussion. To score a run in little league baseball? Seriously, is it worth it? This boy is a talented cellist. But which do you think this culture respects more?

My son, also a talented musician, informed me after 7 years of piano lessons that it was too much for him and that he wanted to quit playing. The culprit for this poor decision? You guessed it, that all American sport that everyone has blindly bought into…. Now, don’t get me wrong, it’s not all bad. I’m just questioning the intensity, energy and time that we, as parents and as a culture, are placing on this one activity. Couldn’t our time as a collective culture be better spent? When I asked my husband why we buy into this, he said, “Everyone does it, how can we deprive our son of the experience?”

As a final note, my son decided to stick with the piano. He said he was just tired from a long week (hmm). And we just found out that he will be pitching in tomorrow’s game. I will of course be there to cheer him on. “For it’s one, two, three strikes you’re out,   at the old ball game.”

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2 Responses to Take Me Out to the Ballgame

  1. Annajane Gellman says:

    Judy that’s great I enjoyed reading it. Remember his when he’s grown up this is what he’ll remember not the piano lessons.

  2. Larry says:

    Firstly, I agree that many kids these days are overbooked. It is as if we parents are not doing our job (or we are shortchanging them) if we don’t have them signed up for multiple extra- curriculars.
    In terms of baseball, if you think it is too much, maybe you can get it down to one league. However, if he is not going to be in the MLB or a professional pianist, maybe it is best to allow him to make the call.
    In terms of the food, I think the other mother gave you good advice.