Tuesday, April 17, 2007

I See Great Things In Baseball.

Let’s paint a mental portrait.

Begin with an overweight, overconfident, thirty-something father. Place him on a background of luscious green grass, neatly raked soil, and bright white lines of chalk delineating a diamond. The weather, while cool enough to see your breath, still warms his soul. He is in one of his favorite places on earth. There you have it - a perfect day at the ball field.

Then add twelve pint-sized Tasmanian Devils.

Have you ever watched the classic nature show where the piranhas swarm over a tapir, devouring it in less than a minute? They move so quickly, so lethally. This is what happens when my team takes the field.

Like moths to a bug light, they all buzz to wherever the ball is hit. Occasionally, they roll around gladiator style in a fight to field the baseball. The ultimate throw to first base is, well, not good.

When they hit, they stand at home plate and watch the ball skip into the infield grass, marveling at what they have wrought. It takes me screaming, “You got a hit. Run to first! Run to first!,” to get them to drop the bat and move their tiny legs. Last Saturday we managed to play two full innings. My voice was hoarse at the end.

But not every moment is chaos. We do our warm-ups. We have contests. We practice our alligator chomp fielding grounders. We play catch. No, I’m wrong. We play throw. There’s not much catching yet.

After careful consideration, I have come to the conclusion that I have the prototypical T-Ball team.

There is the ringer, who in the perfect spirit of the Bad News Bears, is a girl. She runs faster, throws farther, and hits harder than anyone else. Before the game last Saturday, Sam said to me, “Daddy, if I had rocket boots, I could run faster than Hallie.”

There is the future Breakfast Club, Emilio Estevez-like, jock. He slides into every base, runs after every hit ball, and throws as hard as his little human body can power. His father stands behind the fence at home plate staring ravenously. In years to come, this man will be escorted off the field and banned from the complex in a fit of profanity and phlegm to rival the films of Tarantino. You can see it in his eyes. This is also the only kid who has cried during a game so far - over the fact that one of the other kids kept getting to the ball before him.

There is the dork, who has arrived dressed in a bright yellow raincoat every week, just in case. ‘Nuff said.

There is the kid whose father is forcing her to play. Last weekend, she told me she was tired, and sat down on third base for a little rest while the other team continued to hit. She refuses to throw overhand, either lobbing the ball underhand or even rolling it at times.

There is the token minority kid. Remember, we live in rural Connecticut.

And there is the clown. He even sports freckles and a permanent smirk. One which I decided I disliked entirely last Saturday as every time he picked up a ball, he threw it in the opposite direction of where he was supposed to.

The roles of "fat kid" and "loudmouth" will be filled in later.

Where does Sam fit into it all? So far, he’s the kid who just shows up and is completely happy to be playing.

Am I having fun?

Hell yeah.