Part of becoming a parent is dealing with your kids’ involvement in sports. I say “dealing with” because, as any parent knows, any activity that your kids want to take part in always ends up costing at least twice as much money, and a million times as much time as you wish it would.
This scenario is extra difficult for me to deal with because I love sports. Sometimes, I think I love my Beloved Hometown Seattle Mariners even more than I love my kids. Just when I’m feeling this way, the Mariners will go and do something that is so Very Mariners that I will then want to light myself on fire. But, I played sports growing up–If you go to the trophy case at Gov. John R. Rogers High School, in Puyallup, Washington, you’ll see my name on the Most Improved Football Player Award from the 1985 season, a season in which we went a gloriously inept 2-7–and I want my daughters to at least try a sport of two.
Hey, somebody has to win gold medals in the 2032 Olympics, right? It might as well be my kids on the podium with tears in their eyes as “The Star-Spangled Banner” plays, and, maybe, fat product endorsement checks roll in.
But, in order to even get a sniff of such exalted sporting status, you have to start somewhere. And a couple of weekends ago, that “somewhere” was the first softball game for my 7-year-old daughter, Little Sis.
She wanted to play, so I signed her up, got her all the necessary gear, and before we knew it, she was out on the field “playing” somewhere between first and second base. And then between second and third. At this level, all the kids take the field at the same time, even though that means about a dozen little girls are out roaming around the infield and trying to remember to stay in their “ready” stance when they aren’t doing cartwheels.
Eventually, her team, the Jedis (as a “Star Wars” nut, I heartily approved of the girls choice for a team name) began to play. And I did my best to keep a running diary of Game No. 1.
The Jedis are the home team, and as such, all the girls head onto the field. It is truly amazing how many little girls can “play” each base at the same time. We’ve been told the game has a time limit of 1 hour 45 minutes. I’m thinking I should have added some Irish to the 30 ounces of coffee that are in my Yeti mug to help pass the time. The other team is called the Mermaids. Our girls’ pitcher strikes out the first Mermaid batter…And then lands her next four pitches in the dirt. A coach comes in for one pitch (something to do with league rules that I don’t understand) and, soon, our pitcher is hurling again and she Ks the side.
The Jedis come up to bat. First girl up strikes out and I sense a trend to this game. Second batter gets a hit and I think we are headed for the World Series. And then the next two girls strike out.
Almost a mirror image of the first, minus the one hit and with my daughter, Little Sis, getting to the plate. She strikes out (one swinging, two looking) with a stroke that looks more suited for chopping firewood than hitting softballs. Coaches end up doing A LOT of pitching. I wonder how it would have looked if Earl Weaver had ever yanked Jim Palmer from the mound and started serving up meatballs himself?
The Jedis’ pitcher is showing some John Rocker-like moves dancing around the mound after getting a strikeout. And, yes, I am aware of how that reference is about 15 years past its relevancy. A mermaid gets a hit and remains at the plate in what is certainly the most-unintentional example of a batter admiring their work in the history of softball. Thanks to a lack of fielding skills on the part of the Jedis, the Mermaid hitter finally heads to first and is called safe approximately 37 seconds after her bat made contact with the ball. Soon, enough, there are three Mermaid outs in the scorecard.
My older daughter, who is 9, now starts whining about being bored. Wants to have a play date. As far as I know, we may be at this game until tomorrow. The Jedis almost get a hit, but the ball crawls its way foul at home. Alas, our hopes for this inning are dashed.
The Jedis manage to push one run across the plate. This occurs when a girl beats out an infield hit before anyone on the other team 1) Went after the ball once it dribbled across the infield dirt, 2) Covered their bases like their coaches taught them and, finally, 3) Caught the ball and then threw it anywhere near the zip code of anyone presumably covering a base.
I have to keep reminding myself that these are 7-and-8-year-old girls, many of whom are playing ball for the first time. Brooks Robinson, they are not.
Score: 1-0, Jedis
We have now been at it for an hour and twenty minutes and it feels like six. Word is that no inning can start after the game has gone on for an hour and forty-five minutes. I catch a few parents, including my wife, checking their watches. We get through the top of the fifth without giving up any runs and the Jedis win, 1-0.
Or so we thought.
One of the tenets of baseball and softball is that when you are leading after eight and a half innings, then the game is over. There’s no need for you to bat in the bottom of the ninth because you are leading and the other guys just got their last outs. This is why we all thought that the game was over.
At my daughter’s level, however, there are time limits, and the games don’t go more than six innings anyway. Yet, for reasons that are still beyond me, the (probably 23-year-old) umpire told our girls to get up to the plate. This is ended up being fortuitous, because it was in the bottom of the fifth when the Jedi bats came alive.
Before any of us knew what happened, and while a few of us had dozed off, the Jedis had loaded the bases. And the next batter drove one in to make it 2-0. And the next batter did the same. 3-0, Jedis. The girls were on auto-repeat, and with the next batter, the score was 4-0. The next girl up drove in two to make it 6-0, which was where it ended.
Again, I still don’t know why the umpire had the Jedis bat in the bottom of an inning in a game which, by the rules of softball, they had won. But, this is a strange game. I’ve seen teams blow 12-run leads to lose, and the worst teams look like World Series champions depending on the day of the week. In this game, you don’t cheat, but you don’t look a gift horse in the mouth either.
And if the ump tells you, “Batter up!” you get to the plate no matter what inning it is. In that respect, the Force was definitely with the Jedis on this day.