Off-duty: T-ball’s for kids to enjoy and adults to savor

Slowly but surely, it’s coming.

Spring is around the corner and soon we’ll all be happy, warmer — and green. The pollen is brutal, but it means the weather won’t be cold with killer flurries. What’s good about spring is the coming of another baseball season. Soon we’ll be about to mortgage the home to afford tickets for four and a warm $7 beer. Good times.

I coached softball and baseball for many, many years. When my girls played, I coached softball and later, when the boys played, I moved to baseball. My grandson will start baseball this year. It reminded me how fun it was back in the day when the kids knew absolutely nothing about the rules. Games were the highlight of the week, simply for the entertainment value.

I had a group of girls, about 5 years old, with no knowledge of softball. I said to myself this was great! I’d teach them fundamentals and get them on the right track for years to come.

Here’s how it went at our first T-ball game:

Our first batter hit the ball off the tee. She ran to the bleachers to tell her mother, who urged her daughter to run to first by holding up a Snickers bar. So she ran to first, then continued down the left-field line to the fence where she stood, all proud.

But then she realized that the one fielder on the other team who knew you needed to tag the runner began running after her, followed by the rest of the defense. Sensing this was a fun thing, she laughed and began running along the fence line, followed by those defenders who chose not to stop to build something in the dirt over around first base.

The race is on

As the chase continued, I ran after the group and, coming alongside, I tried to explain that she needed to at least head back in the direction of first or second base while I tried to convince the umpire that running out of the baseline wasn’t really a big deal at this level.

The players, now moving like a small herd of giggling cattle, decided this was a good time for a race. The girl with the ball passed my runner and upon arriving at home plate, held the ball up and announced that she was the winner. My runner stopped and the two smiled at one another. Apparently this meant it was time to start the second lap.

My runner at least recognized first base as something significant and headed in that direction. Most of the defenders had been herded up by their coaches and were near the dugout kicking dirt while the coach attempted to review the rules of the game.

My runner stopped at first base, so we decided this was a single.

As game play resumed, my next batter took a swing and hit the tee, not the ball, and decided the ball didn’t need to sit there on the dirt all alone. She took a rather impressive golf swing with the bat, knocking the ball toward the outer edge of the infield.

This immediately started another stampede.

What do we do now?

The collective group of red and blue shirts, now more or less running amok in the direction of the ball, seemed a little bored with the goal of the race and slowed to admire the dirt. In seconds, there was a mass sitting, and many dirt mounds were now under construction.

The umpire, all of 15 years old, didn’t know what to do as this was an obvious gross violation of the game rules. The other coach and I strolled to the center of the group and took our kids to the respective dugout to review the rules and overall objective:

“Okay, kids, remember that what we want to do is hit the ball with the bat and then run to first base. Remember where first base is?”

“Yeaaaaaaaa!!!!”

“First base?”

“Yeaaaaaaaa!!!”

“Once you get there, stop and the coach will tell you to run to second base or to stop. Everyone got that?”

“Yeaaaaaaa!!”

“Anyone have questions?”

“Yeaaaaaa!!”

“I have to poop!”

“Uh, okay.” (Looking for parent.)

“Me, too.”

“Me, too”

“Me, too”

“Me, too”

“Me, too”

(This is why you need about 60 players on any T-ball team so the game can continue while many kids leave for various reasons.)

Game resumes.

The first batter swings and hits a dribbler just in front of home plate. She politely walks up, takes the ball and hands it to the fielder and then races the fielder to first — and then beyond … again.

The stampede renewed. More dirt mounds were constructed as the umpire, who now couldn’t care less about the game, leaned up against the fence and called his girlfriend on his cell phone.

I again sprinted to the outfield area. While running with the girls, I tried to coax the kids, anyone, to give some thought about heading toward second base. As we moved on, I decided third base would be okay since the umpire was no longer in the mix.

The other coach and I, like a couple of border collies, moved in unison as we swept the red and blue shirts back toward the infield and, we hoped, toward some sort of organization.

Plan B

We tried to figure out another strategy. But since it was obvious that in softball the batter has to hit the ball for the game to progress and in our case this would surely start another stampede, we opted for a play date in the dirt and broke out the snacks a bit early.

Many dirt mounds were built on that day and nobody went home crying about losing.

As the years went on and softball and baseball became very competitive, I missed the little kids. So as many of you embark on your first season of T-ball, you need to do two things:

  1. Buy a video camera.
  2. Get the coach a nice plaque at the end of the season so he can remember why the heck he ever signed up.

Have fun.

19 comments Add your comment

Rose fan

March 12th, 2010
5:08 pm

You bring back memories from 30 years ago, when my son played T-ball. He was asking me if we could go out to get ice cream after the game when the ball rolled between his legs. His glove was on his head, and he had just picked me a dandelion…….. Some things never change, thank goodness.

Just stop

March 13th, 2010
9:26 am

Your attempt at folksy humor fails. Go back to telling stories…….No, just give up on blogging and concentrate on something else.

Thank you.

Arizona Ann

March 13th, 2010
11:40 am

Great story, thanks for the laughs.

Spectator

March 13th, 2010
2:00 pm

My son played rec baseball until the 4th or 5th grade, before switching into a more competitive league. You’re right, the younger years were fun, especially when the mercy rules were introduced for the really little ones. And, the parents in the competitive leagues are a whole different breed.

The last season of rec ball, the boys had good lead and one of the dads, very excitedly, shouted, “Don’t worry ~ we’ve got it in the bag!” This guy was from the UK, so it sounded like “bahg or bog.” My husband almost had a coronary ~ his philopshy was to keep the momentum going. Needless to say, they wound up losing. He still quotes that man, accent and all, 9 years later…all in fun, though.

Dateline NBC

March 13th, 2010
7:50 pm

So…..You “taught” 5 year old girls T ball……Sounds like an undercover story for us.

OTOH

March 14th, 2010
1:02 am

Ah, I remember it well and fondly. The first T-ball game. The first batter hit the ball and actually ran to first base while the infield, outfield and a few from both benches ran to tackle the 3rd baseman who had the misfortune to have picked up the ball. Pound for pound you can’t beat 4 year olds for entertainment value.

Old School

March 14th, 2010
3:35 pm

My oldest daughter played T-ball on a mixed team. One young batter swung mightily a dozen or more times missing the ball and the T every time. His mom yelled encouragement from the stands and was joined by nearly everyone. “Swing Jay, Swing!” became the rallying cry until he figured out we were yelling for him. He turned and the bat bumped the T knocking the ball off. As it rolled (about 12 “) we all leaped to our feet and yelled “Run Jay, RUN!” And run he did. . . straight to third. You know that record-breaking, head forward run (moderately fast stroll) with bent arms furiously working like skinny little pistons? Funniest thing I’ve seen in years.

SAD

March 14th, 2010
9:19 pm

This made me cackle!!! Good column!! I got to have the experience of being the mom of the rotating bench warmer before we finally stopped playing little league baseball and moved onto soccer and football!!! My son didnt get the inherited knack of baseball like his uncles. He took after me, I was the girl who begged my mom to take me out of dance and let me play softball, well she did, and I was the girl who was put WAY OUT in the out field, so there I stood with the glove on my head doing my dance routine from the dance class. CLASSIC!!

Bobby dee

March 15th, 2010
1:22 am

Ah yes. I remember those days with my kids too.

cricket

March 15th, 2010
12:23 pm

Thanks for making me laugh

Entertained as usual

March 15th, 2010
12:57 pm

Hey “Just Stop”. Get over yourself, get a life, and lighten up. Nobody makes you read these.

What?????

March 15th, 2010
1:17 pm

To Just Stop…… I’ll bet you’re a hoot to be around. Some people like this stuff and I don’t think it was written especially for you. If you don’t like it, just move on man.

Biteme

March 15th, 2010
1:34 pm

Steve, thank you for Monday laugh! Great story to help make me smile :)

RJ

March 15th, 2010
3:02 pm

I have to admit that I thought several times, before clicking on the link for your story. I’m a fan of the good guys catching the bad boys … but, I am now wiping away the laughter tears from my eyes … and remembering many, many years ago when I coached my oldest son’s first soccor game. Oh, lordy what a day that was :)

Steve, thank you for providing us so many minutes of glee in a less then perfect world. Good Job, keep it up.

mustang100

March 15th, 2010
4:16 pm

To Just stop: We are so sorry you aren’t able to have children.

CJ

March 16th, 2010
12:57 pm

“Border collies” – that completely paints the picture! Thank you for making me laugh – for many years now :) Just Stop – just go away, you obviously have no sense of humor.

Lynn

March 16th, 2010
11:14 pm

I always say if you are having a bad day, you just need to find a T-Ball game to watch. There is nothing like the mass pile ups on whoever happens to “field the ball”, the detours from first base to centerfield and back to second base. My favorite is when a plane flys over. Both teams just stop and watch. It is pure joy.

Liz

March 17th, 2010
8:43 am

This is hilarious! Love it.

georgiagirl35

March 17th, 2010
3:13 pm

Makes me remember the days of coach t-ball. One little girl didn’t run to first or thrid, no, she ran straight to 2nd! And I think hearding cats were be a better statement of what it’s like trying to round all those little ones up!