Archives for posts with tag: baseball

Growing up in the 50s and 60s, there weren’t a lot of organized sports for kids.  We played the usual at school and learned softball/baseball, soccer, tetherball, etc.  At home, we played workup and kicked the ball around and were always doing something outside, just not very organized except to us.  I took golf lessons and swimming lessons, but there weren’t any teams for a girl to be on.  We had intramural basketball and some other sports in high school.  My brother played baseball when he was a kid, but I only remember going to a couple of games and we sat on the sides in the dirt.  The coach took the team in his car for ice cream sometimes.  My husband played baseball through junior high and there were, of course, teams in all the sports for the boys.  I had a couple of trophies, mainly for jr. golf tournaments or an occasional  swim medal on the 4th of July.

I’ll have to take partial blame for what my generation did to sports.  As parents of three girls and a boy, we made sure they were exposed to just about everything from music to scouting to church to sports.  Between my four, there were lessons or teams in these sports through the years:  soccer (all four played and one went through college on a partial scholarship, one of the first group of girls to get one), swimming (all four swam competitively), golf, tennis, softball/baseball, football, ice skating, track, basketball.  What’s left?  It was a time to encourage girls that they too could be a champion in whatever they wanted to do.

Clayton the football playerMostly, our fields were pretty primitive, barely mowed for play.  Uniforms were basic t-shirts or homemade when my girls started soccer.  There were no cleats.  That market grew quickly and they soon looked like mini-pros.  Still pretty basic though.

Scan 5I’ve been a scorekeeper and a timekeeper and mostly a carpooler.  On Saturdays, my husband worked and I drove all over the place.  I also drove to all the practices and lessons, often on all sides of town the same day.  (How many years was that?  Let’s say 20 years.  I shouldn’t have figured that out.) We didn’t encourage the new competitive leagues because it was too much of a burden on the family, travel, time and money wise to devote that much to just one of the kids.  The one who went that direction excelled on her high school team and got the scholarship anyway.

Scan 15I worked for many years at the local ice rink, doing marketing and working with the families.  I talked to aspiring Olympic moms and dads, telling them the benefits of the sport without giving them false hope their talented child would be one of the extremely few who made the Olympic team.  But, you can’t discourage parents when they have a talent.  I know that.

Scan 4My eight grandkids, 6 boys and 2 girls, are all in sports in a big way.  Well, the 4-year old isn’t there yet.  The others, ages 12-17, are now down to playing football (1), soccer (3), baseball (3) and basketball (5).  Several are on both school and competitive league games (or whatever they are called).  They play games all over the country all the time, sometimes with up to three games a day.  I will have to say my kids never played more than two a day and I can’t even remember that.  And they have practices, too.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt’s a lifestyle choice for parents because it takes a lot of money and a lot of time for the whole family.  There are a lot of trophies, big trophies, and scouts who come to even the games of the youngest to recruit for high school, college and the pros.  There are specialized coaches, and uniforms and equipment bags and iPad apps for keeping stats and scores and paid coaches and parents who follow the games religiously.  It’s very sophisticated.

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One change is the playing fields.  Communities realized there was money to be made by building mega-sports complexes and they built them and the teams came.  I know from my days at the ice rink that you have to keep the facilities filled to keep them going.  You need money to pay them off and maintain them.  There are volunteers to work in the snack bars, someone to clean the bathrooms, someone to manage the scheduling.  Tournaments are a boon to the American economy.  You haven’t traveled until you’re in a hotel/motel with a team of kids sharing the facility.  Family vacations are planned around tournaments or are part of the tournament weekend.  If you’re lucky, you can see a bit of the city where you are playing.  Throw some history or culture into the mix if you have time between trips to the fields.

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Don’t think I’m being critical.  I wouldn’t dare, because I was a part of this for my kids and they want even better for their kids and so it goes.  I love watching the families at all the games.  I love the parents dressed in their fan gear.  I love the younger siblings playing in the dirt.  I like watching the young teammates, who always adopt a look of their own, just as they did when my kids played.  They know all the catch phrases and mimic the pros as they high five and yell popular chants.  There is a camaraderie between the parents and they encourage the kids.  There is some murmuring when a kid isn’t playing up to the high standards, but there is mostly a warm feeling.

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As it’s always been, coaches are critical.  Since my own childhood, I’ve seen kids drop out of a sport they love because of a coach who made the experience miserable.  That still goes on.  A good coach can be so important.  Well, that holds true for everyone who works with kids.  If we can’t inspire them to want to learn or play better or be a better person, what’s going on?  We’ve all had the bad experience and it teaches us in a certain way, but there’s nothing better than a good experience.

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So, what’s my point?  I’m not going to jump on the bandwagon and bash the parents who have devoted so very much to their children.  They could certainly hover less or give fewer trophies or find time to just be together without anything organized, but they’re doing good things, too.  We all make our way as parents.  Even with the millions of parenting tips you get, you still have to find your own way for you and your children.

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A friend once told me that the only thing we really give our children is memories.  That’s all the lifestyle choice we need to make when you get down to it.  It can be organized or not, just make memories, good ones!   As for me, I’m part of the mamarazzi, the proud grandmother taking a million pictures to remember, just as I always have.

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The World Series is on this week and my mind flashed back to baseball through my years, a zig-zag view of the sport. When I was a kid, we played baseball all the time, mostly a version of workup with whoever was available in the neighborhood. My brother played on a team, but it was different. We all didn’t go to every game, sometimes the coach piled the kids in his car to drive somewhere, they went for ice cream after games, there were no trophies unless you won something really big, like a whole season. Kids just played baseball and dads coached. I guess there were leagues for the ones who were really good, but I don’t remember much about those.

The World Series was a big deal. Countless friends of mine remember teachers setting a radio in the window of the classroom so the kids could listen to the series, which were mostly played during the day. We sat quietly at our desks, listening to the sounds of the game. I loved the Yankees because of Mickey Mantle. I don’t think I knew he was from Oklahoma, but who was more baseball than Mickey? Years later, my father played golf with him and I was impressed. I’m still impressed even knowing his life’s ups and downs. I have a cat named Mickey because he swats with both paws, a switch-hitter like the Mick.

Baseball was always around, but I was doing different things until my kids were in high school. One of my daughters played softball in high school and I learned to keep score, definitely an insight into the game and all its intricacies. I didn’t really get back into it until my husband got season tickets to our local AA team and we became fans, real fans. Our seats were in the second row behind home plate and we would go early to watch them line the fields, watch the team warm up. It was a place where we lived in a different world with friends who sat around us, player’s wives, scouts, kids all over the place. It was a world of what we want the real world to be. There were no outside worries at the ballpark. You ate your hot dog and cheered for your team. I love AA ball because you are watching kids who are on the verge of making it big. Some of them did and it was fun to watch them move on to the big leagues. Some of them played minor league ball for a long time and finally had to move along. That life of little pay, long bus rides, motels and time from your family isn’t always fun no matter how much you love the game.

We kept those tickets for 19 years, after my husband died, after the kids all had kids. The family went together, we loved the mascot, we watched fireworks, we played the games outside the field, one of my grandsons went to the player clinic. Many happy family memories at the ballpark. We finally gave them up when the team moved to a nicer stadium. It wasn’t because we lost interest in the game, but because we had our own ballplayers now and too many games to watch to make all the big games. We still love them…we just pick and choose our games.

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I never saw a major league game in person until a visit to Denver in 2010 where we watched the Rockies play the Cubs, my son-in-law’s favorite team. It was a treat, a special game in beautiful Coors Stadium but not quite as intimate as our home AA field. There’s something nice about watching kids who are trying to make the dream that can beat out multi-million dollar players for winning your heart.

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I do love the game. I watched Ken Burn’s series, “Baseball,” and love all the history, the symbolism. I’m not one who can throw out all the stats, but it doesn’t matter. Today, I have three grandsons playing the game, playing because they love to play. They play pretty competitively so I thought they all were trying to reach the pros. I think they’d like to play at least into college. Mostly, they just play to get better and keep playing. It’s fun to watch them, fun to watch the families who make every game on fields that are better than the pro teams played on in the game’s beginnings.

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Pretty good lessons in life. Sometimes you swing and hit a home run, sometimes you strike out. You run to the bases, trying to get to the next one and then you come home. There’s the glory of the win and the sting of defeat. You’re part of a team and you play together to win. All those things we’ve heard through the years.

Nothing too profound here. Just having some baseball memories. Here’s a good quote to ponder while you watch the series…

“Baseball was made for kids, and grown-ups only screw it up.”
Bob Lemon