It’s spring! Besides my allergies kicking into high gear, this is also the time when Little Leaguers are swarming through town. Every Saturday, you see scads of kids with grass-stained knees, wearing brightly colored t-shirts marked with the name of their team’s sponsor.
Once in a while, the volunteer in charge of shirts doesn’t check carefully and a typo is immortalized for the season. For example, one year my son’s team was sponsored by Ray’s Cantina, which everyone thought was a Mexican restaurant. Unfortunately, Ray Catena is a high-end luxury car dealership who thought they were spreading goodwill, not nachos, through their sponsorship. But as they say, shirts happen.
I confess that I once got snookered into serving as Commissioner of the Kickball division of Little League. It’s not a job for the faint of heart. Even then, you had some parents trying to stack the team with ringers – you know, the kid who has a late birthday, is really 14, and can kick a ball through goalposts in the next state.
The scores at these games were always 100-100, since everyone gets up to bat, each team has at least 15 kids, and nobody can make an out, even when they are holding the ball and only have to step on the bag in front of them. The multi-part concept is too much for the kindergarten set.
You could always tell the one who was the younger sibling. He’d already spent the better half of his short life in the bleachers, watching his older brother or sister play some game. Finally it was his turn: he was the one on a team. He’d swagger up to home plate and with great flourish, pull on his older brother’s batting gloves. The fact that this was kickball was too subtle a point. He’d draw back and kick the ball with a ferocity envied by the New York Giants. Of course, sometimes, he’d hit nothing but air and it would take quick thinking on the part of the coach to avoid a full preschooler meltdown. Other times, the young athlete would barely touch the ball and it would dribble pathetically down the line to third base, while the entire assemblage of parents would cheer with enthusiasm rivaled only by the Dallas Cheerleaders. You could always tell the first-time parents by the decibel level they could reach if their offspring managed to connect foot to ball.
In any case, no matter where the ball was kicked, the entire opposing team would head, en masse, after it, while anyone on base would merrily circle the infield, sometimes multiple times, running up the score. Often coaches would mercifully call the game for darkness, which was the result of the adults putting on sunglasses and declaring, at 10 am, that it would soon be dinnertime.
I’ve been doing spring cleaning and recently focused on the stash of trophies my kids have been hoarding, proof of their hours on the field of battle. I’ve got four kids so the mantle in the family room is a mini-village of faux-brass miniature sports players. The math gets too complicated for me, but four kids, times three sports seasons, times countless years equals…? Since I don’t think there is much of a market for recycling these homages to youth athletics, I’m tossing the whole bunch into green garbage bags and praying the trash men can heave them into their trucks.
I’d tell you that I miss those days…and since I’m a fiction writer, I could probably make it stick. But this is a mystery blog, so instead I’m trying to fashion a suspense-filled storyline from my experiences in the bleachers. How’s this? It’s bottom of the sixth. Bases loaded. Score tied. Championship on the line. And then….