July 17, 2012

Don't Go Getting Your Under Armour In A Wad

You may have read the title and wondered to yourself, "What on earth is she talking about now?" That seems to be a familiar thread on this blog of mine. Alas.

This post has to do with baseball. And, not just any type of little-league baseball, mind you, but serious baseball. Competitive baseball. All-Star team baseball. There's a difference, a significant difference, and I'll explain why in just a bit. But, before I do, I need to fill you in on some details.

As always, the beginning of July signals tournament time at our house. Baseball tournaments. They come in all shapes and sizes and this year didn't disappoint. One of the best parts about these tournaments is that they often signal the end of the season. Hoorah!
Than played in the nine-year-old CABA State Tournament (don't ask me what the acronym means) the last weekend in June and did very well. It was at that game where a coach, who was scouting for an extra player for his all-star team that was going to play in the USSSA State Tournament, saw Than play and asked if we would consider letting Than play for him.

Yes, little-league has scouting.
Our initial response was, "Oh? Wow! That's great and wonderful and tremendous that you think our kid is worthy to play on your team." But, inwardly, both my husband and I groaned. Really? MORE baseball? 

However, baseball won out and we agreed to let Than play for this team. How bad could it be? After all, Than had just finished playing a whole season of ball with his regular team, he did well at the State Tournament in his division, and this was a great opportunity for him to play on a well-known team that was ranked 10th in the nation.

Yes, little-league has national rankings.

We called the coach back and gave our consent for Than to play. And, that's what we've been doing this past weekend. Or, at least, what Nathanael has been doing this weekend. The rest of us have been tagging behind to watch. 

Tournament play started early Friday morning at the crack of dawn. (Not really. I just wanted to write that because Adrian and the boys had to get up extra early so Than could be all the way across town by 7:45am.) They played at the Aurora Sports Park which, if you live in the area you may already know, is a metropolis of baseball fields. Apparently, if you build it they will come is true. Every ball field was busy with games. 

Now, if you've ever been to a little-league baseball game you know how it goes. A little kid comes up to bat, he might strike out. The parents cheer anyway and say, "Good try." The next kid comes up to bat, he might hit the ball and stand there for a second before he realizes oh! I have to run to first base! and so on and so forth. They make mistakes because they're only eight and nine-years-old and you sit in the stands and clap and yell for them to do good. That's normal kid baseball.
In competitive baseball it goes like this. Kid number one comes up to bat and whacks it over the head of the shortstop. The left-fielder then collects the ball and throws it hard to second base where kid number one is coming fast and hard. Kid number one slides into second base just as the second baseman catches the ball. There's a half-second of breath-holding as the parents wait for the umpire to yell, "Safe!" The mother of kid number one stops doing her resistance rope workout against the back of the bleachers and hoots for her kid before she resumes arm curls. Then, kid number two comes up and whacks the ball way back into right field. The outfielder backs up and up and then, at the last moment, turns and dives to make a stellar catch. The father of said outfielder pumps his arms in honor of his kids good catch while other dads give him a high-five. Kid number one tags up at second base and starts barreling around third base towards home. Just as he's about to slide into home plate the catcher collects the ball and tags him out as kid number one crashes into him. The catcher lies on the ground for a moment before he holds his little glove up to show that he did, indeed, hang onto the ball. "OUT!" yells the umpire and parents from one side cheer while parents from the other side throw their hands up. "Get up off the ground!" yells the mother of the little kid playing catcher who has various tattoos of baseballs on her body and wears Gucci sunglasses as he's still trying to collect his breath while the mother of kid number one who has on a tank top that matches all the other mother's from the team with their kids numbers lit up in rhinestones points with her manicured nails and yells, "Next time you run harder! You weren't hustling. You need to get your head into the game!"

Yes, these parents also had the audacity to yell out, "Let's have fun out there boys!" to which I rolled my eyes behind my fake-designer Kohl's sunglasses.

So, you can imagine not only how Than felt to play on this team (he was beyond nervous) and how Adrian and I felt (Every time a kid made some type of fielding error I'd lean over and ask Adrian, "That wasn't Than, was it?" and he'd answer, "No." and then I'd sigh in relief. Although, sometimes it was Than and then I could always tell because this major jerk of a dad would say, "Who is that kid? Where did he come from? Can't he play ball?) Now, I 'm happy to report that Than not only got to play quite a bit in the outfield but he also came in to pitch a few times. He did fine. He didn't strike everyone out like he usually does, I think he was entirely intimidated, but he did good enough. At the end of it all he even said that he actually had fun, which I could hardly fathom because I couldn't wait to get away from those athlete-parents who were completely over-the-top, and he got to keep two hats. The team actually has three different uniforms, with three different hats, but since they only wore two out of the three uniforms, Than only got two hats. Crazy.

What's crazier still is that the coach of the team is still bugging us to have Than try out for the team. Tryouts are next month. It only costs $1,500 to play. That is, if you make the team. Of course, the coaches were willing to work on mechanics with Than for free.

Yes, little-league can make parents max out their credit cards and take a second-mortgage out on the house.

We've decided that this scene of all-star, competitive baseball is probably not for us even if Than does have talent. Right now, that "talent" is busy playing whiffle-ball with the neighbor boys in the front yard where they're laughing and yelling and having fun. Just like how it's supposed to be.