When I was a kid, I wanted to be
a professional baseball player more than anything. Every day, I threw a ratty
old baseball against the back wall of our garage. I worked on my hitting
fundamentals, always keeping my objective in mind. I never turned down a chance
to play in a neighborhood game. And then … reality set in.
Although I was a decent player, I
wasn’t good enough to play at the higher levels. Couldn’t hit a good curve or a
nasty slider. Too short. Too slow. Average arm. Inaccurate spitter. Over-zealous
cup adjuster. Excessive scratcher. You get the point.
With my childhood dream crushed
into a tiny pile of dust, I went to college and got a job like a respectable
human being. But I still wanted to be on the field.
After my first son, Chase was born,
I waited five long years for him to be old enough to play youth sports. Little
League baseball was first on our agenda. On his fifth birthday, I said, “Chase,
now you’re old enough to play baseball on a tee-ball team. Do you want to give
it a try?”
“Maybe. Do I have to wear a hat?”
“Well, yes. Baseball players wear
“I don’t like hats. Hats are
stupid. They squish my head and make my hair look funny.”
“Look, I played baseball and I
had a lot of fun. Plus, all the cool guys play baseball.”
“You’re not cool.”
Oh, boy. I thought this was going to be way easier. “Tell you what;
I will be your Coach. How about that?”
“Okay. Yeah, I want to play. But
I’m not wearing a hat.”
Chase and I arrived at our first
practice forty-five minutes early to set up the field for our drills. This was
going to be great. Forty minutes later, we were the only people there. I sent out the practice schedule in an email,
didn’t I? Where the heck is everybody? Ten minutes later, a dad and his
son, Charlie arrived. Now we were up to two players out of fourteen for the
inaugural season of the Chantilly Orioles.
In dribs and drabs, the other
players and their parents showed up with a wide range of excuses.
“We forgot practice was today.”
“Bobby couldn’t find his glove.”
“Spencer threw up as we were
getting in the car.”
“Traffic was awful.”
“Wally’s mom doesn’t read her
freakin’ email. And her new boyfriend is a worthless drunk. I hate that
conniving witch.” (Note to self: Keep Wally’s dad away from the metal bats.)
By the time we finally got to
work on the field, we were thirty minutes into an hour-long practice.
We began with ground balls.
“Okay, guys, get in front of the ball, glove on the ground. Keep your butt
down, Watch the ball all the way into your glove and clamp down on the ball
like an alligator chomping on his dinner. Here we go.”
As I hit easy ground balls at my
players, they stood and watched the ball roll past them, and then they ran to
pick it up. In most cases, four or five kids would run to pick the ball up, and
then they would get into a fight over who was going to get it. Finally, one kid
would wrestle the ball away from the others and throw it toward the parking
lot. This was going to be a long season.
Moving on to pop-ups, I tossed
the ball high into the air. Bonk! It hit Spencer in the nose and blood gushed
out of both nostrils like it was surging out of a fire hose. It was gross. I
got a little woozy. After an ice pack treatment and a big hug from Mom, Spencer
decided he wanted to play soccer. Probably a wise decision.
Just enough time was left for
some batting practice. The kids looked like bobbleheads with their giant
helmets squeezed onto their noggins. Bobby stepped up to the plate. I positioned
him into a standard batting stance so he could take a good swing. I carefully placed
the ball on the tee. Whoosh! A rush of air swept by my left ear. What the heck was that? Bobby smashed
the bat into the base of the tee and the ball fell off.
“That’s okay. Do it again. Keep
your eye on the ball.”
I balanced the ball on the tee
again. Whoosh! Another rush of air rushed past my left jaw. Holy crap! The kid
wasn’t waiting for me to get my head out of the way. He had nearly split my
skull open on the first two swings.
“Bobby. Wait until I get out of
the way before you swing. Got it?”
Whoosh! On the third attempt, he
missed my head by a whisker. All right,
that’s it. I’ve got to do something about this before I wind up on a
With my left hand, I grabbed the
barrel of Bobby’s bat and held it tight while I placed the ball on the tee.
Holding on for dear life, I moved out of harm’s way and released the bat. “Now
you can swing.” He missed again. It was time for another kid to take a turn to hit.
Bobby burst into tears because he didn’t hit a home run. Apparently, Bobby’s
mom had told him that he would hit a home run every time he went to bat. That
was the last time we ever saw Bobby. We were down to twelve players after the initial
Our first game was scheduled for the
following Saturday morning at 9:00 AM against the Chantilly Red Sox. I told my
team to be there at 8:30 AM for warm-ups. They started showing up at 8:55 AM.
We took the field first. I placed
each player in his position on the diamond. Within fifteen seconds, they had
all moved somewhere else. Some were playing in the dirt. Some were pulling up
grass and throwing it in the air. Some went over to the bleachers to find their
parents. One kid wandered off to another baseball field and joined a different
game. A couple of dads helped round up the strays and put them back into their
positions. It was like herding grasshoppers. The game hadn’t started and I was
A few batters into the game, a
kid hit a dribbler down the first base line. My first baseman, Amandeep, caught
it and stepped on first. “He’s out!” I yelled, excited for our first out of the
“No. He’s safe.” Coach Todd, the
Red Sox Coach, shook his head.
“He was out by ten feet. It
“Somebody didn’t read his
rulebook.” Todd crossed his arms over his Save
the Planet T-shirt and tapped his right Birkenstock on the ground.
“I played baseball for years,
Todd. I don’t need to read the rulebook. He was out. Next batter.”
“Coach Alderman, our mission is
to create an environment where every child feels safe and successful. We don’t
have outs here.”
I didn’t want to make a scene, so
I gritted my teeth and complied. I leaned toward Todd’s ear. “For the record,
he was out,” I whispered.
“FYI, no one cares, Coach
Alderman,” Todd whispered back.
“I care, Todd.”
As the inning unfolded, all of their
players got to hit and, after eleven swings, the last batter walloped a
three-foot single. “Okay, guys, bottom of the first inning and we’re behind nine
to nothing. We need to score some runs.”
“Coach Alderman,” Todd called.
“May I speak with you?”
“We don’t keep score in these
games. We want everyone to feel like a winner.”
“But everyone is not a winner,
Todd. That’s why we keep score.”
“Look, I can tell that you’re an
‘older father’ and you don’t understand the way we do things in this century.
Maybe you should just have a seat on the bench and let me run the game.”
At this point, I had two options;
(1) Take the high road and ignore this jackass. (2) Whack him in the nuts. Oh,
how I wanted to choose number two, more than you will ever know.
Fighting my most barbaric urges,
I said, “Todd, you coach your team and I’ll coach my team. Then we’ll eat our Rice
Krispies Treats and go home.”
“Fair enough.” Todd strutted back
to his bench.
In the top of the third inning, my
catcher, William, ran up to me and said, “Coach, I gotta pee.”
“Okay. The bathroom is … um …
Where the heck is the bathroom?” No bathroom was in sight. Not even a
porta-potty. Oh, no. “Tell ya what, just go to the edge of those trees behind
“You mean pee outside?”
“Yeah, but keep it on the down
“Awesome!” William ran to the
woods and let it rip. Then he sprinted back to his position, beaming from ear
Of course, the other boys noticed
what had occurred and they wanted in on the fun.
“Coach, I gotta pee.”
“Coach, I gotta pee.”
“Coach, I gotta pee.”
Eventually, all of my players got
their turn to whiz in the great outdoors. The mothers were appalled. The dads
thought it was hilarious. Todd was so disgusted, he threatened to stop the game
in the name of decency. I thought he was going to have a full-out hissy fit.
Charging through the third and
final inning, we finished the game in a 27 – 27 tie. Yes, I kept score. So did
every other dad there except that weinerhead, Todd.
While I was eating my fourth Rice
Krispies Treat, Todd came over to our bench. “Great game, Coach. You really
know a lot about the game and your boys made some nice plays out there.”
“Thanks, Todd.” I could tell
there was a big “but” coming.
“But you must embrace the concept
that we need to devalue the notion of winning. We want to remove all
disappointment from our children’s lives. All children should experience the
same level of joy.”
“Here’s the reality, Todd.
Sometimes you win. Sometimes you lose. Sometimes it rains.”
“Where’d you get that little
nugget? A fortune cookie?”
“It’s a famous quote by Nuke
LaLoosh from the movie Bull Durham.
It’s a classic line and it’s the truth.”
“Our family doesn’t watch movies
or TV. We read books to strengthen our minds. We’re not Neanderthals like you.”
“I see.” I looked over his
shoulder and grinned. “FYI, Todd, your son is peeing on third base.”