Managing My Home Plate – The End, Or Just The Beginning?

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It’s over. It’s done. The season has ended. And not in the best way.

This past weekend were provincials in a small town that didn’t have the accommodations for 16 teams. A lot of our families were stuck at hotels out of town and they had a long drive to the ball diamonds. But we all made it and everyone showed up. Except for the one kid who has been consistently late all season.

During the first game, which we lost by a large margin, one of my own parents and I came head to head. Throughout the entire game, he bitched about what the kids should be doing instead of encouraging them to do better. And he didn’t do it quietly. He insulted my own son as well as many others on the team. Loudly. The parents heard it, the coaches heard it, and I’m pretty sure the kids heard it too. There were tears on the bench after the game because the kids felt awful for not bringing their A game. Not once did this parent shut the hell up about his complaining. I had had enough and I left. One of the other parents noticed my distress and asked if I was alright, to which I replied, “some things just don’t need to be said and I’m tired of listening to it.”

Just before the next game, the asshole parent who wouldn’t shut up confronted me. Someone had told him I wasn’t impressed with his conduct and he cornered me and said, “listen, sometimes I need to learn when to shut my mouth and I want to apologize if I insulted you.”

It was nice to get an apology, but I was hesitant to accept due to my gut feeling. Lo and behold, the very next game, about an hour later, this damn parent did it again. The ump made a call that this parent didn’t agree with and he started yelling at the ump. I wish I was exaggerating. I really do. But I’m not. He yelled at the ump about what the call should have been, but our coaches cut him off quickly and said it was the right call. Was he embarrassed by his actions? No. He just kept on bitching and complaining. My gut feeling was right – his apology to me earlier was hollow.

In spite of asshole’s outbursts, the kids won that game by one run. But the next game wasn’t as pretty. We played a team that we had merci’ed* twice throughout the season. It was a clear-cut win. Until it wasn’t. We had some injuries and had to move our outfielders around. My son pitched 13 pitches and did a great job. Then, instead of putting him in left field, his usual position, they placed him on second base, where he suffered. The injured kids were put in the outfield in hopes of not having to work too hard. Moving our kids around became obvious after the first two innings. Everyone suffered in their new positions. And it didn’t help that the opposition brought their A game. I don’t know what changed on the opposition’s team, but they came out swinging at provincials and they didn’t look back. This team, who we had knocked around in the dirt all season long, kicked us in the junk with a 13-3 win to move onto finals. In spite of the loss, I told every kid that I was proud of them because they did their best. Which was the complete truth. They tried so hard. And their effort meant more to me than any win.

But, again, there were tears on the bench. The kids were thoroughly upset that they had lost out. Their emotions ran deep. Even J, my own son, cried. He never cries. Not through five years of hockey or any other sport he’s ever played. He was never invested enough to let his emotions get the best of him. But he did that day. I took him for a walk and we talked. He was upset that they lost. He cried because the season is over. And he was really angry at himself for not playing his best. He didn’t want to go out like that. And he knew he wouldn’t get another chance to prove himself until next season. My heart broke, but, at the same time, I was grateful that he felt so passionately about something.

He begged me to go home that night. He didn’t want to stay another night in the town where his heart was crushed. He wanted to leave all the bad memories behind. The coaches benched him at one point because he missed a few ground balls at second base and it stung him. They lost out to a team that they had crushed all season long. And he listened to that asshole parent spitting venom about every kid but his own. My son didn’t want to be part of that any longer.

But we had the hotel room for one more night and we decided to stay. We had a team dinner that night at a restaurant in town and then went swimming at one of the hotels. It was the bright spot to a mostly dreary weekend. I finally saw some smiles and some fun. And I was glad we stayed.

J slept most of the way back home the following day. He was exhausted after such an emotional weekend. He was still quite upset about baseball, but he vowed to make himself better for next season. He begged me to find him an off-season trainer to help him. I have my work cut out for me because the closest trainer to us is three hours away. So now I have some decisions to make. But the one decision that’s already been made is that I will support and encourage my son to be his best if that’s what he wants. And he really wants this.

As team manager, I saw a lot of bullshit going on this season from the inside out. There’s no limit to the shit you see when you run a minor league baseball team – or any minor sports team, for that matter, because I’ve seen it in hockey too. But when I see J smile when he makes a good play, or when I see any of the kids smiling because they’re having fun, it makes all the bullshit worth it. Will I do it again next year? I don’t know. I can’t say no because I’m a sucker for making kids happy and helping out when I can. But if someone else is willing to step up to the plate, I’ll gladly take a step back.

One thing I know for sure, we’ll be back on the diamonds as soon as the winter snow has melted.

*The Mercy Rule in minor baseball is when a team is up by 10 runs in the 4th inning, the game is over.

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Managing My Home Plate – Game 1, Bringing The Heat

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What a start!

As I sat in the mosquito-infested grass at out-of-town diamond number 2, I noticed the nerves, the shaking, and the sweat across our kids brows. I said a silent prayer as I watched the team warm up.

I talked to each of the parents, who uttered the same words, “he was so nervous all day!” And it showed during warm-ups.

A few minutes before the game, I scoped out the opposition. My heart sank a bit when I saw the skill and natural talent that we were up against. Not only were those hometown kids bigger than ours, they had their catching and throwing arms ready.

Now I was nervous.

We started at bat and, holy crap, our kids were on the bats! Our first batter, Maddex, hit a single. Then he stole second and third without another hit being made. A second hit by Ethan would land him at second base and bring our first batter home. With still no outs, our third batter, Danon, hit a double and brought in another run to give us a nice 2-0 cushion to take us into the middle of the first inning after three strikeouts.

Our first pitcher, Danon, took the mound and threw a few warm-ups. The look on the other teams faces were priceless. Disbelief and fear intimidated them as the first batter seemed shaken while he stepped into the box. We held off team GL in the bottom of the first because Danon brought the heat. With three quick strike outs and no one on base, our kids were on the bats again to start the second inning.

I guess a 2-0 lead wasn’t enough for our kids as they belted the ball into every possible hole and brought in run after run. My son, the second smallest kid on the team, got a single and brought home one of those runs. (Enter proud baseball mom moment here!) Later on, he was brought home as the other team fumbled over the ball in the outfield. The score was a comfortable 5-0 after the second inning.

In the third inning, the opposition struck back. With our new pitcher on the mound, Hudson’s nerves set in and he gave away a few hits. But the rest of our defence helped him out by letting in only two runs. It was 5-2 for us going into the fourth inning.

My son was handed a third-out strikeout near the end of the game, but he quickly shook it off. With two more runs throughout the rest of the game, the score ended in a 7-2 first-game win. There was a lot of excitement from both teams as they high-fived each other at home plate after the game. I think everyone had a good time that night – including the family and friends in attendance.

Half a bottle of bug spray and a full bag of Spitz later, happy parents and happy kids packed up, hit the convenience store, and grabbed some munchies for the ride home. While at the convenience store, MM bumped into a friend from the oilfield. His son was playing against our team and I distinctly heard the dad say to MM, “that was a fun game and I’d be happy to play against your team all season long.”

Good sportsmanship goes a long way. Thank you, GL, for your hospitality and your friendly demeanour. We had a great time. We look forward to seeing you again next month on our diamond!