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.