Little League, Big Dreams

Batting is a miraculous thing. Players who were tired and dying of thirst are suddenly filled with newfound life and energy. Boys who couldn’t stand up are suddenly men with vigor and gusto who are ready to grab a bat and face danger.

A baseball and baseball glove.

The sun is shining. The weather is getting warmer. Birds are singing. It means baseball season is arriving again. It also means a new crew of children to whom I will pass on my love and knowledge for and of the National Pastime.

It also means trying to nail down the names of six or seven new players, which usually means an afternoon of, “Hey!” since I need to get a message across to somebody fast. I might need to bring somebody’s attention to a ball thrown in their direction or wake somebody up who is not paying attention while they are on base and another baserunner is heading for that base. Who knows with this crew?

What I do know is this: There are some future managers on this team. I have a bunch of players who aren’t much for listening, but they love to remind the others where they need to be. They also like telling me who has already played first base and they haven’t hit yet.

Let’s start with my team on the field. The Boys of Summer take the field. Three of them are standing on first base. One might be catching. One or two might be somewhere else on the infield and ask if it’s alright where they are. My first order of the inning is to convince two of the boys on first that they need to play somewhere else. I usually tell them something like I can’t waste their arm at first base or I need someone with their speed somewhere else on the field. Something motivational that will convince them to move from the prized first base. This usually includes a promise that they can play first base later in the game.

That’s done. Players are in position. I look around to see my crew and make sure they’re ready. One is making a sand castle. Two more are practicing ninja dropkicks on the grass. My teams usually include different players doing the same things every year. I just guess who it’s going to be doing what.

Sorry, Slugger. Rules are rules.

Now we’re ready. Players in position. One is looking back at the concession stand. They smell something. Burgers. Chicken fingers. French fries. I remind the player they need to face forward and get ready in case the ball is hit to them. The ball is hit. The fielder fields it and the ball goes sailing over the first baseman’s head. I take this opportunity to remind everyone on the field (again) that the object of the game is to reach the first baseman’s glove, not to show how strong they are. I tell them it’s alright. There are no girls around. They don’t need to show off their strength and can save that for recess the next day.

Children playing baseball.

Sometimes there will be two or three players chatting with each other in the middle of the game. Something urgent and compelling, I’m sure. These are Kindergartners and first-graders so I’m sure what’s being discussed is Earth-shattering. I break up the roundtables and direct the children’s attention to the man at the plate. I don’t need another player threatening to quit because they weren’t paying attention when the ball was hit to them and they took one on the leg or the arm. Our time on the field mercifully comes to an end and it’s our turn to bat.

Batting is a miraculous thing. Players who were tired and dying of thirst after 10 minutes on the field are suddenly filled with newfound life and energy. Boys who couldn’t stand up are suddenly men with vigor and gusto who are ready to grab a bat and face danger. I am met with “Can I hit?” “Is it my turn?” “When can I bat?” This is when I am reminded by numerous people who didn’t get the chance to hit first in any inning last time.

I give the order. This isn’t an actual “game” so it’s a different order every inning in order to make sure the same person isn’t hitting first or last every time. I give the order and, throughout our turn to bat, remind my men who is hitting next and who is on deck. I’m at home plate, sometimes; making sure the feet are where they should be, hands are positioned right, elbow bent. My player is relaxed and ready. I check his feet. I remind him of the batters box (I draw one so they know where to stand) and tell him to stay there and wait for the ball. Level swing. This is what I tell them. Bats go everywhere. Players swing at angles Trigonometry Professors have never seen before. Some players want to stand behind the plate. They draw a box where the catcher normally plays and, since there’s a box there, it’s perfectly alright for them to be there. I explain that’s not the way it works and they need to stand in a Regulation batter’s box. Sorry, Slugger. Rules are rules.

Sometimes I pitch to the budding baseball battlers. These boys are still learning how to hit without a tee, so I am careful and cautious when it comes to pitching. Sometimes, however a pitch goes awry and I hit a batter. I hate that. Not as much as the one who gets hit, but I hate it. I run to the batter, make sure they’re alright and we don’t need to amputate. He’s alright and, after some prodding and convincing from the parents, returns to the box to finish his time at the plate.

He makes contact. Infielders pile upon each other for a chance to get the ball and throw the ball. They can finally do something. The batter runs. I remind him to run the other way. He changes course. I remind him to run without the bat. He flings the bat. Suddenly, I’m Pepper Martin diving out of the way in order to avoid the incoming bat. I’m in my forties and I still have my agility.

The day comes to an end. We line up at home plate, walk past the other team, and say, “Good game.” No handshakes because of the ‘Rona. I end our session with some words of wisdom. Something to inspire the troops. The Boy and I head home where he tells me about what I need to improve on.

Just me and… Forget it (A Marriage Story)

We’re a busy family. We always have been. Wife’s work schedule is insane. The kids have sports, doctor’s and dentist appointments, drivers ed. We travel here and there to visit family and sometimes help family with various things around the yard. There’s things around our yard that need attention. We’ll get to it. Sure.

We’re busy just like you. Everyone has their obligations and to-do lists. It’s nice to get away for a while but even then it can be tough for me and Wife. Our children can be territorial; Not with me of course. I could be missing for a month and they wouldn’t care as long as screens are charged up and the Wi-Fi is working. I’m talking about their mother. That’s right. Their mother. I have been reminded numerous times that Wife is their mother. My mother is not in the house and therefore they get to have her and not me. People don’t own people and they should be able to spend time with whoever they want. I’m still working on that message for the children.

One time we took a vacation to a resort. This was before we became foster parents. There was me, Wife, The Oppressed, and The Boy as well as some of my in-laws. One week at an all-inclusive resort. No cars. No going anywhere except the beach and the restaurant. During that entire week Wife and I had a 20-minute lunch together. That was it in the entire seven days.

A rare photo of Wife not surrounded by children.

I know you’re reading this nodding your head. You’re dealing with the same thing. Or you had the same thing once and don’t anymore. You may miss it those days and for that, I pray for your mental health.

It’s not all bad. Sometimes when when we need to go somewhere and have to take two cars, the kids want to go with Wife. This allows me some quiet time. Sometimes the cars are so packed one or two of the children have to go with me. That’s when they show Wife how they can contort themselves in the car and still be able to go with her. They are willing to do anything if it means going with their mom and not going with me. I’m looking forward to one of the children getting their license. Maybe then Wife and I could go together in one car and the children could go in another. Maybe then we could get some alone time. It would just be for an hour or so but I’ll take what I can get.

Last week we had a Zoom meeting with some friends. Wife and I were set up with drinks and snacks waiting for the host to join. Something went off inside The Boy as he sensed I was sitting too close to my wife. He sped into the room, jumped on the couch and crated a spot between me and Wife for him. He doesn’t want me to get too much time with my wife. He doesn’t want me to get any time with my wife.

Prince of the Road

Being a foster parent gives you numerous challenges everyday. There are things to deal with for school. There are doctor and dentist visits. Meetings with social workers. Another wrinkle being a foster parent can bring is a change in the order of milestones.

Our children range in ages from 17 to six. We will be celebrating a driver’s license before we will celebrate graduation from elementary school. We will help prepping for a high school final exam before dealing with middle school orientation. Things like these are perfectly normal for a family that doesn’t exactly do “normal”.

One of the Gaggle has their learner’s permit. This person has made Wife and I proud. They have shown initiative in their life and work. They looked for and got a job. They sought out how to get their permit and they are looking into driver’s ed.

The child and I have been out on the road getting practice and experience whenever we can. They do well most of the time. Then again, there was this one time…

I fancy myself an amateur craft beer and bourbon critic. One time nearly became a “Four-finger Night” as a neighbor likes to say. We were driving around town. The Gaggle had a few rounds behind the wheel under their belt and kept improving. We were making our way home. On our right was one of those glaring-red stop signs. Painfully obvious to me right away. Somehow, the Gaggle didn’t see it until we nearly passed it. Being the diligent person and stickler for rules, they slammed on the breaks as soon as they recognized their folly. I exclaimed an expletive and put my hands up to shield myself from the dashboard in case the seat belt didn’t work.

The Gaggle apologized. I reminded them to keep their eyes open when driving. They promised to do so and thanked me for the advice. As we continued our way, the route called for a left-hand turn. Unfortunately for our driving novice, this was one of those clearly visible streets that somehow remained hidden until you were halfway by it. Most people would continue on and make the next turn and make their way back to it. Not the Gaggle. Our driving dynamo saw the nearly passed street, slams on the brakes, and cuts the wheel for a hairpin turn that would make Vin Diesel proud. If they ever start casting for “The Fast and the Furious 17”, I think I’m signing the Gaggle up for it. Wait. They haven’t made part 17 yet. Have they?

We continue. We’re almost home, much to my relief. I think the car’s relieved, too. I instruct the Gaggle to make a turn. Maybe they were thinking about the turn they almost missed. Whatever it was, they make this one a little premature and we’re on the left side of the road, practically on someone’s front lawn. I thought I heard a mailbox scream and a lawn gnome reciting a prayer. I tell the child the laws haven’t changed and we’re still driving on the right side of the road. He apologized and literally rights the situation. We get home. He apologizes again before we get out of the car. We get inside the house. People inside ask how it went. We both say it went great. I poured a bourbon.