Baseball in Chicago: Long live the real boys of summer

I remember when my older sons started T-ball. I had delusions of exciting games, plays at the plate, and balls getting hit over the fence. I would get frustrated when my kids ran to the wrong base, dropped the ball, or picked dandelions in left field. The games took forever, and I couldn’t wait for the juice boxes and snacks to get doled out so we could all just go home.

That was then.

Now I am left soaking up the waning days of this most delightful comedy of errors. My youngest, Joey, plays for The Sand Gnats.

That’s right.

My kid is a gnat.

I botched up Joey’s very first game last week. I mixed up my days and dressed the older boys to play instead of Joey. The coach assured me that it was still OK for Joey to take the field. So there sat my Sand Gnat, sans uniform, picking dandelions in his disintegrating winter coat. A couple of parents mistook him for a lost (and possibly homeless) child and tried shooing him away.

Midway through that first outing, our team commenced a full-out game of tackle baseball. Wherever the ball landed, so did a pile of 5-year-olds. The patient and generous coaches tried helplessly to end these shenanigans, but to no avail. And this is where I am truly a great mom to have around. I may not remember my turn for snacks. I don’t always go to the correct field. And I obviously have trouble keeping track of game days. But sending me over to break up a bunch of unruly kindergartners?

It was practically my finest hour.

“STOP. THAT. NOW. You boys keep this up and you are ALL going to bed the SECOND you get home. THERE IS NO TACKLING IN BASEBALL. Y’HEAR? I see one more boy jump on someone else and you are going to be in BIG TROUBLE. BIG TROUBLE. No snacks for ANYONE.”

Cue dramatic kicking up of dust. The prospect of being denied a CapriSun and snack-sized bag of Chips Ahoy was paralyzing. The game continued without incident.

During the post-game meeting, one of the coaches made it a point to discourage grabbing teammates by the shoulders and tossing them into the dirt. He read aloud from the sanctioned T-ball Handbook and cited rule 6.1b.

Then he dragged me into it.

“I know for a fact,” concluded the coach, “that at least ONE mom told you guys that there is no tackling in baseball. Someone could get hurt. Moms don’t like blood.”

The kids all look around suspiciously for this Judas amongst them.

And without second thought or fear of repercussion, Joey piped up:

“That was MY mom.”

He said it with just the slightest hint of pride.

My little Sand Gnat is not yet embarrassed by his mother. He does not care if he sucks at T-ball. Whenever positioned at base, he delights in all the different runners who appear, and he greets each one as though he was welcoming the Prodigal Son himself. Whoever lands on Joey’s base is met with a giggle, a hello, and an earnest invitation to come over to our house and watch Doc McStuffins.

T-ball is perhaps the last of the unblemished sports where it does not matter if you lose, drop the ball, or run the wrong way. It is wildly disorganized, slightly chaotic, and downright hysterical.

I am going to miss it with all my heart.

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