Thursday, June 09, 2005

Put Me In, Coach!

Last night, at my son's baseball game, I experienced one of those time-warping moments of advance nostalgia--you know, when you astrally project, survey the scene and think, Is this happening? Is this real? I was watching the third-grade boys crowded around the water jug, looking so grown-up--mostly tall and skinny, with the everything-old-is-new-again long hair--and still such vulnerable babies at the same time. I listened to the chat and laughter of the parents on the bleachers, felt the baking heat and the sun in my eyes (finally, after weeks of shivering when the sun starts to go down).

My boy, R., has been playing with this same team of about a dozen boys since Kindergarten Tee-Ball; and we've known a couple of them since they were in diapers on the playground. Being the shy weirdo that I am, I'm really just getting to know the other mothers. While it's true that I pray for rain almost every time there's a game, and I complain about how baseball makes the springtime so hectic, I really enjoy the games once I get there. They're so American, so small-town. I grew up in this small town, but I wasn't sporty, and since I wasn't a boy no one tried to make me sporty (unlike my poor brother). So this is a new frontier in normality for me, and I have a kind of double experience of it, being both the suburban mom and the amateur anthropologist.

I should mention that R. is really pretty terrible at baseball. I'm not sure if he's the worst on his team, but he's definitely in the bottom quarter. When he's not on the bench he's in center field, and on the rare occasions that the ball comes to him, he's off in another world. He's the king of walks, though, so everyone gets to yell, "Good eye!" at him a lot. Most people are surprisingly nice about it, considering the image of small-town sports as a cutthroat arena of obsessive near-violent pushy parents. My husband is very athletic, so I shudder to think how inept R. would be if I had married someone clutzy like me.

Anyway, as you can tell, I relish the (for me) ironic, slightly unreal game of being a baseball mom. I love walking through town with R. in his baseball uniform and having people ask him, "Did you win tonight?" I like calling people on my cell and saying, "Hey, I'm just headed home from R.'s baseball game; would this be an okay time to drop off that pie plate?"

And I love how every game is different, in the stands as well as on the field. The first game our guys won this year (after a starting the season with a long losing streak) was the night a mom who lives near the field dragged a plastic sled full of chips, salsa and wine over to the bleachers. As the boys whooped and hollered, someone called out, "Get the parents loaded and the kids finally win one!" At the last game last year, someone's little brother kissed my daughter S. under the jungle gym (the siblings know each other really well by now too) and the news spread like wildfire. Talk about small-town! And an excellent lesson for S.

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