Friday, June 10, 2016

Thoughts on T-Ball

Recently, my son began participating in a three and four year-old municipal T-Ball league. Here are some things that I have learned:

By Skoch3 - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

I am not a sports guy, but I volunteered to “coach” second base. I quickly had to learn some of the accepted mannerisms of athletic endeavors.

The Let’s Go 3-Clap – This is where, apropos of nothing, you clap three times in rapid succession to indicate general enthusiasm for the game. I observed several other coaches performing this and am happy to report that I have successfully deployed it to some mild acclaim. The three clap is a pretty hard and fast rule because more claps would indicate an injured player is leaving the field and less would be indicative of killing a mosquito.

The Triangle Stance – Legs apart, knees bent, hands on knees. This gives the impression of intense concentration and, with younger ages, allows you to speak to them more easily. It is important to assume this stance only when a batter is about to be engaged, otherwise it could be misconstrued as constipation.

Encouraging Exclamations – When a player almost completes a positive action, it must be verbally encouraged. On defense, example phrases would include, “Good hustle. Be ready for the next one!” or “Stay sharp number 3!” Offensively you would foster a good swing by randomly yelling, “Way to commit, Jones!” or “You got a good piece of that one Billy!” More advanced practitioners will combine this with the “Let’s Go 3-Clap” for maximum impact.    

Things that have been randomly said to me by players on second base:
Are you my soccer coach?
I touched a lightbulb once. It hurt.
Do you like the blue ninja turtle?
My hair is hot.
Can you shake hands?
Why is there a dog?

  • All parents have varying levels of expectations when it comes to pre-school T-Ball. Thankfully, our team and head coach are laid back so no one is pretending that MLB scouts could be in the stands. However, there are a few whose parents have purchased Nike cleats, Easton bats, and top-tier gloves. Not to be outdone, I briefly toyed with the idea of placing a tin of smokeless-tobacco in my son’s back pocket. The truth is that my wife and I consider it a win if my son spends more than four consecutive minutes facing home plate while on defense.
  • Sponsorships by local businesses are both the lifeblood and a source of consternation for teams. I am sure there must be a vetting process (lest your child find themselves representing The Stag Shack off exit 54) but even otherwise innocuous businesses can create logistical problems with the uniforms. For instance, many parents will put the team’s initials on the player’s hat. Not a problem when Outback Steakhouse is your sponsor, but when Fletcher Underwriting has skin in the game…..

  • You will buy pictures. Not because you need an 11x15 oil painting of your child demonstrating the very actions they have no interest of re-creating on the field; but because other parents are all standing there when you hand in your order form. Timmy’s parents got the MVP Package with the All-Star Upgrade and the Dugout Keepsake. How are you going to look your child in the eye when they find out you just got the Benchwarmer Value Bundle?

  • I am wrong. A lot. The league provides the shirt (with the child’s number on it) and the hat. If the parents wish to go further they can pay out of pocket for the provided shirt to be customized with the child's name. After we received the uniform at the first practice, my wife asked if we should go and have our son’s name put on the back of his shirt. I reassured her that no one else was going to do that and it would be a waste of money.

When we showed up at the first game, not only did the majority of the children have their names on their shirts, but several parents had purchased shirts for themselves and the child’s sibling denoting their relationship to the participant (“such and such’s Dad or little brother”) Needless to say, I now have a shirt and one more item added to the “Things I Do Not Know What I Am Talking About” list.  

  • The entire enterprise would collapse without postgame snacks. These become increasingly essential when you have three or more games in a four day period. Behind every attentive and compliant preschooler in T-Ball, there is a legal guardian unabashedly wielding the promise of a KoolAid pouch.

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