This weekend, my 11-year-old son's baseball team won their final tournament of the season. The weather was beautiful, our hotel was great, and my son got a double and a made a nice catch in the outfield. It was one of those Michigan summer weekends that you just don't want to end. But what made it great wasn't just about the victories and perfect weather.
Let me just say it: I freaking love little boys and baseball.
For me, it's not about the game. Honestly, I barely know the rules and have to constantly ask my husband, "What inning are we in?" "What's the score?" "What was that call?" What I enjoy most is everything else: the dusty fields, the smell of popcorn, the chatter from the dugouts, and the eye black smearing down my son's sweaty, smiling cheeks. I have three athletic boys and only one plays baseball, so I do have experience with other sports. I love watching and cheering them on no matter what they are playing, but there's just something that makes the game of baseball special.
1. The Tradition
My brother played ball. My dad played ball. My husband played ball. Aside from it being a family affair, baseball just feels like OUR country's sport. A sport with rich American history, Babe Ruth, and kids with buzz cuts listening to games on the radio from their living room floors. Don't get me wrong; I appreciate sports that originated from other countries, too. I mean, find me a soccer mom who doesn't secretly swoon over accented coaches named Giuseppe. There's just something about baseball that feels safe and reminds me of simpler times, when things didn't seem so busy and we weren't bombarded with technology.
2. The Uniforms
All kids in uniforms are cute, but none cuter than a boy in a baseball uniform. Why? Because it's just the right amount of uniform. With soccer there's too little and with football, lacrosse, and hockey there's too much. One fall I spent an entire football practice waving over and over to the wrong kid. I now buy my son brightly colored socks, just so I can spot him. And then there's that tradition factor again: the funny-looking pants that I'm determined to keep stain-free (despite the fact I haven't ironed a single article of clothing in over a year), no matter how many washes in Oxy-Clean it takes.
3. The Snacks
Ah ... the concession stand! Popcorn, peanuts, half-frozen bomb pops, hot dogs, Big League Chew, and Gatorade—is there anything more alluring, especially for a kid? And are you even aware of the evolution of the sunflower seed? Not only can you buy original, but also Dill Pickle, Ranch, Buffalo, Jalapeño Hot Salsa, and Chili Lime, to name a few. Just be prepared to help your husband start a sodium-reducing cleanse on Monday.
4. The Chatter
One of my favorite sounds at a Little League field are those coming from the dugout. I don't mean the annoying "Hey Batter, Batter!" chatter that's meant to distract the players on the other team, but the prepubescent, high-pitched chants meant to encourage fellow teammates at bat. "Come On, Kid!" "You Got This, 9!" "Have Some Fun, Now!" It's unbelievably adorable and reminds me that these kids, even those with the wicked curve balls they spent hours mastering, are still little boys who just love hanging out with their friends.
5. The Time
Baseball games are long and, yes, sometimes slow and particularly painful if your kid isn't having a good game. I'll admit that I've complained occasionally about the time commitment involved. I work full time and my weekends are precious. (Hmmm ... wonder if there's a Home Goods in Battle Creek?) But here's the thing: Because the games are longer, you're forced to sit still and slow your roll. I don't even bother bringing a chair to soccer games, since they're only an hour long. When you're a parent of a ball player, you'd rather leave your third child at home than your comfy bleacher seat. And guess what else happens during these sometimes two-hourplus games? People talk. Parents know each other's names, tell funny stories, and share cooler space. It's also a time for families to bond. Siblings and the siblings of the other players, who normally might not, are forced to play with one another and find other things to do besides play video games.
So is baseball the only game I want my kids to play? That's not up to me. But regardless of whether my son continues or not, I'll always find an excuse to spend some quality time at the ballpark.
Written by Jill Carroll, marketing manager at West Michigan Woman, soccer mom, baseball mom, and maybe-soon-to-be lacrosse mom.