It rained today. The radar shots all looked intimidating and you could hear the occasional rumble of thunder. But tonight was the last ball game of the season and in this league, games didn't get called until you went out to the field.
Wipers slapped the raindrops away furiously as I drove out to the park north of town and I just knew we were wasting gas with this trip out. The downpour slowed to a light rain as I drove, and then individual drops as I circled the four fields to get to our field for the evening. Oh, it had rained, but not enough to call the game. And all but one of the boys actually showed up! We parents dubiously eyed the wet bleachers, and we that had them went and retrieved folding chairs from our trunks while the ill-prepared spent the game wearing damp bottoms.
Our boys took the first at bat - and what an inning it was! They batted through the order. Even the Alex got a hit and triumphantly planted his foot on first base, shoved his glasses back up his nose and awaited the next batter - ZBoy.
Batting is not his strong suit. He tries though. His swing is actually pretty good and if it ever actually connects with the bat solidly, it's a homerun waiting to happen. It connected enough though, and the ball hit the ground and rolled through the infield. ZBoy took off, arms pumping, legs pounding - but their infield players weren't bad and the first baseman caught the ball just a second before ZBoy arrived. And it was the third out. Alex stood rather forlornly on second for a moment before heading back to the dugout to collect his glove. Z wouldn't be batting him in this time.
I have to admit that it was with some trepidation that I agreed to let ZBoy play baseball. I'd heard the stories about crazed parents who screamed and yelled and cursed at the umpire. And about coaches that cared about winning more than teaching little boys how to be a team and play a game that was meant to be fun.
But it wasn't like that. Once all of us parents figured out who was who, we cheered for everyone and shouted words of encouragement when things didn't quite go right. Alex showed up at the last practice before the games started and you could swear he'd never even seen a baseball before much less knew what to do with one. But he was game and the boys urged him to do the best he could. And you know? In the last 8 games or so, he's gotten a hit in every one. He didn't always score and he wasn't the best runner ever so he got tagged out a lot, but by golly he became a regular little hitter. Zboy was nearly in the same boat when we started. His batting was awful, his catching nonexistant, and he ran like a slo-mo playback. But his uncle has a batting cage and Darling Man, having spent years playing, knew a thing or two to teach him...
Z and Alex were the most improved players. Next year, they will actually be GOOD. But that would never have happened if every at bat elicited groans from the crowd or hats slammed to the dirt by irritated coaches. The crowd was supportive and the coaches were wonderful. Coach Harry is a kindegarden teacher, spending his whole day with kids - then he comes out after work and coaches a whole bunch of other kids! This is one dedicated advocate for little boys and I'm grateful that he was one of the coaches that Z wound up with. The assistant coach, Coach Dustin spent a lot of time with the newer kids showing them how to bat, how to throw, how to catch. He consistently cheered all the kids no matter what happened - and cheered for the other team too! A coach after my own heart. After all, we're all there to have fun - the other team included.
Z will still be in this league next year. I really hope he gets to be on this team again, with these boys, these parents, these coaches. When the games are over, his eyes shine and he tells me he loves baseball.