Tag Archive | baseball

Let’s Play Ball

photo-11Today was the first official night of the baseball season. The fields are finally open and it was a gloriously beautiful spring day. Unfortunately it sounds like Mother Nature is going to kick us right in the seeds later in the week and won’t stop until we’re writhing on the ground in pain begging for mercy. This year I have four kids playing on four different teams, and my husband is the assistant coach for Cameron’s team. It’s complicated, to put it mildly. I really don’t remember much of the evening. It felt a little like an out of body experience.

5:00 – Justin and Alex are eating pizza rolls. Cameron can’t find his water bottle. David is wigging out because one of his idiot friends (I like David’s friends. They are good kids, but as a whole, 7th graders aren’t always the most judicious of creatures.) “text bombed” him, incapacitating his phone because no other texts can go through until each one of the hundreds of texts his friend sent at 7:30 this morning comes through, and they’d been trickling in all day. David’s pulled this joke on others before so he’s getting a taste of his own medicine, though he was quick to point out he hadn’t done it for a year, only did it to “maybe” two people, and only sent 20 texts.

5:15 – David leaves for his practice with his friend, whose mom, Julie, is kind enough to agree to go out of her way and drop David off at Alex’s 6:00 practice so Alex isn’t alone while I run Justin over to his 7:00 practice. But then as Barry and Cameron leave for 5:30 practice, Barry tells me to drop Justin off with him because his 7:00 practice is at an adjacent field, then go to Alex’s practice. So I text Julie that never mind, we’re all good. Now I need to get Justin and Alex dressed, which cannot happen without: Sock drama. Athletic supporter drama. Hat drama. Shoe drama. Shoelace drama. Bag drama.

5:45 – I can’t deal with dog drama too, so we leave a very sad doggie looking at us longingly from the stairs. Guilt-ridden because it’s so nice out, I promise her a treat if she’s a good girl. At a red light I peek at an email to see what number field I need to take Justin to. Well, crap. Turns out his practice is not at the same place as Cameron’s. I should know never to trust my husband. Alex is giving himself a pre-practice pep talk. “Don’t fart. Don’t fart. Don’t fart.”

6:00 – Arrived at Alex’s practice. I forgot my damn chair. Text Julie back and tell her to never mind the previous never mind, drop off request is back on. Talk to my friend, Amber, who probably thinks I’m a complete fruit bat because I’m trying to mentally talk myself through all of this schedule shit while sitting there with her. Pinged with an email. Justin’s coach. Oops, he got the field wrong, it actually IS at the same location as Cameron. He’s sorry for the inconvenience. Sorry doesn’t help me much now that I’m sitting there with Justin, have to debate whether to run him back over now or just wait. I decide to wait because Julie will think I’m certifiable if I send another change of plans text. I guess I should have trusted my husband.

6:05 – This coach is a nice guy, but he needs to run a tighter practice and shut down the kid who keeps interrupting, and is obsessed with relaying everything that is said to his sisters. Hold all questions until the end, junior.

6:20 – Interestingly enough, Alex actually spends his time at practice playing baseball instead of talking to girls and playing in the sand. That’s new for him.

6:40 – Justin and I are off. We pass Julie on the way. Things are working out ok. At the next site the parking lot is packed so I park in the fire lane to walk Justin over to find his coach. Yeah, that’s right, asshole in the Explorer, I’m parking here. Wanna make something of it? You’ve got plenty of room to get around so don’t give me your look, I’m on the clock here.

6:50 – Where the hell is Justin’s team? Is it just me, or are half of the suburban dads pretty much an extension of college frat boys? We never really leave high school, do we?

6:55 – Driving back. Phone call. David. Alex is done, where ARE you? Also my phone still doesn’t work. Um, you’re talking to me on it right now, aren’t you? Yeah, but I can’t TEXT.

7:00 – Pick up David and Alex. Drive a few blocks. Drive back a few blocks to retrieve Alex’s batting helmet, glove, hat, and water bottle. David wants to know why God hates him because he’s been praying for his phone to go back to normal, but it hasn’t yet. I suggest that perhaps God is trying to teach him patience.

7:10 – Drop David off at home, wearing the title of worst mother ever because I won’t stay to make him food.

7:30 – Relieve Barry from Justin’s practice so he can go home and feed himself and Cameron. Hang out with Alex watching batting practice. Solid 25 minutes of relaxation.

7:55 – In search of a bathroom.

8:30 – Practice over. All good. Insane, but we survived. Just glad we didn’t have to do it in snow.

8:45 – WARNING. WARNING. WARNING. Justin is about to lose it because he wanted me to make Thai peanut noodles for dinner, which I’m not going to do at quarter to nine. I talk him into settling for a frozen chicken fettuccine Lean Cuisine.

8:50 – Alex wanders into the kitchen. What do I smell? Oh fuck. There’s only one Lean Cuisine. I know where this is heading. He wants one too. I decide to do what is fair, and split it between both of them.

8:55 – DANGER! DANGER! DANGER! Full scale meltdown when Justin realizes he’s not getting the entire contents of the Lean Cuisine. Shut the windows, we don’t need the neighbors to hear this. Alex crying now because he wants pizza too, Justin howling, dog trying to steal food while everyone else is yelling and screaming. David whining some more about his phone.

9:30 – A peace settlement is reached at last. Begin bedtime preparation. Argue over who gets to sleep with the dog. Barry comes upstairs after mopping up the laundry room floor because a sock got stuck in the sink drain, causing the water to back up.

10:00 – Lights out. I cannot do this every night. Ain’t nobody got time for that.

© Jennifer Alys Windholz, 2013

20 Questions

I love baseball, so a few weeks back when a friend had five tickets to a Twins game that he couldn’t use, I jumped at the chance to go. I actually hadn’t been to a game yet this season, and it coincided with Justin’s birthday, so it was fun to get out for one of the last games of the regular season. Cameron already had plans to go to a sleepover, Alex isn’t into baseball and would have been restless, and Barry was annoyed at the Twins because they weren’t very good this year, and were way out of play-off contention, so that left David, Justin, and me. David invited his friend, Mark. That meant I had one more ticket. So I sent a text to my fabulous friend, Julie.

Julie is not at all a sports fan. Not that she’s a delicate flower or anything; she’s seen Alien vs. Predator at least 20 times. But baseball is decidedly not her deal. But she hadn’t been to the beautiful new Target Field yet, and was totally on board for a night out with my oddball crew. A minute after she accepted my invitation, she texted back, “Do they do the sumo suits at half time? Or whatever?”

Um, no. This is apparently something she’s seen at a St. Paul Saints game, a local Northern League team. Probably not at “half time” though.

When I told David that Julie was taking the extra ticket, he replied with an enthusiastic, “Yes!” (Julie doesn’t treat kids like kids, and is therefore a fan favorite.) Soon she told me that she was engaged in a text conversation with David, and had no earthly idea what he was talking about. “Something about a perfect game and Mauer or someone else doing something. I’m just totally agreeing with him. That seems the safest course of action.”

Before we left to pick her up, I called to see if we could swing by earlier. She asked me what I was wearing. “Are flip flops okay?”

I assured her that the dress code at an MLB game was pretty much wide open. When we arrived, she was thoroughly impressed with the architecture and elegant design of the stadium. And between harassing the boys about girlfriends and such, and doing juvenile stuff that made Justin’s little one-sided dimple show when he smiled at her goofy antics, she continued to ask random questions that amused me to no end. Such a newbie.

They were selling programs and scorecards as we walked in, “What the hell would you want a pencil for?”
“To keep score.”

“What are they shooting out of those air cannons?”
“Probably tee shirts.”

A player’s bio on the big screen. “That guy looks old. 24? Is that his age?”
“No, that’s his number. On his jersey.”

The line score. “Ok, so 251, what does that number mean?”
“Twins have two runs, five hits, and one error.”

“What IS a perfect game?” (A fair question.)
“When a pitcher doesn’t allow any hits or any walks.”
“How often does that happen?”
“Very rarely.”

Goofy drunk guys behind us trying to rally the team by yelling, “Rrruns. Rrruns. Rrruns!”
“What do they mean by ‘runs?'”

They’re so adorable at that age with their questions and curiosity!

© Jennifer Alys Windholz, 2012

Parental Guidance Suggested

The summer after eighth grade I coached a younger girls’ softball team. Technically I suppose I wasn’t the head coach because a parent volunteer had to be, but I was the one who ran all the drills, made the line-ups, and well, did the coaching. At the end of the season the team won first place in the league tournament. The girls really improved a lot that year and that last game was an exciting one.

We were presented with a team trophy, which the girls all wanted to give to me. I was really honored and felt good about what we’d accomplished as a team. And then the mom “coach” whose main role was basically to haul the equipment around because I was 14 and had no car, took the trophy from me and kept it herself. Her stated reason was that she should have it since my family was moving at the end of the summer.

Wonder where that trophy is now and if it ever really meant anything to her? To a 14-year-old kid that trophy would have been a special reminder of the last summer she ever spent in the town where she was born and raised, where all of her memories of being a kid were sown throughout the years. To that shy 14-year-old girl, who had never been a leader of anything, it was a big deal.

As my kids progress through their sports careers I’m finding that nothing can suck the life and enthusiasm out of kids quicker than an adult with a misplaced set of principles. Whether it be the guy who is trying to live vicariously through his kid, or the obnoxious blowhard who hassles the umpire every game, or the mean girl who turned into a mean mother, it’s the adults who can’t act like mature adults who ruin it for everyone.

Fortunately individuals like that have been the exception and not the norm, but when you do run across them it’s difficult to find the right answers. Difficult to know how to react and how to help your kids work through it. I suppose in a way it’s a good exercise for kids to know what type of behavior not to model, and because they’ll be subjected to idiots, windbags and bitches for the rest of their lives, so they may as well learn coping strategies at a young age. But wow, how I wish people could grow the fuck up.

© Jennifer Alys Windholz, 2012


Dog Days Of Summer

You can only take so many baseball pictures before they start to all look the same. So this week I started photographing the dogs that come to the kids’ games. Some I got to know or say hi to, some I grabbed surreptitiously using my longer lens.

Henry is a cutie, but thought he was all tough growling at some spaniels.

I think this bulldog wants a piece of someone.

My dog, Penny, being a good girl.

Storm, the unofficial mascot for Cameron’s tournament team.

I think this one’s name is Willow.

More beagles!

Another dog named Storm.

I thought she might be a long-haired dachshund, my sister says probably a “dorkie.”

Big, stately and fluffy.

This little guy was busy playing with grass and wouldn’t look up.

This is Ray. Ray is a bit temperamental.

© Jennifer Alys Windholz, 2012


In The Big Leagues Now

“Yeah, I was in the show. I was in the show for 21 days once – the 21 greatest days of my life. You know, you never handle your luggage in the show, somebody else carries your bags. It was great. You hit white balls for batting practice, the ballparks are like cathedrals, the hotels all have room service, and the women all have long legs and brains.” — Crash Davis, Bull Durham

Justin plays in a 5-6 year-old tee ball/coach pitch baseball league. He’s been lighting the ball up lately, so a few weeks ago when the league coordinator asked coaches for names of a few kids who could be subs in the 7-8 year-old machine pitch division, his hat was thrown into the ring. And tonight he got the call. Up from the minors to the big leagues, where you can strike out, they keep score, and your teammates don’t play in the dirt. At least most of them don’t.

Struck out his first time at bat. Pitches from the machine come at ya a little faster.

He’s all business in the field.

Second time up he takes a ball to the legs. Someone asked, “Did that hurt, Justin?” He replied, “Yeah.”

Back on the horse. And made contact. Looper toward first base.

Thrown out at first, but not for lack of effort.

Settling in behind the plate.

He waited all day for his big moment, and at one point said, “Mom, this is a lot of pressure tonight.”

In ready position at third base.

His team, the Red Wings lost, but at least they didn’t have to forfeit. A fun game!

© Jennifer Alys Windholz, 2012

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

Now that the boys are becoming more and more active in sports, it feels as if we’ve been on a non-stop tour of youth sports complexes of the Twin Cities and outlying areas. This weekend we saw action at three different venues in Rochester, Minnesota.

Some of these places are shiny new and you can tell a lot of planning, money and time has been poured into making them inviting locations to pull in tournaments and keep them in constant use all summer long. With all the expertise out there, there is a common flaw in all of them. That is the limited access to decent drinking water.

A trash can at the Rochester Youth Sports Complex. Waste bins at another site were overflowing with almost nothing but plastic water bottles.

I’m far from a crunchy, tree-hugging earth mother, but if there is one thing I hate it is bottled water. In a society where clean drinking water is available almost everywhere, bottled water is such a waste. I understand that it’s occasionally convenient when there is nothing else around, but that is part of the problem. These are places where kids are playing sports, getting hot, and needing to keep hydrated. I’m no engineer, but it can’t possibly be that difficult or expensive to install fountains or taps in locations around these multi-acre parks when they are being built. Some facilities don’t even have a drinking fountain in the main concession or building area. That’s how I found myself refilling water bottles in a disgusting bathroom sink over the weekend.

Last year I attended a Minnesota Twins game at Target Field in late July. It was a make-up game that was originally scheduled in April on Earth Day. So everything was “green” themed. It was also a sweltering noon game, with heat indexes reaching over 110°. We planned ahead and brought along water in refillable bottles. Problem was, there was one single water fountain available for six entire sections of seating. So the choice was to either wait in line for half of the game to refill, or buy a plastic bottle of water for $3.00. How many plastic water bottles from that afternoon alone ended up in a landfill somewhere? The onscreen messages of “sustainability” were lost on me that day.

So if you’re going to lament childhood obesity statistics, and start in with bans on soft drinks, like in New York City, or constantly preach the message of reuse, then civic leaders need to make it possible for people live those messages. Does anyone know someone looking for an Eagle Scout project? Or are you affiliated with a community service organization looking to promote healthy living? Then I found a project for you. Work with city authorities to implement a goal of having easily accessible, clean, cold tap water at any place where people gather, particularly summer events, schools, and sports activities.

I’d do it, but I’m just the visionary. I hate to get bogged down in the details.

© Jennifer Alys Windholz, 2012

Nattering Nabobs Of Negativism

I’ve probably mentioned this before, but I have a very low tolerance for yammering idiots. Unfortunately sometimes you’re in a confined space (airplanes, grocery store lines, theater, sporting event) where you have no viable means of escape. Tonight at Cameron’s baseball game I had the distinct pleasure of being subjected to the inane gabfest of a couple of rocket scientists sitting behind me. A regular Algonquin Round Table.

Gratuitous shot of my son hitting the ball.

I was treated to gems like this.

“Why didn’t he call the infield fly rule?” (Well, for one thing, the ball was hit into the outfield.)

“The colors of the Rangers uniforms make sense because I think those are the Texas Rangers colors.”

“Put it where you live!” (This was some kind of shout of encouragement to a hitter. I’ve been watching baseball for over 30 years and have no clue what that could possibly mean.)

“Do you know what a ‘quorum’ is?” (He was talking to a kid, presumably to educate him. *Facepalm*) “It’s something used in the Senate. Like a majority.” (A quorum is decidedly not a majority, it’s the minimum number of a group that needs to be present to pass a law.)

Then there was a lengthy, graphic, and frankly, nauseating, discussion about eyebrow trimming. (These were two rather out of shape and inching toward middle age men.) Then something about NBC’s Andrea Mitchell editing comments from a press conference, and a reference to Grey’s Anatomy where the name “Dr. McDreamy” was uttered.

And along the way they were being assholes about our team when we’d make mistakes. Like when a ball was hit back to the pitcher and he started to throw to third before realizing it wasn’t a force play and the kid didn’t have to run, but by then it was too late to throw to first for the out. Their reaction? “HA! HA!”

These are nine-year-olds, not Major Leaguers.

On another play our shortstop didn’t charge a ball that was softly hit, resulting in a late throw to first base. The runner was safe. And loud enough for parents and kids alike to hear, they were saying things like, “JEEZ! HOW STUPID. LOOK AT THAT KID JUST SIT THERE AND WAIT FOR THE BALL!” Charming. This was the one time their wives intervened. “Shhhh! There are parents sitting around here.”

I just wish stupid people couldn’t talk. That would make it so much easier for the rest of us.

© Jennifer Alys Windholz, 2012