The unfolding of a 6-4-3 double play, especially when my offspring is involved in the execution, gives me sweaty palms and causes my heart to go pitapat. This primal response is not commonly associated with the ordinary baseball spectator. Then again, I am not just another ordinary baseball spectator. I am a baseball mom.
I confess I never was much of a baseball fan nor did I know much about this glorious game until my kids began to play it. It’s funny because nowadays I’m known as somewhat of a genius among baseball moms (or a savant as a fellow baseball parent once coined me upon my demonstration of an arresting arsenal of fascinatingly obscure baseball knowledge). I’m not being smug. Honest. It was bound to happen. After spending nearly two decades perched in bleachers at every level of my kids’ ascensions from coach pitch to college, I have acquired an absolutely, altogether and thoroughly impressive baseball IQ. I am a baseball mom and a savvy one at that.
I know what constitutes a catcher’s balk (yes there is such a thing) as well as a pitcher’s balk. I know there are 27 different ways to score from third base and come hell or high water YOU BETTER FIND A WAY TO GET THERE, SON! I know the history of a can o’ corn, what predicates an umpire’s invoking the infield fly (and why), and by-golly I know a good piece-a-hittin’ when I see one.
Being a regular old baseball mom is no easy task. Heaven knows, we’ve all logged more miles driving to and from practices and games, prepared more peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for consumption between double-headers, and scrubbed our knuckles raw in futile efforts to restore filthy baseball uniforms to pristine pre-game condition more times than we care to admit. But if you’re going to earn the rank and title of savvy baseball mom (like me), you’re going to need to learn a few things about the game.
First, you need to learn all good pitches to hit are strikes, but not all strikes are good pitches to hit. Second, and perhaps more importantly (pay close attention), you need to learn regardless of how hard a batter hits the ball, it is not…I repeat… NOT a hit unless the ump declares him safe. The thing is (and here’s where it starts to get confusing) even if he does end up on base, there’s a good chance it still isn’t a hit. Stuff like errors and the fielder’s choice complicate matters, which is why unless you have fully mastered the subtleties of hitting, you should never ever shout NICE HIT at your son upon his arrival on base during a game. No matter how hard he hits the ball. No matter how quickly he hauls himself down the baseline. No matter how excited you are. No matter how tempting it is. Do not shout NICE HIT. JUST DON’T DO IT.
Let me stress, unless you are absolutely certain a hit is a hit, you must follow one simple rule: JUST DON’T DO IT. Apparently (and I learned this the hard way), a baseball mom mistaking something that is not a hit for a hit is the most egregious error committed in baseball. It’s worse than a passed ball, a wild pitch, a fly ball dropped in the outfield; it’s even worse than the kiss-of-death ground ball that slips between an infielder’s legs. I don’t care how thrilling it is to watch the umpire decisively splay his arms as your cherub slides into the bag for an extra-base hit. Do not shout NICE HIT unless you are certain it is one. If you’re wrong it makes you sound…well, there’s no nice way to put it…it makes you sound kind of stupid. Take my advice. JUST DON’T DO IT.
You won’t find JUST DON’T DO IT listed among the ten Divisions of the Code listed on page one of the Official Rules of Baseball, but I promise these unwritten rules exist. In fact, the prohibition of shouting NICE HIT is just one of an entire compendium of similar unwritten mandates that exists for one singular purpose: to prevent baseball moms from embarrassing their sons (and themselves) in public. Using pet names for your son, as in, “Way to hang tough, Sweetie-Petie-Poo!” while cheering is prohibited so JUST DON’T DO IT. Females loitering in the dugout is prohibited so JUST DON’T DO IT. Attempting to apply sunscreen to your son’s freckled face between innings (especially when said face is sporting a mustache and soul patch) is prohibited so JUST DON’T DO IT. Furthermore, I do not care if it’s hot enough for the 16-inch numbers on your son’s jersey to sear themselves into the skin on his back; I do not care how hot (literally or figuratively) you are. Attending your son’s baseball game clad in Daisy Dukes and a halter top with no bra is prohibited so JUST DON’T DO IT JUST DON’T DO IT JUST DON’T DO IT.
Finally, while it’s perfectly acceptable to shout, “Run! Run! Run!” to a four-year-old t-ball player, you must learn once he heads off to college you just don’t do that sort of thing anymore. One might argue if he’s playing division I college ball (or for that matter if he’s over the age of 10), chances are pretty good he’s going to remember to run to first base when he hits the ball so there’s simply no need to shout, “Run! Run! Run!” anymore. I know what you’re thinking (once upon a time I thought it too). Aren’t there exceptions?
Aren’t there exceptions for emotionally-charged circumstances? What if your son gets his first ever college hit in his first ever college at bat in, of all places, a minor league stadium with his larger-than-life face plastered across the jumbo-tron? What if you’re really excited to see him make solid contact? Does that make it okay to wildly flail your arms while screaming, “RUN!RUN!RUN!RUN!RUN!” so loud that the home plate umpire turns around and stares at you? I’m not saying this actually happened, but if it did, I’m afraid you would find out there are, indeed, absolutely no exceptions.
I suppose if you’re going to earn the rank and title of savvy baseball mom you really ought to learn a few things about the game. Baseball is a complex sport so things are bound to get confusing. When they do, I beseech you. Take my advice and remember one simple rule. JUST DON’T DO IT. Trust me…I learned the hard way.
© 2013 by Antoinette D. Datoc