Good Things Come to Those Who Wait..and Play by the Rules

There is a compendium of unwritten mandates in baseball that fall under the umbrella of things you just don’t do. The majority of them serve to prevent baseball moms from embarrassing their sons and themselves… but mostly their sons… in public. You can learn more about them here. Others provide a code of conduct aimed at maintaining harmony within the baseball mom community. They prohibit stuff like gossiping about other people’s kids, negative cheering, brown-nosing coaches and perhaps most importantly, punching  other baseball moms in the head no matter how annoying they may be.

Screen Shot 2014-07-16 at 10.05.11 AMThe need for rules governing laundry room etiquette may seem odd if you’re a soccer mom or a basketball mom or a swimming mom or any other sort of mom, but if you’re a baseball mom you know restoring your son’s uniform to its pristine, pre-game condition is serious business. If you’re a baseball mom you should also know unless AND ONLY UNLESS you are the mom designated to wash uniforms for your entire team on a road trip, you must NEVER monopolize the hotel guest laundry facility by doing consecutive, multiple loads of laundry when people are waiting to use the washing machines. Period. It’s the one-load-only-when-there-is-a-line-for-the-hotel-washing-machine rule (henceforth know as the one-load-only rule). It may be unwritten, but it’s still a rule and should never be violated. Just don’t do it.

The one-load-only rule is rooted in simple common sense, fundamental good manners and good old-fashioned consideration for others, but you’d be surprised at the number of women parading around as “baseball moms” who feign obliviousness to the one-load-only rule. These women should not be allowed to call themselves baseball moms. If it were up to me I’d ban them from baseball (or at least from hotel laundry rooms) for life.

I do not care if you are traveling with your entire family including two teenaged daughters, each of whom changes clothes three times daily and a grandpa who soiled his trousers when Junior was proclaimed safe on a close play at the plate. I don’t care what your whiny excuse is. It is non-negotiable. It’s rude and inconsiderate and I shouldn’t even need to write about it, but I’ll say it again. You never violate the one-load-only rule. JUST DON’T DO IT.

This actually happened a couple of nights ago in the baseball mecca of Ft. Myers, Florida. A woman from New Jersey (let’s call her Garden State mom) violated the one-load-only rule when she tied up the only two washers and dryers available in the Homewood Suites for more than four hours. I’m not kidding. This was a particularly egregious violation because 1) the majority of her soiled laundry was non-baseball and 2) the line for the machines snaked out the laundry room door, about thirty feet down the hall into the lobby. As Garden State mom started transferring her first two loads from the washers to the dryers, it became obvious to all of us waiting that only a fraction of her laundry was dirty baseball stuff.

One rule-savvy baseball mom from Texas (Lone Star State mom) called her out on it, but Garden State mom played ignorant, “I’m heeeyah with my entiyah family and they were at the beach awll day. Whaddya expect me to do widdit? Take it awll home dirty?” A couple of South Carolina (Palmetto State) baseball moms waiting in the hall poked their heads in the door and chimed in with a few snarky comments of their own.

I thought (hoped) a riot might ensue, something tantamount to a bench clearing brawl that would allow me to act on my exceedingly strong urge to punch Garden State mom squarely in the head. Luckily, the words just don’t do it popped into my brain at the exact moment that I stood up to cock my fist in her direction. Given my normal peace-loving nature, I found the whole thing very unsettling and briefly considered retreating to the safe haven of my room in order to save myself from doing something that would require my husband to post bail on my behalf.

The thing is, I still had a filthy baseball uniform that needed my tender loving care and like most self-respecting baseball moms, I take my laundry responsibility very seriously. It occurred to me, good things come to those who wait so I waited. I suppressed the urge to pummel Garden State mom and I waited…and waited… all the while quietly repeating the baseball mom’s mantra  just don’t do it just don’t do it just don’t do it until it was my turn.

The next day we arrived at the field and wouldn’t you know it. My son’s team was playing the New Jersey (a.k.a Garden State) Tigers. We won 15 to 0 in three innings by a mercy rule. I scanned the bleachers for Garden State mom because I sort of wanted to gloat, but I didn’t see her, plus I thought just don’t do it and that’s when it occurred to me. Good things come to those who wait… and play by the rules.

 

© Copyright 2014 Just Another Ordinary Day by Antoinette D. Datoc All Rights Reserved

One Simple Rule: Just Don’t Do It

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

If You’ve Got It, Hide It

It’s no secret.  I have very strong opinions when it comes to grown men wearing baseball pants (See Add That to Your Rule Book).  What it boils down to is this.   Gentlemen, regardless of how handsome, well preserved, and strappingly well built you are, you must remember.  Men of a certain age simply do not belong in baseball pants. Period.

The smattering of youth baseball coaches who persist, season after season, in wearing full player uniforms is not the only thing that incites my ire.  It’s not my only pet peeve.  The spectacle of scantily clad baseball moms has the power to destroy an otherwise perfectly wonderful day at the park. Don’t act all innocent and pretend you don’t know what I’m talking about. There’s one at every game – the Annie Savoy wannabe who appears to have raided some teenaged girl’s closet – and it makes me want to scream PLEASE USE A TOUCH OF DECORUM WHEN YOU DRESS FOR THE BALLPARK!

Leave the skimpy soffe shorts, halter-tops, anklets and toe-rings for the gaggles of teenaged female baseball fanatics meandering around outside the dugouts.  Ensembles like that on a grown woman are enough to make milk curdle. Sure we’ve all got stretch marks, cottage cheese thighs, migrating breasts and flabby arms, BUT THEY ARE NOT MEANT FOR PUBLIC DISPLAY.  And here’s a news flash.  NO AMOUNT OF TANNING IS GOING TO CAMOUFLAGE THE AFOREMENTIONED PHYSICAL ATTRIBUTES.  For the love of Pete, take a look in the mirror before stepping out of the house.

What in the Sam Hill are you thinking?  And don’t give me that whiney It’s-hot-outside-and-I-don’t-care-how-I-look-as-long-as-I’m-cool excuse. I’ve sweated through a hefty share of baseball games over nearly two decades and any lapse in judgement I’ve suffered at the hand of attempting to beat the heat has always been accompanied by the good sense to look in the mirror. That’s all it takes to send me back the closet to trade my “Gidget Loves Moondoggie” trappings for an outfit, less revealing and more befitting of a baseball mom.

You are not giddy minor league groupies, bouncing coquettishly from one park to the next, chasing after your favorite major league prospects.  This is not Bull Durham and your fashion antics are not going to change the outcome of anybody’s collective season statistics.

You are mature baseball moms.  The operative words being “mature” and “moms.”  Moms as in mothers…as in M-O-T-H-E-R-S.  Good gracious, you are in plain view of your sons.  One would think that fact alone would be enough to keep you from leaving the house dressed like Elly May Clampett.

Sure, I long for the days when If you’ve got it, flaunt it, was the modus operandi, but that was then and this is now.  So, ladies, regardless of how old, young, or hot (literally and figuratively) you are, please remember no one wants to see stretch marks, cottage cheese thighs, migrating breasts and flabby arms glistening in the sun.  For the love of Pete, take a look in the mirror before stepping out in public and if you’ve got it, hide it.  End of discussion.

© 2011 by Antoinette D. Datoc

For more of Antoinette’s humor columns please visit the Smyrna-Vinings Patch and the Marietta Patch newspapers.

Baseball Mom Off the Record: To Scrub or Not to Scrub

I am a veteran baseball mother of two.  As such, I have logged thousands of miles schlepping one son or the other to and from various training sessions, practices and games.  I’ve made countless peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for consumption between double headers. And I have soaked, scrubbed, machine laundered and even boiled more filthy baseball uniforms than I care to remember.  A baseball mom dedicates herself to getting her sons’ uniforms clean.  Some moms soak.  Some scrub.  The protocol and the products vary, but one thing is certain.  Baseball moms in Georgia are far more dedicated to the process than the average Jane.  Ask any baseball mom visiting from out of state.  The answer is always the same. ”I pre-treat the stains and throw everything in the wash with detergent and color safe bleach.”   Yeah.  Okay.  In my dreams it’s that easy.

It’s not that Georgia boys get dirtier than boys from other places because they dive for more balls, reach or steal more bases.  It’s not because they play the game harder.  It’s because they play the game on Georgia red clay.  Red clay stains are insidious and that’s why getting a Georgia baseball player’s uniform clean is a Herculean task.  It comes with the territory.

Oh, how I long for the day when a spritz of Spray ‘n Wash and a cap-full of Tide tossed in my front loader would do the trick, but it doesn’t do the trick and it never will.  It’s why, whenever you find two or more Georgia baseball moms gathered in conversation, the topic is… to scrub or not to scrub.  We discuss it in the bleachers, in line at the concession stands, and on the Northwest Georgia Baseball website under a forum created especially for baseball moms called Pants.  See for yourself if you don’t believe me.

Once upon a time, I walked into the kitchen of a friend, a fellow baseball mom.  She was standing at the stove, stirring a large pot of something.  It turned out she was boiling her son’s dirty baseball pants in a concoction of vinegar and lemon juice, an effort aimed at avoiding scrubbing.  I have no idea what compelled her to try it.  Although I never found scrubbing that contemptible, I immediately went home to try it myself.  The blue piping down the legs melted.  I ended up dropping $80 on a second set of baseball pants and devoted myself to finding a better way.

First I conducted a survey among baseball moms across the Peach State (and even included a few from Tennessee and Alabama).  They shared their secrets, successes and failures.  I compiled a list of products and methods, and I tested each and every one of them myself.  Following are the top three ranked by:

  • popularity;
  • effectiveness;  and
  • amount of scrubbing needed to achieve the desired result.

#1 IRON OUT is the overwhelming favorite among baseball moms because it completely eradicates red clay stains with little to no elbow grease.  It “chemically changes rust and iron into a clear, soluble state that easily rinses away without scrubbing” (http://www.summitbrands.com/summit/our_brands/rust_removal/super_iron_out/#faq).

To use Iron Out safely and effectively, a three-step process is recommended.

  1. Dissolve about ¼ cup of Iron Out powder in a bucket of water and soak stained garment overnight or for several hours.
  2. Rinse thoroughly with cold water.
  3. Machine wash with detergent only.

Iron Out is caustic to clothes and washing machine parts, and should not be combined with bleach or peroxide.  Be warned: this product is highly corrosive.  Prolonged use damages and impairs the function of snaps and zippers found on baseball pants.  It removes dye from appliqués and embroidered items as well as colorfast fabrics.  It is recommended for use only on solid white pants.  It is not safe for use on jerseys, caps, or pants with piping.  It emits a foul stench…really foul, as in car-ride-home-after-a-trip-to-Willy’s-for-bean-burritos foul.

#2 FELS-NAPTHA has been around for over 100 years so chances are, you’ve witnessed your grandmother using it.  It’s a bar soap that is found in the laundry section of most grocery stores.  To use Fels-Naptha safely and effectively, one of the following two-step processes is recommended.

  1. Dampen the bar and rub it directly onto the stained areas of the garment working up a good lather.
  2. No rinsing necessary.  Machine wash.  Bleach if desired.

     You also may grate the entire bar of Fels-Naptha and store it in an airtight container.

  1. Mix one tablespoon of the grated soap with a small amount of hot water to form a paste.  Spread the paste on the stained areas and use a soft bristle brush to scrub.
  2. No rinsing necessary.  Machine wash.  Bleach if desired.

Red clay stains were non-existent after both methods, but required a fair amount of scrubbing.  Fels-Naptha is a pleasant-smelling, pure soap.  It can be used with bleach and other detergents.  Fels-Naptha may be in the two spot overall, but it hits a homerun in my book.

#3 WHINK places third because although it’s a dedicated rust stain remover, visible red clay stains remained after the recommended three-step process.

  1. Dampen garment and apply liquid Whink directly onto stains.
  2. When stains fade (this can take up to several hours), rinse thoroughly with cold water.
  3. Machine wash with detergent only.

Whink should not be combined with other cleaning agents.  A skull and crossbones, the universal symbol for POISON, is on the label.  This makes me nervous.  Plus if I’m going to risk my life using a product, it darn well ought to render pants that come out of the washing machine looking like they’ve never been worn.

I also tested Murphy’s Oil Soap, Cascade, Simple Green, S-32, Clorox Toilet Bowl Cleaner (for rust and minerals), Oxyclean Max Force, and Borax, but none came close to achieving the desired results and did not warrant a spot in the rankings.  There’s one method I didn’t test, but it’s so intriguing, it bears mentioning.

One desperate baseball mom told me she drove her son’s uniform to a do-it-yourself car wash.  She spread it on the ground and using the coin operated pressure washer, attempted to blast the red clay stains from her son’s pants and jerseys.  A little dramatic?  Maybe.  But we have reputations to uphold.

I know what you’re thinking.  Why go to such extremes when they’re just going to get dirty again?  True, but any self-respecting baseball mom will tell you a clean, unblemished uniform is worth ten points to a batting average and two miles per hour on a fastball.  Baseball moms dedicate themselves to making dreams come true…one pair of pants at a time.

©  2011 by Antoinette D. Datoc

Baseball Mom – Part One

It’s destiny.  I am a baseball mom.  As such, my primary responsibility is to be my sons’ biggest fan.  I take that responsibility rather seriously.  When my oldest was three years old, I signed him up to play baseball for the very first time.  I’ll never forget my encounter with a certain YMCA employee on that fateful spring sports registration day.  She was an older grandmotherly looking type, and if I had to guess, I’d say maybe even a volunteer.  There were hoards of mothers and children standing in a line that was so long, it snaked outside the door, around the side of the building, and into the parking lot.  Having genetically acquired my mother’s irrational fear that pedophiles lurked behind every bush or skulked in every inconspicuously parked vehicle, I held tightly onto Christian’s hand.  He yanked on my arm, excitedly bouncing up and down and chanting in sing-song fashion as we waited…and waited…and waited.

“I’m gonna play baseball-I’m gonna play baseball- I’m gonna play baseball.”  Every so often he’d pause, make eye contact with me and gleefully exclaim (each and every time as if it had just dawned on him), “I’m gonna be a baseball player, Mommy!”

“I know, Sweetie,” I would distractedly reply.  You see, I’d become consumed with speculating on how swollen my ankles were going to be by the time we got to the front of the line.

“I’m going to be a short stuff like Cal Ripkin, Jr.”

“Mmmm-hmmm.”  If my calculations were correct (based on the number of people in front of us, multiplied by an average time constant of four minutes per registrant), my ankles would be roughly the size of ancient redwoods.  If that was the case, I’d need to make a quick stop to buy some new shoes on the way home…always a silver lining.

As we entered the building and approached the front of the line, I relaxed my death grip on Christian’s hand.  He took the opportunity to wiggle free.

“Christian, stay right next to me, okay?  I have to fill out one of these registration forms for you,” I said grabbing the appropriate baseball registration form from a nearby table where several different stacks of forms sat, having been collated by sport.  I filled in the required information:  name, address, age, date of birth, parents’ names.  When our turn came, I handed over Christian’s form and became anxious as the grandmotherly lady in charge carefully scrutinized the information I’d provided.

“I’m sorry, Mrs. Datoc, but Christian will have to wait until next year to play baseball.  All players must be four years old by the start of the season which is March 1.  The only thing he’s eligible to do this year is a week long pee wee soccer camp.”

Trying my best to look pathetic and lonely, I beseeched, “Is there no way to make an exception?  We just moved to Atlanta a few months ago and we’re doing this as much to make friends as we are to play baseball.  I was hoping for something that lasted more than week and he loves baseball.”

Christian was oblivious to what was beginning to unfold and the very real possibility that he would not be able to play baseball.  Fortunately, at some point he had exchanged his self-stimulating chanting and bouncing up and down for throwing an imaginary baseball and swinging an imaginary bat.  I continued to plead our case giving a nod in Christian’s direction as if to say, “Look at this.  My son is exceptional.  He’ll be fine with older kids.”  I was, of course, his biggest fan.

I’ll never know whether we got our way because Christian’s dry mechanics demonstrated he could hold his own with a bunch of older boys or if it was because I looked sufficiently pitiful as I stood before her, fat ankles and all, in my  coffee-stained maternity t-shirt (in case you haven’t figured it out — i.e. you’re a man — I was pregnant).  Perhaps it was obvious that my hidden agenda in orchestrating some sort of organized activity for my son was really to pursue an avenue for adult human contact for myself.  It doesn’t matter.   That grandmotherly looking lady said  nothing…absolutely nothing, but as she silently peered over the rims of her reading glasses at us, first at Christian and then at me, I saw a ray of hope.  This might just go our way.   I paused to hold my breath while she assessed the situation, registration form  still in her hand, when suddenly with a  single stroke of  her pen, that grandmotherly looking lady changed Christian’s birth year from 1991 to 1990, and my destiny along with it.  She looked at me and winked.

“Well then, Mrs. Datoc, that will be 45 dollars and you can make your check payable to North Metro YMCA and write BASEBALL on the memo line.  Christian’s coach will be calling to introduce himself in the next few days.”

“Thank you,” was all I said, never imaging what the future held for me because of the choice made by that sweet, grandmotherly looking lady.  I often think about her and ponder were it not for that simple, single stroke of her pen, I might have been a soccer mom.  The road not taken would not have made much difference to me, I suppose.  My responsibility still would have been to be my sons’ biggest fan and I am quite certain I would have taken the responsibility just as seriously.  Alas, my destiny was and is to be a baseball mom…emphasis on the mom.  To be continued.

Till tomorrow.  Good night…  Sleep tight…

© 2011 by Antoinette D. Datoc