Add That to Your Rule Book

The following post by Antoinette Datoc was featured under Local Voices in the Smyrna-Vinings Patch

Summer baseball is here! You can feel it in the air! The pitcher’s wind-up, the crack of the bat, and parents sweating in bleachers as they once again ponder the question: Why does my son’s baseball coach insist on wearing a full uniform?

I recently sweated my way through a morning at City of Palms Park, the spring training home of the Boston Red Sox in Fort Myers, Fla. My son’s baseball team was playing the fourth of six pool-play games in the national metal bat championships (Perfect Game’s BCS National Tournament for you insiders).

Never mind that the opposing team was from Texas and their fans (a.k.a parents) were insufferable. Never mind that we should have won because we were better than them (yes, I’m chanting nani-nani-boo-boo).  Never mind any of that. If for no other reason, we should have come up with a win because the opposing coaches wore baseball uniforms. They did not wear loose-fitting, respectable athletic attire like our coaches wear, or the alternative smart khaki shorts and a polo; I’m talking full-out PLAYER UNIFORMS. Good grief, gentlemen, hasn’t anyone told you that Rule 1.11(a) does not apply to youth baseball coaches?

Since 1957, when Rule 1.11(a) was added to the official rule book of major league baseball, managers and coaches have been required to wear uniforms that are identical to those worn by the players. High school and college coaches have similar mandates, but youth baseball coaches are exempt from this silly rule.

And yet, there remains that smattering of youth coaches who insist on parading around, from cap to cleats, in full uniforms right down to the piping on the trousers and the six-inch numbers on their backs. Imagine this. Some innocent kid’s portly dad volunteers to coach his team. Come game day, having poured himself into what looks like some sort of one-size-fits-all coach’s uniform, he waddles his way out to the mound to make a pitching change. Collective groans emerge from the bleachers…Why, we all wonder, but not why the pitching change…WHY THE PANTS?

We’ve all seen it happen, and when it does, I confess I am like a moth drawn to a flame. No matter how hard I try, I find it almost impossible to stop from gaping at these plump men squeezed into their baseball pants. Once I do, it’s as if I’ve been staring at the sun too long. Corpulent silhouettes floating along the undersides of my eyelids tattoo themselves in my mind’s eye for all eternity.

Coaches, by all means go ahead and keep wearing your team caps and jerseys. But for the love of Pete, please tuck them into a well-fitting, age appropriate pair of pants. Try some Dockers on for size, or better yet, a pair of knee-length athletic shorts. Whatever you do, just please LOSE THE BASEBALL PANTS because regardless of how handsome, well preserved, and strappingly well built you are, you must remember this. Men of a certain age simply do not belong in baseball pants. End of discussion. (Add that to your rule book.)

© 2011 by Antoinette 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