We’ve been in training all season. As soon as it was warm enough we were at the fields — batting, pitching, throwing, conditioning…we were there for all of it. When games began we donned our uniforms and as the season progressed we built up our skills that prepared us for this very moment, this three-week stretch that would reveal not only the skills we possessed, but the depth of our character…
…and the contents of our tote bags, coolers, and those wicked cool, foldable wagons.
We are baseball parents during the final tournaments of the season. (Cue dramatic, determined sports music.)
There are youth ball teams that only play tournaments — their whole season is spent on the road — but our boys, the Warriors, aren’t that kind of team. Most of our games are in the evening or on a Saturday morning as part of a Kansas City youth baseball league. This year our coaches decided that they wanted to see how this current Warriors team stacked up against other 12Us from outside of our league — so they signed us up for several weekend long tournaments.
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The last three of these are packed into the end of our regular season like a three-run homer....boom, boom, boom.
We know which of the stands at our regular season park has our favorite snacks, where to park to not get our windows dinged by wayward balls, and we know that if we’re willing to walk a little bit farther we don’t have to use a Port-o-Let stocked with Germ-x, we can get to a flush toilet with running water. It’s our home turf, of course we know its idiosyncrasies…but tournaments mean venturing into territory we are unprepared for.
What our home fields and regular season play did get us prepared for were the things that are universal to any team: mosquitos, the heat, the sun, the rain, and the chill. It sharpened our Proxy Parenting skills and relationships within our group. We are prepared to hold any team-baby whose Mama needs to go to the restroom or simply not hold a hot and sweaty baby for a few minutes; the babies are prepared because these non-familial hands have held them all season.
We are prepared to stop someone else’s kid from dashing off when Mom or Dad turn their back to take a picture of the action on the field; we can spot the sweaty player in the dugout who needs more Gatorade or sunblock. Like any well-functioning community, we simply take care of the kid who needs attention. The name on the back of the jersey is unimportant — the team name on the front is.
At this level of play, a rookie baseball parent is a rare thing and we’ve all learned as much from our years on the bleacher side of the field as our kids have learned on that field. We’ve learned if we are pro-chanting from the dugout or not (I am not. I think it’s a cheap distraction); we’ve learned that not all uniforms are created equal…or attractively; we’ve learned whether we are Bleacher people, Bleacher with Seat people, or Camp Chair people. We’ve learned to haul all the essentials from blankets and bug spray to a first-aid kit and extra snacks.
We’ve learned that an umbrella is useful in rain, sun or ballfield dirt storm.
I have yet to reach the level of Baseball Parent education where I will feel prepared for unsportsmanlike parental behavior to kids, understanding the need of coaches to be ugly-rude to umpires, and view youth league walk-up songs as necessary.
I have yet to find the Holy Grail of spectator attire that eliminates full coverage butt-sweat.
To my bleacher-side teammates: We have one last tournament this season. Let’s use everything in our tote-bag, cooler, wicked-cool foldable wagon arsenal to show ‘em the team we have become!