A League Of My Own -A mom’s story of humiliation and triumph… on the little league field, duh. Nobody puts mommy in a corner! Moms are IN the Game, in every sense of the word!
Saturday was my son’s “Kids vs. Dads” Little League game. Yes, it was named that, maybe to imply that moms were not invited, maybe it was too much of a mouthful to say Kids vs. Parents. Maybe the sign makers couldn’t afford the extra letters, or worse, those 3 letters would take too much time and energy to paint. Damn those crampy handed, arthritic kids, they always recruit to make the signs. Though, I have a feeling it’s just one of those unwritten laws, “Moms are welcome to play, but we prefer you not, didn’t you not read that implication on our signage?”
I was on schedule to be late, as my daughter was determining which Barbies were worthy of playing with on the bleachers. I was kind of excited to see my husband at bat. It’s not like he gets to prove his athletic prowess much these days and those tales of high school sports can only be heard so many times before they start to sound too practiced, too spun, too unlikely to ever have happened.
Though, I must admit, there would be something sexy about seeing my man hit a bomb. Of course, the alternative — seeing him strike out or bumble some ball on the ground, would drastically undermine his appeal. Maybe he should fake an injury.
As the game began, I watched from the sidelines as the only single Mom on the team reluctantly joined the game at her son’s insistence. The dads disingenuously waved her onto the field. My son, Jake, was in the middle of striking her out, when I thought, That looks fun – not so much the striking-out part, but the part about being a kid for a few minutes. The chance to hold a bat, to cross home plate?
“I want next up.” Did I say that out loud? You bet I did.
The dads stood there, as I rolled up my dark wash, Rachel Zoe-esque bellbottoms, and kicked off my heels. Yes, I wore heels to the field, well, cute strappy, wedges, which are considered perfectly acceptable “Baseball Mom” attire by the Weston Area Little League official handbook. Don’t assume I didn’t look it up.
“In all my years of coaching I’ve never had a player show up in bell-bottoms,” the coach said as I approached the plate.
“That’s because you didn’t coach in the 70’s,” I replied smartly.
For the dads, this was just a friendly game — a chance to play with the guys. They’re the ones tossing balls around at practices, hitting to different positions, lobbing pop-ups and peppering grounders. Meanwhile, we moms are relegated to the bleachers to tend to our children, and churn butter. Alas, no one wants the moms on the field, but G-d do I always want to be out there.
It felt so nostalgic to walk to the plate. I got into my stance, which I eased into naturally, without hesitation. Zero expectations from any of the dads, just how I like it. First, my practice swing. Can I still do it?
“Wow, nice swing,” the dad who checked his watch as I rolled up my pants, said mildly shocked. “Guys, you better back it up,” he went on this time it was not shock, but sarcasm I sensed.
Whatever. My intimidating swing should make a bunch of 8 year olds move back. OK, Jenny, you can still swing, but can you hit? I wanted so badly not to make an ass of myself. Not just, not to make an ass of myself, but to be impressive. I wanted to show my son that not all of his athleticism was genetically encoded directly from his dad’s DNA, and to show a bunch of middle-aged dads that the sarcastic girl who comes to the game in heels can get down and dirty. No need to assume she’s going to skin a deer or filet o’ fish or whatever it is pioneer moms used to do (for the purpose of this metaphor).
Then I swung at a perfect pitch (by my son), and thank G-d I made contact. A solid respectable line drive, Wahoo! It was clearly unexpected. I got claps, a surprised “Wow!” and when I went back to the stands my father in law added, “I see where Jake gets his swing, but why didn’t you slide into second? Afraid to get your jeans dirty?”
Okay, I should quit now before I become a one hit wonder. But it’s fun being a dad. I need more of this feeling.
On my second at bat, I was hoping to improve on my first – and I did. I whaled it. My teammates just started to laugh and the coach yelled, “She’s a ringer!” I took my spot next to Jake who was now playing first. I got a little hug, which was huge – he rarely hugs the other runners as they step onto his base.
What happened next is almost too embarrassing to write about, but that’s what I do, right? I was playing second, the atmosphere was light, but in my mind, I was still auditioning for a walk on position with the Yankees. A hard grounder was about to whiz by. It was clearly out of reach, but maybe, just maybe… The truth is that ball could have been hit two bases away and I still would have run for it. Obviously, I have some competition issues, which I will be sure to revisit in therapy.
As shocked as the dads already were, they hadn‘t seen anything yet. I have to stop that ball. If I don’t, it will fly past me into the outfield and some 8 year old will get on base. I threw myself face first into the dirt, with my arm stretched long. My hip thudded against the ground hard, and there was a second where all eyes froze at my display. I stood up slowly, my hip throbbing with some type of contusion, and triumphantly grabbed the ball out of my glove. Some dirt and pebbles may have trickled out of my mouth and hair, but I had the ball! I turned and threw it to first making the out.
The stunned coach let out a “Whoa, I definitely didn‘t see that coming.” You didn’t see the crazy, barefoot mom diving to catch balls in a friendly game against elementary school kids? Well, us moms are nothing if not highly unpredictable.
I looked over at Mark, who was in as much shock as the other dads at my last maneuver.
Jake may be more inherently athletic than me, but let me tell you something – he could learn a thing or two from his mom’s unrelenting, unyielding determination. He might also take note of her misplaced intensity and yearning to relive childhood moments.
The dads surely thought I was insane, but I took comfort in the knowledge that they would pick me if we ever happened to be in gym class together.
“And the parents win! Game ball has to go to Jake’s mom.”
Mark walked over, pulled me close, and gave me a manly pat on the rear. “Nice job, babe. I knew you would hit the ball, but I had no idea you would be throwing yourself all over the field.”
A mom’s gotta represent. Don’t worry, next time I’ll be seein’ ya from the bleachers.
If you’re a Mom who’s “in the game,” please like or share my tale. If not, a fairy may die. I’m just saying their little fairy lives may depend on your enjoyment and involvement with this piece.