Lemon County: No Crying In Baseball....
The (Be)Little League
Forgive me, I had no idea; I though sport was a pastime, a fun game to be played, preferably while getting some fresh air with some friends. Naive I know, but I have a genetic excuse.
I learned ‘sports’ in England, oh yes, cricket, rugby, the whole shebang. The emphasis was on playing the game well, showing good sportsmanship, play hard, be proud if you lose, gracious to the winner, the game’s the thing… you get the picture.
In ‘Lemon County’, sport is one of the religions. Playing is simply a means to the all-important point of winning. Winning is everything. Losing is soul scarring and not permissible under any circumstances.
My introduction to LC sports came courtesy of the little league. Both sons signed up, and joining the bleacher-seated group of parents I learned all about the game. First it is absolutely OK to shout at nine year olds, in fact, it is expected. The primary shouters are big, loud dads, called coaches. They are allowed to shout at the boys from inside the fence. The fence is like a salad bar sneeze-shield, stopping food and other objects being hurled by the mob, from reaching the children standing on the hallowed green bit. Insults, and obvious remarks, get through, however.
I’m not exactly sure how the points are earned, but I believe making a child cry doubles whatever you have. The coaches, and assistant coaches (that would be everyone else) watch closely for any mistake, and when it happens, shout loudly at the child committing the error, to see if you can get him to cry, and thus earn points.
Making sure this is kept under control is a man called the umpire. He needs to be old, fat and blind, (illegitimate too, I believe,) and he gets to wear special clothes that protect him from insults. If the coach wants to insult the umpire, he has to stand very close, get red in the face, and kick some of the specially bought in red dirt, onto his shoes.
There are two phrases you have to learn if you are watching the spectacle, “good…” and “way to…” If the child holding the bat misses the ball, for example, you can say “good eye”, or “way to stand there.”
“Way to…” is my personal favorite as you can add ‘bunt’ or ‘choke up’ (surprisingly, nothing to do with crying) all the way up to, ‘way to be’ (eat your heart out Descartes.)
There are two principal players, the son’s of the coaches, and a bunch of their friends. The players get to throw the ball, which I learned is called pitching, and to hit the ball with an aluminum tube called a bat. The best friend is then recruited from the nearest hockey team. He turns up in his hockey gear and crouches down behind the umpire for safety. His only job is to not get hit by the ball, and then throw his facemask onto the ground and act all agitated. The pitcher and the catcher (oxymoron alert) then talk in sign language about how all the rest of their friends are idiots, and that the batter’s butt smells.
If you are friends of the pitching guy, you get to stand around on the grass and watch him. (He gets to stand on a little hill to make sure they all have a good view.) If you could possibly catch a ball, you get to stand next to a square cushion. (I believe the cushions smell really nice, because the batting guys always want to dive into them and put their noses on them.) If you are ball averse, you get to be called names by the other boys and stand in what is known as the outhouse, or outfield, or something ‘out’. When a ball goes anywhere near these boys, you have to shout extra loud because they are so far away. (For their safety, there is a fence to stop them from going too far ‘out’.)
When the coaches’ son who is pitching gets tired or bored, he lets the other coaches’ son have a go. His friends have to run as fast as they can into a fenced area called a dugout. The friends of the new pitcher then run onto the field to find their positions (usually standing, but crouching is also OK.)
The game goes on until midnight, and the team with the worst runs is called the winner (The boys in the dugout sing about diarrhea which certainly helps in the old run department.)
The winning team then gets to gloat and go for pizza and not do homework for a week. The losers have to hang their head in shame, sometimes cry (but no points are awarded) and get to be told by their dad what all their mistakes were on the long ride home in the back of the family SUV.
Anyone threatening to explain the game any further to me, will be treated to a two-hour diatribe on cricket without a tea break…
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