Rants from the Crib

An Ob/Gyn gone mad

Archive for the tag “softball”

Honor At Bat

Honest Work

Honest Work

I was very dismayed this year to learn that we have to buy my daughter a new bat for softball. This is not because we can’t afford it, or because I mind that she might have outgrown the last one, or because I don’t believe that softball is a worthwhile pursuit.

She has been playing softball for 4 years already. She is 8. They start them young here in the South, where softball is one of the biggest sports for young women. She plays in a city league in our town, which has a population around 70,000 people.

The league is a pretty big deal. Girls sign up, go to softball clinics, and are drafted onto teams, of which there are about 6 per age group. The coaches look out at the clinics and tryouts to try to get the best players for their teams.

My daughter is a very good player. This is my unbiased opinion, based on the fact that my husband, who is a very good athlete, says so, and on the fact that my daughter plays pitcher or first base because of her speed and catching abilities, which are well beyond most of those in her age bracket. She is also one hell of a batter, and hit a good number of home runs last year, once two in a row. In fact, she was the most valuable player on her team last year, and she had just moved up to a new bracket and was the youngest on her team. I know that she was important, because on the rare occasion that we had to inform her team that she would be absent a game, people would begin to groan and roll their eyes and say things like, “Well, there goes THAT game”.

But this year after signups, my husband came home and announced that we would have to buy her a new bat. “Well,” I said, “She has grown a good bit since last year, so I guess that makes sense.”

“The bat is not too small for her,” my husband said. “It’s still the right size.”

“Then why do we have to buy a new bat?”

“They have tightened up the regulations this year,” my husband informed me. “Apparently there were some problems last year.”

“Oh,” I said. “I guess they want to standardize the type of bat.”

“Well, sort of,” he said. “There were multiple infractions last year involving bat tampering, and many of the parents complained. These new bats are tamper-proof, and everyone will be required to have one.”

I pondered this. Bat tampering? “Isn’t that what they do in the major leagues to add weight to the bats to give the batters more hitting strength? I know that’s a big infraction.”

“Yes,” said my husband. “That is what was happening.”

“My daughter is EIGHT,” I told my husband. “Eight. Who the hell tampers with an 8 year-old’s bat? This is a damn city league. They start them out at 4 years old. Do people tamper with their bats too?”

“Possibly,” my husband said.

“Oh,” I said, mustering my best sarcasm, “I suppose the pro scouts are at those games already.”

“As a matter of fact,” my husband said, “They are. This league goes up to 12 years old and by that time, the college scouts are out there.”

You have got to be FRICKING kidding me. College scouts? At a small town city league tournament? Weighting bats of prepubescent children? Tweens with tampered bats, on the off chance that a scout might spy them?

And that doesn’t begin to touch what this is doing to these kids. Never even mind the fact that this game is supposed to be fun for the kids, to learn team play and fairness. When a child is told, “Just a minute, before you go start this game, your Uncle Bubba has to fix your bat so you’ll hit harder and win,” they are being told, no this is NOT for fun. Nothing is for fun. Everything is soooo important. Everything you do. And we grownups are relying on you, you’re our sweet little cash cow. You’re gonna pay for college and make us money and fame, and keep us comfortable in our old age. The kid learns to cheat, scheme, feel that they are outside the rules, which are just made for breaking. And they learn young that they are being used, as an asset, rather than being treated to a fun game. That kid’s childhood is gone. They become an unwitting adult, lying and cheating and trying to sneak to the top. Never mind practice. Never mind innate ability. It’s all about clawing to the top.

I am a gynecologist, and in my line of work, I maintain that there is very little out there in the realm of human behavior that can surprise me. I am constantly proved wrong. You would think I would learn.

This shocked me. And horrified me. And several days later, I still cannot get that conversation out of my head. Bat tampering for tweens? What the hell next? Are the parents shooting up their 12 year-old daughters with steroids too? At this point, I would put nothing past anybody.

I know this makes me look old, but all I can think is, what is this world coming to? I heard my parents and my grandparents say this all the time, and here I am saying it. Maybe I am conservative and old-fashioned, but in my mind, anyone who would tamper with an 8 year-old’s bat in hopes of throwing a game or getting their kid scouted should go straight to hell. Do not pass home plate, do not collect $200. I didn’t think I could be shocked anymore. But believe you me, I am shocked. And outraged. And saddened. And there is nothing to do but buy the bat.

Easy Out

This is my daughter.  This will never be me.

This is my daughter. This will never be me.

I will not go to my daughter’s softball practice today.  I did not tell my husband why, and I will avoid telling him if I can.  I will just let him think I am a bit selfish today, that I have other things that I need/want to do, and I will probably go next time.  I like to go and show her support normally, but this is not normal.  At the last practice they announced that all the parents will be “playing” against their kids, and to be sure not to wear flip flops and be ready to play.  There’s one problem.  I can’t play.  Anything.  Other than reflexes, and good hand-eye coordination, my body completely betrays me.

I dreamed, my whole life, of being an athlete, of throwing my body into a perfect arc that bounced into a beautiful handspring, of doing chin-ups like Sigourney Weaver in Aliens, of volleying in tennis, of making a perfect catch smack into a well worn leather glove.  But dreams are just dreams.  And it wasn’t for lack of trying.  I practiced gymnastics over and over in PE in junior high school.  I wanted to do what the cheerleaders did.  But I couldn’t even bend my neck right to do a backwards roll.  And I practiced over and over again, at home, on a mat that I’d bought.  I could do a backbend.  A crooked cartwheel.  A forward roll that bent my neck and made my head throb.  Mom signed me up for tennis lessons, swimming lessons, ballet.  She put me on a swim team.  I got disqualified from the breast stroke, my only heat, because I took too many strokes under water.  I didn’t even know that was a rule.

When it was time to play sports in elementary school, I never even had a chance.  I skipped the third grade, which is where you learn the rules for all those games.  I went from recess to sports whose rules I knew not at all.  A boy in my class literally tried to explain kickball to me while I was standing in line to kick.  I couldn’t kick.  And when it came to baseball, I couldn’t hit a ball.  Even though my dad worked with me, I didn’t hold the bat right.  I screamed and ducked when balls came at me instead of catching them.  I stood as far as I could out in the outfield and prayed that nothing would come to me.

But there was no avoiding the turn at bat, at kicking, at volleyball.  When I came up to the plate, the boys would begin to shout, cruelly, taunting, “EVERYBODY MOVE UP!  EASY OUT!  EASY OUT!”  The whole field would suck inward in a bloodthirsty attempt to be the one that would stop the ball that I’d kicked only feet in front of me, so they could hurl the ball at my chest, my butt, my head.  My heart would pound as I came up to the plate, and I would strike out, or the ball would be grabbed and hurled at me.  I would slink to the back of the line, head down, and pray I wouldn’t have another turn before the game was over.  Tears would sting my eyes, and I would chant to myself, “Don’t cry, don’t cry, don’t cry, don’t cry.”

Volley ball in junior high, everything was the same.  I would cower behind the other players, praying the ball wouldn’t come to me.  Everybody had to take a turn serving, and the ball would slam awkwardly off my wrist, if it hit it at all, bruising me and sending the ball off the court toward the coach.  I saw the scene in Twilight where Bella hits the ball into the guy’s head, and I thought, that scene is inaccurate.  She would have missed the ball altogether, and instead of flirting with the guy she hit, she would have cowered and blinked burning tears from her eyes.  That was volleyball as I knew it.  The skill I learned best while playing sports was how to avoid interaction of any sort.

And the old joke about being picked last?  That tired old joke?  It’s not funny.  It’s not funny if it happens to you over and over and over and over, and they fight over who has to take you.  And they groan when they get stuck with you, and roll their eyes.

And now they want me to play ball in front of my daughter.  I can’t hit.  I can’t catch.  I can’t throw.  I really can’t run.  My daughter is a superb athlete; she gets it from her father, and she is more skilled at seven than I ever have been, or ever will be, in my life.  She can catch anything.  She can hit anything.  I can’t go to that dark place in front of her, other children, other parents, my husband.  I’m crying a little now, just thinking about what if I had to do it.

My husband can’t find out why I’m not going.  If he does, he’ll think he’s doing me a huge favor by pushing me to go.  He’ll think, I just need to try, it’s just a game, I need to get over those old childish fears, no one is going to treat me badly on the field, I need to suck it up, grow up, and try.  He doesn’t understand.  He never will.  He inherited a perfect, athletic body, that looks tight and muscled even when he isn’t working out.  He has never failed or sucked at any sport.  His only possible disadvantage is his height, but he sometimes brags about his vertical leap, his reflexes, his speed.  His body just does what he asks it to.  In all the times he has practiced throwing, batting or catching with my daughter, inside or outside the house, I have never seen him miss or even bobble a ball.  That arm just shoots out, and SLAM, that ball is in the glove.

I know my husband thinks that I can’t play sports because I just haven’t tried enough.  I know I have tried enough.  When I was in med school, I dated a guy who was a big Ultimate Frisbee player.  Big.  Huge.  As in, he went to Nationals every year.  He made it a condition of dating him, you had to at least try to play the sport.  If I met someone like that now, I’d kick him in the teeth and the balls and tell him to take his conditional ass to freaking hell.  But I was young, and he was so cute, and so smart, and so funny and I wanted him.  I wanted him to admire me.  Even if it meant exposing my deepest fears about performing athletically.  I told myself it would be good for me; that he was good for me, that I needed to suck it up and really try.  Sound familiar?

I practiced throwing that disc with him and his friends every time we were outside. I did windsprints with him.  I did pullups and crunches and scrimaged every chance I got. I got as good as I was going to get.  But my slow body just wouldn’t respond.  In a game, making a run to a thrower to try to receive a pass, I would drag, blocking the players behind me, my man on defense somehow in front of me, blocking me, cutting me off.  There would be shouts of, “You’re clogging!”, a cardinal sin of getting in the way of the flow of the offense.  And if I somehow got the disc in my hand, all those throws I’d practiced so hard would be meaningless, as my man on D would simply flow around me, and my throw would bounce off them and to the ground and into the hands of the defense.

The worst thing was, everyone knew I didn’t want to play.  They knew what his conditions were.  And he had dated a large number of the female players, all of whom were good and athletic, and I had to humiliate myself in front of them, be defeated by them, and pay for taking their guy.  Whole teams hated me just because I had hurt one of their players just by dating him at all.  It was a horrible five years.  I tried for five years to be someone I wasn’t, just because I wanted someone to love and admire me.  So yes, I think I’ve tried hard enough.

I won’t go to practice tonight.  My hands would shake as I walked to the plate.  I would swing weakly, ineffectively, and I would miss the ball.  I would cower if a ball came at me.  I don’t even remember which hand a glove goes on.  I own one.  My daddy bought me one; lovingly tattooing my name in it with a pin and ink.  He tried.  Really hard.  But sometimes trying just isn’t enough.  I can’t go back to that dark place.  I can’t and I won’t.  And I won’t justify myself to my husband, because he has never failed at anything athletic, and he really can’t comprehend the scars of years of struggle and humiliation.

I refuse to hear my daughter, derisively, not understanding my pain, laughing at me because I don’t stand right and I don’t swing right and I can’t hit the ball and I can’t use a glove.  She doesn’t know any better.  She’s never failed at anything athletic either.  I love to see that in her, though.  She is so blessed.  I won’t say I live through her, because I don’t, but I watch her perfect body and her perfect moves and I just glow to think that something like that came out of me.  But  I won’t go there, to that place.  I’m crying again now because the thought hurts me so much.  I’m not going to watch my daughter practice today.  And it isn’t because I don’t care.  I care too much.

Softball And The Game Of Life

My daughter is playing softball for her third year in a row.  She started when she was four.  Her father has been working hard with her, even in the winter when they throw in the house.  We haven’t broken any windows yet.  This year, they have had the 7-9 year old girls group start pitching, which has been fairly pointless.  Basically, there are three automatic walks and then the coach starts pitching with the bases loaded.  The girls aren’t too accurate yet.

This year she started on a pretty bad team.  She was out of town for the tryouts, so no one got to see how good she is.  She is easily the best catcher on the team.  Her usual spot is first base, which is pretty darn effective, because she can catch just about anything she is thrown.  Unfortunately, they’ve had her on the pitcher’s mound for the first 3 at bats each inning, and she’s not a very good pitcher because she’s only been practicing it for about 3 weeks.  She expects to be good at it right away because she forgets that she has been practicing throwing and catching and batting for 3 whole years.  I think she does more good on first base and they should keep her there.

Since I am now doing the travel doctor stuff, I have 2 or 3 weeks at a time at home now to spend time with my family.  I have been going to all the softball games and practices.  My husband and I have matching Ladybugs t-shirts that say “Bean’s Mom” and “Bean’s Dad” on the back.  We went to the grocery store after a game all decked out and several people commented on what a cute little family we were.  A looks super cute in her Ladybugs uniform:  red ladybug T-shirt, black pants, and red and black socks with ladybugs on them.  She also has a red Cardinals hat and a ladybug hair ribbon that she can’t wear because her bobbed hair is too short.

I was at the first game that they won and I took pictures of the whole thing.  I got some great pics of her making some plays at first and batting.  Of course you will now have to suffer through these pictures because I am so proud of her!  She is a bit discouraged that her team doesn’t win too much but they are getting better and they actually won again last night!  It got cold this week after a storm and we were all bundled up at the game yesterday.

So here are some pictures of Miss A. on her team playing softball:

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Maybe the weather will be warmer for the next game.

Weekly Writing Challenge: A Tough Old Bird

When I was growing up, I had a second family.  This family lived next door to us for many many years.  They had a daughter who was grown but they were only in their forties.  This couple married as high school sweethearts.  We moved in next to them when I was five.  I have vague memories of sitting on their porch with them, visiting as they finished their yardwork.  They smoked, and would always have a cigarette in their hands.  This was very exotic to me as no one in my family smoked.  They would be drinking sweet tea in Tupperware cups, the tall ones that had lids that no one used.  They were the muted Tupperware colors, celery green and faded pink, and they would bring me my own glass.  I remember the gentle tapping that the ice cubes made in the glasses, and the shick shick shick of the lawn sprinkler at the end of the hose.

One day, the husband fell sick.  He had lung cancer.  He was sick, and then he died.  He was only in his forties.  The day of his funeral, my friend and I tried to play quietly in the yard but we were kids and we begin to run and shout.  My father came out, grim faced, and told us to come inside immediately; we were being disrespectful.  We felt terrible.

The day our neighbor’s husband died, she put down the cigarettes and never picked them up again.  She was such a determined woman, her hair always done in a sixties bouffant flip that grayed as she got older.  She never colored her hair.  She did all her own yardwork, and my friend and I would come help her pull weeds and wild strawberries out of her yard.  She paid better than our parents did.  For yard work, she always wore zip-up coveralls that had probably belonged to her husband.  She mowed her own yard, until I was old enough and did it for her.  She amazed us by growing banana plants that grew actual bananas on them.

She always had a big dog in her big chained in back yard.  When we moved in, it was Rex, and then it was Bo.  Then she finished her German Shepard phase and started with the black labs.  Her first one was Inky.  They were all sweet dogs and would jump up to the side of the fence to be petted.  I know they were a great comfort to her after her husband passed.  On the rare occasions that she went out of town, usually to visit her daughter, and later her grandchildren, I would come in to her house and let whatever dog it was into the basement to be fed and petted.  She doted on her big dogs and they were inside as much as they were out.  They were always well trained.

As I got older, I learned what a dichotomous person she was.  On the one hand, she was strong and determined, took care of herself and her house and yardwork.  She was raised the youngest of a family of all boys, and she had a boy’s nickname and was a well known softball player in her day.  She worked for a concrete company until the day they retired her.  But her hair was always perfect, not one out of place, and she spoke in such a soft sweet Southern accent.  She always stayed in great shape and dressed immaculately.  She stubbornly refused to remarry for almost twenty years.

Lordy, that woman loved a good gossip.  When I was a child, it was mostly her talking, but as I got older, high school and college, I had gossip of my own to contribute.  She was born and raised in our town, and she knew virtually everyone in it.  I would start a story about someone, and she would say, “Oh, that’s so and so’s son.  I always knew that family was no good.”  I guess as we get older, we begin to see more sides of someone we’ve known our whole life.  Some of her gossip seemed a bit mean-spirited, but I figured that was just her.  I was more disappointed in her than I have ever been when I was visiting her when I was home from college, and she told me that “Them gays got the AIDS because God was punishing them.”  I never felt quite the same about her again, although I realized later that she was just a sheltered woman who had married out of high school and she didn’t know any better.

When she finally remarried we were all surprised.  She had been dating gently for years, but stayed out of the highly competitive, catty hair pulling that she said was characteristic of older ladies, whom she said would fight tooth and claw over a man, since there were so few of them available.  She said one time she was out to dinner with a man and a woman came up to her and said, “Get away from him, he’s MINE.”  She said she never went out with that guy again; she didn’t need the drama. 

She finally met a man that was right for her, and he lived right around the corner in our neighborhood.  They courted for a while and then married in a small ceremony.  I could never remember to call her by her new married name; I had known her by the old one for so long.  She didn’t mind.  In what I considered an impressive and admirable move, she refused to move in with her new husband and stayed in her old house.  They visited back and forth.  He was an avid hunter, and as tough as nails as she was, she was an avid hunter too.  She went deer hunting with her husband all the time, and brought down many a deer.  I remember one Christmas when she was over seventy, her proudest Christmas gift from her husband was a pair of knee-high, camouflaged, snake proof hunting boots.  I came to her house to see her on one of my trips home, and there was a huge stuffed bobcat in her living room.  I inquired as to the origin of said bobcat, and she said proudly, “I saw him in the woods and I shot me that old cait.  Had him stuffed and I keep him in here.”

She went through some rough times.  As she and her husband got older, they took turns being hospitalized for more and more serious ailments.  She nursed him through several protracted hospital stays.  After years of marriage, in a stunning turn of events that blew our minds, her husband’s daughter got to him somehow and persuaded him that his wife was after his money.  Never mind that she was still supporting herself, living in her own home.  The daughter somehow twisted the knife, wanting her father’s money for her own, and turned him against my friend.  He threw her out of his life without warning.  We were all stunned.  She must have had a premonition, hanging onto her home all those years.  She shrugged it off, and after an initial flurry of filling us in on the dirt, she spoke of him no more.

She’s in her eighties now.  She’s gotten a bit more frail, and a bit less sharp, but there’s still a lot to her.  My parents moved away from her neighborhood, but they still visit each other and catch up on the news.  When my childhood friend remarried, I told her and her first response was, “I know his Daddy.”  She always knew everyone, and everyone’s business.  I haven’t seen her in several years, but we exchange Christmas cards.  She’s a tough lady and I think she’ll hang on quite a while yet.

Softball

My daughter has played softball for the last two years, and I must say I have more or less enjoyed it.  First of all, I have less than zero athletic ability and it thrills me to see that anyone descended from me could be good at anything physical.  She totally takes after her dad. 

The main pain in the ass is getting her to practices.  Since I am on call every third night, and hubby is out of town a whole lot, we juggle how we will get her to practice every night.  Sometimes K will drop her off at practice and I will pick her up.  Sometimes vice-versa.  Sometimes he’s out of town and I MUST take her there.  Sometimes I’m stuck at the hospital and he must take her there. 

We are very conscientious though, and always try to get her to practice and to the games.  She is actually one of the better players and they really need her.  Most of the time she plays Pitcher’s Helper (it is coach-pitch softball) and occasionally she plays first base.  She is very good at batting, running and catching and throwing, thanks to her father’s near fanatical year-round practicing with her.  That certainly doesn’t hurt her natural skills any. 

I love to go to the practices and the games.  I sit in the bleachers with the other parents and gossip and shout encouraging words and phrases at the kids as they play.  We make sure to root for all the kids when they bat or run or catch or throw.  I really feel like I’m part of something when I go to those games.  Next year I will get one of those t-shirts that say “Bean’s Mom” or somesuch.  I really do think A has a lot of natural skills.  Her father is one heck of a terrific athlete and I am so glad that she takes after him.

They practice all year round.  In the winter when it is cold, they throw and catch in the house.  K must have an awful lot of faith in her catching because she is standing right in front of some windows when they throw.  I guess the faith is justified because the windows haven’t broken yet. 

In the spring and summer and fall, we go out and bat in the driveway.  My knee is all bruised up right now because I act as a human backstop to keep the wild pitches from banging into the garage doors.  A wears her batting helmet and looks like an adorable little bobblehead with it on.  All those little girls look like bobbleheads in their little helmets as they run the bases.

Softball is so incredibly huge in the south for women that there is a gigantic department in the local athletic store devoted to just that; different sizes and weights of balls, bats, gloves, cleats, pants, shorts, jerseys and t-ball setups.  We own about fifteen balls (why do we need fifteen balls?).  You can get your bobblehead batting helmet airbrushed for a nominal fee at the mall.   A picked out a softball with flames coming out of it for her helmet.  She is jersey number 14 for her Tuppa’s birthdate and has been number 14 for the last two years.  We have two bats, one of which is too small for Amanda, but we bring it with us to practice for the littler girls to use. 

The beginning of the softball season is full of pomp and circumstance.  There is a massive truck parade on opening day, with demo games.  Each team decorates a pickup truck with their team theme (last year A was a Sassy Slugger – retch) with lots of balloons, noisemakers, magnetic softballs and lots of offkey singing.  The parade moves slowly from a park up to the softball fields, which are in the middle of nowhere.  I am always terrified that A will fall out of the truck on her head, even though they make the kids sit down.  You always read about terrible tragedies like that happening and I am a very paranoid parent.  The parade is big fun for the kids though. 

I hate driving the van over to the fields to meet the parade, because you can never find a damn place to park.  Actually, you can never find a place to park.  And that for me is a huge deal, because I cannot handle parking the van anyway.  It is huge and frightening, and I just know I will back out into someone else’s car or someone else’s kid, even if I do have the fancy backup camera thingie.  I am so damn anxious all the time, about driving, and parking, and backing up.  Some of it is just my anxiety, and may have nothing at all to do with actual van issues.  I just don’t know.  All I do know is, when I had my Porsche, I had absolutely no problem parking, backing or driving in tight spaces.  I sooo miss that car.  But I digress.

The last day of softball is also a huge deal – a gigantic double elimination tournament for four to six teams in each age group.  The damn thing takes all day and the kids and the parents get roasted.  By the end of the season, it is June and the summer sun is crashing down.  My folks had to take A to her season-end tournament because her dad and I were both out of town.  They said it was a blessing that A’s team was eliminated by mid-day.  They gratefully crawled out of the sun and went out for ice cream. 

So A seems to enjoy the softball thing, and so do her parents and her grandparents.  My only regret is that is her only extracurricular activity and we haven’t signed her up for anything else.  She has indicated an interest in gymnastics a couple of times but I frankly don’t think she has the aptitude for it.  We did try gymnastics when she was about three but she was not in the slightest interested, nor did she show any talent.  So I guess we’ll stick with softball. 

They certainly have enough other activities at A’s school, chess club and math club and Fabulous Fridays and such, so I think softball will just have to be her athletic thing.  I think she might even have a shot at college ball one day.

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