Tag Archives: baseball

Books and bases

I am proofreading my book, which is a fairly soul-destroying job. It’s that point where you are only meant to make the smallest and most imperative of changes, but you decide it’s all crap and you want to rewrite it all. But you can’t, because otherwise this will Never End and you’ll never have a book out there at all, so you just have to put up with it, and keep believing that your perspective is not the most unbiased right now, and it’s probably fine.

Also, it’s really boring because I’ve read it a million times, so I keep not wanting to do it, but I have to do it or it will never be done, because the only person standing between me and publication right now is ME.

But when it’s done, then I will be a twice self-published author, which is maybe twice as legitimate as a once self-published author, and may help me feel less like I’m faking it and more like I’m really doing it, which I suppose is the aim. Also, then I can get back to finishing draft 1 of book 3 before all hell breaks loose – I mean, before the kids are finished school for summer.

Mabel walking a stuffed dog in the parade

In the baseball parade, back when it was sunny

The weather charged straight into summer, I pulled out all our summer clothes and switched out the down comforter for the summer bedspread, and now it’s done a u-turn back into cold and wet. This happens every year; I’m not even surprised. At least we managed to fit a nice weekend in for baseball opening day, and Dash got to play in the first game, and even though his team were thrashed he was front and centre and doing well the whole time.

I used to bring a book and happily ignore the games until he came up to bat once in a blue moon, but I don’t think I can do that any more – if he’s not pitching he’s catcher, or on a base, or at a base (very important distinction I didn’t know before – one is a fielder guarding that base and the other is running around on his way to (hopefully) score a point; but TBH I can’t tell you which is which) or something else important. The great thing about the sad fact that all his team’s star players aged out last year is that with another year to go after this, Dash is a senior member and will get a ton of experience this year Doing All The Things.

Meanwhile I will sit on a blanket on a ground under the shady tree and chat to the moms, and Mabel will bring a book and then ignore it to go have playground conferences with the other sisters of players (yes, girls do play and are welcomed in the league, but nonetheless it’s mostly boys) and then come back and demand my money for ice pops and packets of chips and ring pops, and I will give in or hold firm depending on the day.

That is, if the rain ever stops again.

 

Watch your language: Baseball English

It wasn’t until Dash had been playing baseball for a while that I realised just how many expressions in common use – on both sides of the Atlantic, these days – come straight out of the game. If you ever wondered why we say some of these things, here’s your answer:

Step up to the plate

Metaphorically: We use it to mean that it’s time to take action, put your money where your mouth is.
In baseball: The plate is the home plate, where the batter stands (and where he returns to when he’s made a run). So when it’s your turn to bat, you step up to the plate.

Out of the ballpark

Metaphorically: Way out, far away, unrealistically far.
In baseball: If you hit the ball out of the ballpark, you’re guaranteed a home run, because nobody can catch it.

In the ballpark ( or a ballpark figure, for instance)

Metaphorically: Something likely, reasonable; an estimate that’s realistic.
In baseball: Obviously, a ball that’s hit within the bounds of the field. It can be caught, or it might not be, but everyone has a chance to make something of it.

Three strikes and you’re out

Metaphorically: If you do the wrong thing three times, you don’t get any more chances.
In baseball: A strike is when the batter swings at a ball but misses. It also happens when the pitch was good (within reach, as judged by the umpire) but the batter didn’t swing at all. If you get three strikes, your turn to bat is over and you don’t get to run.

A good inning

Metaphorically: A decent length of time; often, a good life.
In baseball (and cricket too): The game is divided into innings. One team bats until they’re out, while the other team fields. The this is top of the inning. Then the teams switch for the second half – the bottom of the inning. When the first team bats again, this is the next inning. A little league game usually has at least six innings. If you scored some points, or stopped the other team from scoring, you had a good inning.

Heads up

Metaphorically: We talk about giving someone a “heads-up” if we want to warn them about something in advance.
In baseball: Shouted when the ball accidentally goes flying towards the spectators, or anywhere outside the bounds of the field, so that everyone pays attention and doesn’t get conked on the head. It’s the “Fore!” of baseball.

Cover all your bases

Metaphorically: You might talk about covering all your bases if you want to be sure you’ve planned for all eventualities.
In baseball: The fielding team has to have a player protecting each base to make it harder for the batting team to get their players around and back to home.

Baseball diamond

Pro baseball, minor league

Baseball: this summer’s tiny love letter

We are approaching the zenith of Little League baseball season. We might in fact be, right now at at peak baseball. There were four games in six days this week, plus a practice that Dash had to miss. It’s lucky the kids are dedicated, because if you had a child who wasn’t really into the sport, they’d have just sat down and said feck it a while ago now.

Not actually feck it, because Americans don’t say that. This sucks, maybe.

Our Little League field is at the end of a tiny road that looks, from the other end, just like any other road in our suburban idyll. It has an electronic scoreboard that almost always works, two sets of metal bleachers for spectators, and two portapotties that are quite well serviced. There’s a little shed called the Snack Shack, where you can buy freeze pops for a quarter, cans of Coke for a dollar, bubblegum for a dime. They grill burgers and hot dogs too, during games, for a very reasonable price. It’s all manned by the parents of whichever team is deemed “home” for that game (note: all the teams are at home; they just take turns being called the guest), and run by the board of volunteers who oversee the whole league.

Behind the field there are batting cages where the teams can practice, and a basketball court as well. The whole thing is ringed by trees, and right on the other side of the trees the Baltimore-Washington Parkway meets the Beltway with a dull drone and the occasional motorbike’s roar. An eagle soared overhead this morning as the dust kicked up from the gravel and the sand. The sun’s heat soaked into the bleachers and Mabel’s skirt was too short for her to sit on the metal. We went back to the car for a blanket and spread it under the tree where most of the other spectators were already ranged. A couple of other children joined us. We knew them, sort of.

As soon as we get there, every time, Mabel starts badgering me for something from the shack: a freeze pop, a ring pop, a bag of chips, a hot-dog bun, a bottle of water. I make her wait because I know she’ll want something else a minute later: at the end of this inning, I say; when the batting is over; after your brother has had his turn; when somebody scores a run. When it’s half past. Go play on the swings. Find a friend. Don’t sit on me, you’ll just make us both hotter.

Dots appear on the scoreboard, counting strikes and balls, three and you’re out, four for a walk. Wipe the sheet, start again. Top of the second. Bottom of the third. “Good eye”, we say to the batter who knows when not to swing. “Good slice,” we say if the ball glances off the bat, living to fight another day. “Good pitch,” when we’re not batting but fielding, so our pitcher is the one looking for someone to swipe at their balls or miss their strikes. “Hustle!” when he’s nearly tagged out on the way to the plate. “Good hustle” when he runs fast enough.

I learned the lingo from the team dads. They stand at the fence, close to the field, not as far away as we are on the bleachers or under the tree. They are tall, imposing, with deep, molasses voices. One wears a fluorescent jacket, as if he’s working on the roads or riding a bike in the dusk; another is always impeccably natty. They shout directions, exhortations, to their own kids, but they shout encouragement to everyone’s. They know all the names, even when all the players look the same in a uniform and under a helmet. I get to know them by their socks, the length of their trousers, the way they twiddle their bats before they swing. If someone has new socks I’m lost.

The parents are a mixed bunch, and I say that consciously, as one of them. A mix of ethnicities, pretty representative of the neighborhood: more Black than white, not many Asians, a few Hispanics. Pregnant moms supervising tots on the playground while the game goes on; older moms who know the ropes, watching their last-born in Little League while their first plays varsity at high school. Tattooed dads in muscle tees, clean-cut dads in button-down shirts even at the weekend. Dads who are coaches, in team t-shirts and baseball caps. Coaches whose own kids are long past Little League but who keep coming back for “one more season.” Coaches who teach the kids so much more than how to pitch and catch and bat: sportsmanship, being a gracious winner and a good loser, showing up and trying your best even when you’re hot and tired, for no return but the thrill of a good catch even if you lost the game, an RBI though you were caught out yourself, a free soda from the snack shack when it’s all over.

Good game, well done, good game.

Dash at bat

Batter up, today

Last year’s version.

Sunshine

After a record-breakingly wet most of May, summer has arrived on our doorsteps with a thud. (That’s the sound of ladies fainting.)  It’s only 85 or so, but I’m convinced that I can’t possibly survive in such temperatures, that by July I’ll be dead, and that I have nothing to wear. (That last is true, of course. All my t-shirts have sprouted holes.)

School lunches at this point in the year are a half-hearted, last-minute effort, and for some reason the first grader has a project to do (the reason, I’m well aware, is multicultural day, with its PTA-related multicultural dinner, but for the purposes of my argument let’s pretend I don’t know that), which is not something I want to have anything to do with, except that I have to because she’s a first-grader.

I’m eating fruit all of a sudden: cherries, rhubarb, peaches. My next-door neighbour dropped in a bag of freshly-picked strawberries. It’s asparagus time. The farmers’ market has opened again. At this rate we’ll be grilling any minute.

After a long weather-related hiatus (you can’t play when the field is waterlogged), baseball is back on. Spring season part two, we call it.

Sunny little league baseball game with spectators

No-rain baseball

And I’m working. I have actual editing work that pays money, and I’m writing in between times. The new thing, not the old thing, which I’m going to publish as an ebook any second now, just as soon as my cover art is done. I have a website and a Facebook page for it too, so don’t say I didn’t do my own PR – at least as far as I can without being required to talk to real people in real life and say “I wrote a book; please read it.” Because I’m not sure I can do that.

Baseball: a tiny love letter

Baseball is a funny game. It’s all hanging around, waiting waiting, and then suddenly there’s this burst of frantic action and it’s all to play for and your heart is pounding as you wait to see if it will all go so right or so wrong.

And that’s just for me, sitting on the bleachers, watching my kid.

Yesterday’s game was almost like being on a date with my husband. I brought cold spicy noodles and we had a picnic, because games are always at dinnertime and while you can buy burgers and hot dogs and even chicken breasts and nachos, I really don’t want to make a habit of that. Mabel was playing happily on the playground with the assorted other siblings and unwanted children of the baseball crowd (I mean that in the nicest possible way), and we were actually able to sit beside each other and watch the game and pass snarky remarks about the other people in the fading sunlight and it was all very pleasant.

And then Dash was up to bat, and he swung at the ball and connected, and dropped the bat and ran to first base and it was all on. A couple of batters later, there he was on third. As he made it to home before the ball got him, I woo-hoo-d and yelled at the top of my lungs (causing B to look at me in mock horror and declaim that he hardly knew who I was any more).

I’m under no illusions as to the volume of my voice – which I have in recent years learned doesn’t travel nearly as far as I think it does, no matter how loud it sounds in my head – but I’d say it carried at least three feet. The people as far away as two rows in front probably even heard me. Not so much the players on the field, but there were three other large dads with deep booming voices who were taking up the slack on that account.

That was the high point of the game. He nearly did it again later but the batter was caught out and it was the third strike and so they all had to change over and Dash’s dash was for naught. It toys with the heart, this baseball, picks you up and drops you like a ragdoll just when you think it will all work out.

Still. As dates go, we take what we can get. The noodles, and the company, were good.

A game of machine pitch baseball

Old photo; wrong field. This year’s location is less photogenic.

 

16 to nothing

Dash at bat

All those reds look a bit threatening

Dash’s baseball team lost 16 to nothing in their first game yesterday. It was, I suppose you could say, a rout. He didn’t seem terribly put out, though. The commentator had said “nice swing” for one of Dash’s three fruitless swings at the ball, and Coach said the other team’s pitcher was unusually good. Mabel and I spent the afternoon moving from the sunny side of the field (too hot) to the shady side (too cold), chatting to acquaintances (me), making new friends (her), and respectively bugging and being bugged for things to eat. It was pretty nice, really.

The “shack” at the baseball field was open selling chips and candy and ice pops and also burgers and hot dogs, so it was a good opportunity for me to give her a dollar and say she could ask for a thing and remember to bring me back the change. Since it was being staffed mostly by 3rd and 4th graders (and also sometimes their parents) Mabel wasn’t shy, and I think she finished the afternoon feeling pretty good about herself.

I’m sorry if it’s all baseball here for a while, but (a) it’s a novelty, right? and (b) it’s going to take over our lives for a few weeks. Just go with it. I’ve decided that what we need for these busy evenings are to have those hearty main-course salads in the fridge that you can eat cold (or heated a bit) whenever you need them, so that when I have to get Dash from poetry club at 5 and have him at baseball at 5:30 and then bring Mabel to T-ball and stay there with her until 7 and then go back and get Dash at 7:30, there’s something quick and easy to guzzle in the five minutes we have to turn around at home.

You know, this all sounds lovely and idyllic and domestic goddess-y. And maybe it was and will be, in retrospect, like much of parenting. It was also annoying, what with the constant being bugged, and concerning – do we need sunscreen? Will he be very disappointed? And where is my hat? – and since B was off at a conference there was an element of single-parenting put-upon-ness to it all as well. And the rest is all hellishly overscheduled and hopelessly optimistic and doomed to failure and dinners of breakfast cereal and ice-cream.

But if I tell you about the downsides instead, to show you how real and authentic I am, am I not just being a whiny bint, with my first-world problems? Who wants to read someone else’s list of complaints? How do I craft it into a story that’s beautiful and true and tugs at the heartstrings and strikes chords with the reader without betraying all the other people whose emotions and actions my descriptions might be trampling all over? How do I turn it into a parenting epiphany or a moment of self-discovery or a brave exposure of my darkest shortcomings or some other thing that blog posts are supposed to be all about? What will make you want to read it?

—-

The Blog Awards Ireland aren’t happening this year, so the Irish Parenting Bloggers decided to fill the gaping hole in everyone’s social calendar with some awards of our own. I can’t go to the event, of course, being on the wrong side of an ocean, but everyone in the group is reading and voting and writing and voting some more, and of course it makes you extra self-conscious about what it is that you are flinging up against the cyber wall of your bloggy home to see what sticks. Is it entertaining? Is it niche? Is it too niche? Is it the wrong niche? Is it well-written and funny and homespun and beautiful and inspiring and also perhaps of special interest?

Time, and the shortlists, will tell, I suppose.

Mabel in a baseball cap pointing at the field

Mabel would like you to know where the baseball is happening

 

A new image

Spring means the gentle thunk of a bat hitting a ball, because baseball season has started. This year Dash has moved up to the Major League of Little League, where the kids pitch as well as hit (last year he was in “machine pitch” so you don’t have to rely on small kids to throw a ball the right way) and now I’ve gone and upped my own ante by signing Mabel up for T-ball too.

I had no intention of doing that, because I thought she had no interest in it. But when we took Dash to his first practice last week, on the first day of warmer weather, she asked me if she could run the bases while the big kids were busy with warm-up throws and catches. I watched her race around the diamond, and pause on one base to give a swing of an imaginary bat, and I realised I should at least make the offer. She’s been feeling very “second child” lately, and complaining that nobody cares about her and that she’s not important at all.

“Mabel, would you like to do T-ball?” I asked, when she got back to me, sitting on the bleachers in the late afternoon sunshine. I expected her to say no.
“Yes.”
So I sucked it up, found out when and where the T-ball practices are, and decided that we can do it, though Thursdays will be hectic for a while. It’s not that my kids are overscheduled; it’s just that everything happens at once: between them, for a while, they’ll have four different activities on Thursdays, not counting school. But the main thing is that she’ll get a team t-shirt for games and a trophy at the end, and she’ll feel very important.

Dash has three practices a week, plus games, which is a ridiculous amount, but at least it’s a short season. It’ll all be over by the end of June. T-ball is baseball for the youngest kids, where they don’t have to hit a moving ball at all but instead hit a ball that’s sitting on a tee – like a giant golf tee, if you like. It’s a lot more relaxed, only twice a week including games. (I am not sure how many games the T-ball league does. I imagine they’re all a bit, well, vague.)

Mabel with helmet and bat

Batter up

Postscript:
It turns out that T-ball is unimaginably cute. I don’t usually think of Mabel as small and cute much any more, but with all these other teeny 5 and 6 year olds (she’s on the old end), all swinging and missing and failing to catch the ball and scuffling over the same ball and daydreaming when they should be paying attention – well, it’s most entertaining. Dash came with me and was vociferous in his disgust at their terrible technique.

Mabel swinging the bat

This is the tee of T-ball

And she got her team t-shirt and cap already. She is busy re-honing her self-image into Mabel, ace T-ball player.

Mabel posing in Mets t-shirt and cap

(Invisible catcher’s mitt)

April Fools (Me Every Time)

I got a pedicure on Saturday. I sorted out the kids’ summer clothes and found out what still fits and what can go to some lucky slightly smaller people. I swapped the winter duvets on all our beds for the summer ones.

So of course, temperatures are going to drop into the 20s tonight. (That’s below freezing.) I would bring back the duvets, but B enthusiastically put them into vacuum bags and sucked all the air out and was delighted with himself, so I think it’ll be extra blankets all round.

You would think I would know by now, not to go casting clouts until April, at least, is out. But no, I am a rash and impetuous creature, governed by whims and flights of fancy and susceptible to the warm spring breezes. Aren’t we all, after that long, long winter? I should just be happy that all we got today was a lot of rain, not like the s-n-o-w they had further north.

Baseball-ready, 2014

Baseball-ready, 2014

Baseball season has started again, so Dash is happy. He ran the nursery school’s fundraiser 1k fun run on Saturday and won it for the second year in a row. Next year he’s going to have to just run the 5k and leave the 1 for the younger children or it’ll start to look like he’s hogging it.

Rounding the last bend, well ahead of the competition

Rounding the last bend, well ahead of the competition

It’s spring break and so far we’ve had a playdate, done the grocery shopping, and gone to the thrift store, where they had the amazing find of a green lightsaber. “I’ve missed having a green lightsaber,” said Dash, for whom two blue ones and a red double-blade are not enough, apparently.

His birthday is coming up – AGAIN – and he wants a Star Wars party – AGAIN – for he is a creature of habit. And I’m trying to think how we can disguise a Star Wars party as something subtly different so his friends don’t all die of boredom and think they’re stuck in a time warp. So I’ll be in the corner with my notebook chewing the end of my pen and writing lists, which is how I think best, for a while.

As always, you can find me waxing hilarious (be charitable) and/or sensible over on Parent.ie if you’re missing the more regular updates here.

The sporty one

The fact that it’s mid-March should mean that winter is well behind us, but the weather forecast tells a different story: we have 5 to 9 inches of snow forecast for Monday. I utterly refuse to believe it.

Dash is doing beginner’s ice hockey, did I tell you? It’s so beginner that they haven’t even touched a stick or a puck yet, and they’ve had four of their six classes, but it’s all about learning technique, apparently. Which mostly means how to skate better, so I’m all for that. He’s come along a lot considering in December he was like an octopus on ice, all flailing arms and falling down. Last Sunday I took both kids to the open skate (while B recovered from his 50km race; need I elaborate?) and Dash was showing Mabel and me how to skate backwards and practicing his jump-stops and not falling down at all. I’m impressed. It was worth the ridiculous amount of hockey gear I had to shell out for, because it was too late in the season to find anything second-hand.

Meanwhile, Mabel has decided she doesn’t want to take dance this term, so she has zero extra-curriculars, while he has hockey now and baseball already signed-up for starting in April. My surprisingly sporty child, that one. I fear he’s getting this privileged treatment as the firstborn, because once he’s doing things I’m reluctant to fill up all our other evenings with other things for Mabel – like T-ball, for instance. But it’s also because I’m pretty much 100% sure she has no interest in doing T-ball. Although she’ll freely admit that she wants a trophy, just doesn’t want to play the sport.

Mabel dishing up muffin batter

The non-sporty one.

 

Little Americans

I didn’t get selected for the Listen To Your Mother cast. That’s fine, really. It gets us out of a babysitting hole because one of the unmissable rehearsal days was when B would be on a very rare work trip. It would have been fun; I might audition again next year.

Anyway, it means I have a ready-made blog post for today. This is the piece I wrote for it.

———-

I never meant to have American children.

Years ago – far too many years ago to count in public – I was in Boston with my boyfriend. (He was from Ireland too.) One day on a dusty baseball diamond near where we were staying, we saw some kids playing T-ball. I heard their little shouts and watched their little legs run and realised that their American accents were already in place. You know how when you’re in a foreign country it’s amazing that even the three-year-olds can speak the language? It was like that. “They’re tiny Americans,” I thought. “They’re going to grow up to be American all the way down. How bizarre.”

If you’d told me then that I’d have American children, I’d have been positively insulted. That was one thing – the one thing – that I would definitely not do. My children would be Irish, like me and my mother before me. They would grow up with the wind and the rain, rosy-cheeked and soft-skinned, they would paddle in the chilly Irish Sea and complain about their Irish-language homework and criticize Bono (because that is the birthright of natives) and sound like suburban Dubliners, just like their parents.

What’s that saying about fate laughing at your plans?

It began with thinking we could have a baby in America so long as we moved home to Ireland before he knew what was what. Things progressed, so that I felt if we moved before he started school, that would be fine. Oh look, now I have a second-grader and a rising kindergartener and hey guess what, they’re American.

Becoming a mother so far from my mother – and everyone else – gave me a certain freedom. If I’d been surrounded by all those people whose opinions count, whose merest incline of the head I might interpret as a judgement of my parenting choices – well, I might have made different choices. As it was, I was free to read the books I wanted to, to find my tribe on the Internet, to follow my instincts and trust myself with my babies. If people looked askance at me in America for whatever I might have been doing – breastfeeding in the supermarket, for instance – well, I’m a foreigner. A European. And we all know what those Europeans are like.

Similarly, if in Ireland my mother wondered when I was going to stop breastfeeding in the supermarket, for instance (or wherever), she could put it down to the hippie dippie influence of America, where they have no inhibitions at all.

Probably, nobody was judging me, but that’s not the point. The point is that I was free to play the crazy foreigner card on both sides of the Atlantic.

So my kids have American accents. Of course they do: they were born here. They have American passports and American birth certificates and American social security numbers. My kids learned to swim in a lovely warm outdoor pool in a swelteringly humid DC summer. My son rattles off the Pledge of Allegiance every morning with his classmates. Despite their parents’ best efforts, they say mailman and sidewalk and zee and twenny and sometimes they even talk about to-may-toes.

And that’s okay. Maybe time has softened me. Maybe I’m coming to terms with being almost-American myself. Maybe it doesn’t matter, because when they meet their Irish cousins – once the first amazed comments from their aunts and uncles about how American they sound have been registered, for the record – they all start talking about Disney movies and My Little Ponies and superheroes and the Irish cousins are saying “awesome” and quoting Star Wars just as much everyone else.

Life does funny things. You can tell it where you want to go, but it’s not a taxi driver. Sometimes it just picks you up and swirls you around and points you back the way you came, or to exactly the wrong spot; and you can rail against it, and you can decide to get off the bus and walk, or you can recalibrate your expectations and work with what you’ve got. Mostly, you have to do a bit of everything and muddle about and see what happens.

If I had been so dead-set against having American children, maybe I shouldn’t have taken up with a boy whose ambition was to go study in the States after he finished his undergrad degree. But I have no regrets.

Last summer, my seven-year-old signed up for baseball. He ran his little American heart out on our local dusty diamond, and I sat on the bleachers and cheered for him.

Machine-pitch baseball