(Warning: Insanely long post, the first 2/3 of which is shameless bitching. If you're not in the mood, skip to the part about balls.)
Well, we're back from our whirlwind tour of Charleston's baseball fields. The World Series was a disappointment to the boys. The lost every game. BUT...they should really hold their heads high. Mere moments after arriving at the park for our first game against the St. Simons Stingrays, I learned that we were the only AllStar team playing in our age group. All the other teams were travel teams. Those of you who have not yet been indoctrinated into the world of youth sports are probably wondering where the difference lies.
Travel ball teams have a much longer season and practice year round. Quite often, the same players are retained season after season. Some of the teams we played had been together three or four years. One mom I spoke with said "Well, we just came for the experience. We don't really expect to win any games, we've only been together 8 months." Snort. My boys have been together 8 weeks because AllStar ball is bascially just summer ball, with a season between 8 and 12 weeks long. The team is disbanded and then re-selected every summer. So, just when the team is really becoming a cohesive unit and playing really well together, the season ends.
So, despite that, all of our games were lost by only one or two runs. We fought hard, and we certainly did not hand them any victories. We surprised a lot of people by being competetive. Still, the boys were disappointed. They don't realize how well they did. All they see is the wins and losses, and after taking the State Championship, it was a bitter pill to swallow.
It didn't help that the coach berated them for their performance. Instead of taking responsibility for making a poor choice in taking them there, he berated them for their performance. He also chose to center all his strategy around one player, who, though admittedly an excellent pitcher, is not equipped to carry a team to victory singlehandedly. No player is. AND...he showed blatant favoritism to certain other players, one being his own son, and the other being the child of a woman he is romancing. I realize getting laid is a priority for many men, especially one who has likely been spanking the monkey solo for quite some time, but there is simply no excuse for treating any kid better or worse than the others. And of course, there is his Star Pitcher, who became so egotistical that none of the other team members could stand him by week's end. There is nothing more irritating than an 11 year old with a superiority complex.
The Coach also treated several players with barely concealed disgust, neither of whom deserved it. One of them was my son, who took issue with Star Pitchers's attitude and called him on it. He was angry and frustrated with the situation and rightly so. At one point, my son was pulled after walking ONE batter, while Star Pitcher was left to load up the bases not once, but twice, walking in several runs. During one game, Star Pitcher announced "I have to do ALL the work around here." During another game, he loudly scolded the second baseman for letting a ball get by him. He has no idea how close he came to having his teeth knocked down his throat by more than one teammate. Insufferable little bastard. My son finally had enough and made a comment to Star Pitcher about his attitude and for not acting like a team player. It was heard by the Coach, who, from that point on, treated my son like a pariah for daring to criticize Star Pitcher. My son was benched for HIS attitude. Unbelievable.
The other player that he picked on was one whose mother is a little....abrasive. She noticed and commented on these issues from the very beginning of the season and made herself a thorn in the Coach's side. Her son paid for that. He could do nothing right and every play he made was commented negatively upon. Even when he made a good play (he made several absolutely beautiful plays while we were there) the Coach found something negative to say. It was so conspicuous and persistent that the other Coaches and even parents started making a point to make positive comments to the child to compensate. How incredibly unproffessional and immature. It really is inexcusable for a grown man to behave that way.
I have issues over this. Pretty deep ones actually. We should never have been there. By winning the State Championship, we qualified to play in the Dizzy Dean World Series with other AllStar Teams. We would have had a fighting chance and we could have saved thousands of dollars, since it was held in our own state. Had I known the situation beforehand, I would have protested. Loudly. And the way he treated the players is absolutely inexcusable. He singled them out with harsh criticism in front of teammates, parents, and spectators. At one point, he threw a full blown tantrum in the dugout over a player error. It was so bad that my husband had to intervene. The coach did not take that well and basically told husband that if he didn't like it, he could take a hike. Thankfully, husband is not the kind of person who quails in the face of histrionic bloviation and stood his ground. He reiterated that such behavior was not acceptable and reminded him of the SPORTSMANSHIP awards we had been given that season. The Coach has frustrated me from day one because of his poor organization and communication, but I believed that he was well intended, if somewhat misguided. But now he has lost all of my respect and my son will not play for him again.
I really try to look at the positive in any given situation, but this experience has really gotten to me. I had to get it all out, so I appreciate it if you made it through my self-indulgent rant. Please don't let this discourage you from getting your children involved with sports, because our experiences have been largely positive. And, I really believe that being involved with sports has many more advantages than disadvantages, despite the inevitable issues that may arise.
Despite all the drama, I think the boys still had a good time. Scott Fletcher went above and beyond to put together a good program. They got to see a minor league baseball game at opening ceremonies, where they went out on the field and were introduced. They fed us dinner free of charge, and all the boys got a free wooden bat. They had a great time, and it was an excellent way to kick off the World Series. They had one night where the players competed against one another in various skills competitions. They had a cookout and a terriffic fireworks show afterwards free of charge. The boys enjoyed that enormously, although I personally found it a little chaotic and boring.
So, throughout the week I came to a couple conclusions, one being that grown men should not wear baseball pants. They think it makes them look professional. What it really makes them look, is...tumescent. Because baseball pants, for some reason, accentuate the ole baby makers. Big or small, low hanging or sticking close to home, what you see when a man wears baseball pants, is balls. I understand now how a man feels when confronted by a woman who has large, erm, assets. You can't not look. It's like that scene in Forest Gump when Jenny removes her bra. Forest doesn't want to look. Forest does everything in his power not to look. But in the end, Forest looks. Because he just. can't. Help. it. And that's how I felt this week when everywhere I looked I saw balls. Buff twenty something college guy balls, middle aged guy dunlap disease balls, portly old man balls. Balls aplenty.
I didn't want to look. I did the Forest Gump ceiling stare so often I developed a cramp in my eyeballs. I was less reticent about the buff twenty something college guy balls, (who wouldn't be??) but I still didn't want to look. And I sure didn't want to get caught looking. But I did. More than once. I am obviously no better than they are, the pigs.
And there is a lot of adjusting. I suppose it was the heat, which my husband says causes balls to stick to the inside of the thigh. But it seemed that every time I had to talk to one of these men (and, being the team Mom, there many instances) they were adjusting themselves. The players can be forgiven, because they were all wearing cups and I can totally sympathize with the torture of having one's most tender flesh corralled within an unyielding and unnatural garment; the binding, the pinching...it's inhumane. But adjusting one's self in mixed company is really very poor manners. When I expressed this to husband, he just shrugged and said "When you have to, you have to." I'll remember that the next time my panties are firmly wedged into my ass crack.
After we were eliminated from the competition, we stayed on for several days to do some real vacationing. We visisted Patriots Point
and toured the USS Yorktown. It was amazing, and awe inspiring. So many men have died for this country. Too many. The heroism goes beyond what any of us can really conceive of. My oldest son, who is an emotional and tender hearted child, was moved to tears as we read the names on a too large wall inscribed with the name and rank of those who have given their life in service. It was a sobering reminder that regardless of whether we agree with the reason behind any given War, the sacrifices made by the men who fought are profound. The conditions aboard that boat and the submarine we toured were a very salient and startling testimony to the hardships those men have endured to protect our lives and our freedoms. It was a good thing for my boys to see. They have been somewhat enamored lately of War, as young boys often are. I wanted them to see that War is not a game. And though noble, it is not romantic or glamorous. I think they got it.
While we were watching a film in the shipboard theatre, my phone rang. It was Scott Fletcher, whom I had spoken with many times over the course of the week, several times in person. Nice guy. We talked for all of four minutes about mundane team issues. When I hung up, my son casually inquired who it was.
"Scott Fletcher" I replied.
"Scott Fletcher???" he squeaked.
"Yeah. Scott Fletcher."
Obviously, I was missing something.
"MOM. Do you KNOW who Scott Fletcher IS?"
"Um, yeah. The guy I was just talking to."
He rolled his eyes in disgust and appealed to husband to enlighten me.
"He's kinda famous, honey." husband said.
"For what?" I asked.
"FOR BASEBALL" they replied in unison.
Well, Duh. Barrett FLETCHER World Series. I suppose that makes sense. They don't let just any yahoo put on a World Series. But how the hell was I supposed to know? It's not like he was Jose Conseco, or Randy Johnson, or David Justice. Everybody knows them. I never heard of Scott Fletcher
. And there was nothing about his appearance that would indicate he was a somewhat famous baseball player. In fact, he looked to me like a porn star, circa 1975. I had to do some major tactical avoidance when talking to him, because his balls were prominently on display in his Disco inspired short shorts that would have been more appropriate at Studio 54 than a baseball tournament. You remember the kind I'm talking about. I had a pair that were baby blue piped in white. I wore them with my baby blue satin Shawn Cassidy baseball jacket and matching satin cap. But I was 9. And I had no balls. Anyway, his attire, combined with his feathered leonine blonde hairdo and handlebar mustache certainly did nothing to clue me in to his illustrious past as a Major League Baseball star.
Appearance notwithstanding, he was, as I said, a super nice guy. And he seemed genuinely concerned that all the players had a good experience at his World Series. I suppose it was glaringly obvious that I didn't know who he was since I was the only one not genuflecting, but he didn't seem offended by that. Perhaps he even found it refreshing. Oldest son however, was incensed that I had been in the presence of baseball greatness and was too ignorant to procure an autograph. He'll get over it. Maybe. Someday.
The next day we hit the Public Beach on the Isle of Palms. The Isle of Palms is one of my most favorite places and we hope to own a beach home there someday. Hopefully before we are too old to enjoy it. There are clean and well maintained public showers, dressing rooms, abundant parking and reasonable chair/umbrella rental. I find that Atlantic beaches are SO much nicer than the Gulf Beaches. They are clean and clear and much less...icky. Nevertheless, oldest son was not going to be persuaded to actually enter the water. Sharks, you know. The problem with having a gifted child who actively seeks out all manner of disgusting, macabre, or otherwise disconcerting information is that they know too much stuff. Like, how many shark attacks were recorded in 2005. Like, the fact that even a small bite from a fulll grown shark can be fatal. Like, the fact that the ocean often looks deceptively calm while dangerous riptides are raging beneath the surface. SIGH. Thankfully, he also knows very useful and potentially life saving information. Such as the fact that you should piss on a jellyfish sting. Or that you should use a stick or tent peg or similar item to sufficiently tighten a tourniquet (in case of shark bite).
I didn't push him. I didn't even suggest that he get in the water. What I did, was buy two skim boards, which I worldlessly handed to Diminutive One, who, characteristically, did not hesitate to charge into the water and hop onto his board. Husband hit the water and frolicked among the absolutely perfect waves with Diminutive One. They were big enough to give a nice little thrill, but not so big as to be dangerous or scary. Pre-Pubescent One and I sat quietly on the beach. I reading a magazine, he worriedly watching the fun, vigilant for dorsal fins. After about thirty minutes he simply picked up his board and walked to the water's edge. There were people out so far they were barely a dot on the horizon. They were obviously not being swept out to sea by riptides. They were obviously not being devoured by man-eating sharks. It was quite clear that they could stand easily with their heads above water. I guess this bolstered his courage somewhat because he put his board in the water and began skimming. At first he stuck pretty close to the beach, but soon he progressed a little farther, and a little farther. Feeling brave, he began using his skim board like a surf board and got so caught up in riding waves that he forgot to be on the lookout for sharks. Mission accomplished.
His fear abandoned, the rest of the afternoon was a carefree family romp under the sun, and a day I will not forget for a long time. When we returned to the hotel to shower and prepare for dinner, I hugged Diminutive One and inhaled deeply, getting one last lungfull of sand and sun and sea. I kissed him and tasted salt on his skin. Today doing laundry I pulled a small t-shirt from the pile to stain treat it and caught a tendril of sea air before it dissipated in the mundane aromas of home. It made me smile.
Later we ate at Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. I got all the Trivia questions right except one. I didn't remember that his favorite book was Curious George. The kids were impressed. Husband rolled his eyes. The tables bore signs which read "Stop Forest Stop" or "Run Forest Run". You flipped it to "Stop Forrest Stop" if you needed something from the server. I thought it was quaint, but it soon became a source of annoyance as my progeny endeavored to bring each and every server to a screeching halt by flipping the sign at the exact moment they reached the threshold whereby it was actually possible to still stop, but not without much spillage and uttering of curse words through clenched teeth. Kids. Gotta love em. Or hogtie em until the food comes.
We concluded the evening with a Ghost Walk. Again, this took some gentle persuasion to get Pre-Pubescent One onboard. Meandering through haunted Charleston in the dark with only a flashlight and a guide of questionable repute was not his idea of a good time. However, since his little brother did not raise even a small objection, he agreed. They both did well but there was some hand-holding in the graveyard at the end of the tour. Truth be told, standing in a pre-Civil War era graveyard that is widely reputed to be haunted, at midnight no less, made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up a little bit too. But it was good kind of scared. A yummy little spine tingling "what if" kind of scared. The boys concurred and they both expressed satisfaction at having completed the tour without having dissolved into piercing womanly shrieks at any point. They enjoyed the ghost stories very much and realized that sometimes being scared is fun. It was a fruitful couple of days.
So, was that enough boring vacation diatribe for you? I know I promised something more cerebral upon our return, but my home is piled high with sandy, sweaty laundry, the van is still loaded down with vacation detritus, and I am making up for seven nights of no sleep in a hotel room with a snoring husband and a blanket stealing 7 year old. Gimme a couple days to recover. Why is it that everyone else returns rested and rejuvenated, but Moms need a vacation from vacation?