Today is Mothers’ Day and just like every Mothers’ Day for the last 22 years, I will be spending it at the baseball field. For me, a certain relief pitcher getting his predecessor out of a one-out-bases-loaded jam by way of a 6-4-3 double play coupled with a W for the Yellow Jackets would be the BEST MOTHERS DAY PRESENT EVER. Anxious anticipation, sweaty palms, heart palpitations…these are the primal responses I have become accustomed to managing as I helplessly watch from the sidelines. I am no ordinary baseball spectator. I am a baseball mom…Happy Baseball Mothers Day to me.
I confess I never was much of a baseball fan nor did I know much about this glorious game until my kids began to play it. It’s funny because I’ve grown into somewhat of a baseball genius (or a savant as a fellow baseball parent once coined me upon my demonstration of an arresting arsenal of fascinatingly obscure baseball knowledge). It was bound to happen, I suppose. After more than two decades spent perched in bleachers at every level of my kids’ ascents from coach pitch to college, I have acquired an absolutely, altogether and thoroughly impressive baseball IQ. I am a baseball mom.
I know what constitutes a balk as committed by a pitcher and by a catcher – and yes there is in fact such a thing as a “catcher’s balk,” (see rules 7.07 and in 4.03(a) in the officail rules of baseball). I know there are 27 different ways to score from third base and come hell or high water YOU BETTER FIND A WAY TO GET THERE, SON! I know the history of a can o’ corn, what predicates an umpire’s invoking the infield fly (and why), and by-golly I know a good piece-a-hittin’ when I see one.
Being a baseball mom is no easy task. Heaven knows, we’ve all logged more miles driving to and from practices and games, prepared more peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for consumption between double-headers and scrubbed our knuckles raw in futile efforts to restore filthy baseball uniforms to pristine pre-game condition more times than we care to admit. Still, if you hope to earn the rank and title of baseball mom, you need to learn the rules… all of them.
You need to learn stuff like not all good pitches to hit are strikes and not all strikes are good pitches to hit. You need to learn regardless of how hard a batter hits the ball, it is not…I repeat… NOT a hit unless the ump declares him safe. The thing is, even if your precious snowflake does end up on base, there’s a good chance it still isn’t a hit. Things like errors and the fielder’s choice complicate matters, which is why unless you have fully mastered the subtleties of what defines a hit, you should never ever shout NICE HIT at your son upon his arrival on base. No matter how hard he hits the ball. No matter how quickly he hauls himself down the line. No matter how excited you are. No matter how tempting it is. Do not shout NICE HIT. JUST DON’T DO IT.
Let me stress, unless you are absolutely certain a hit is a hit, do no shout, “Nice hit!” JUST DON”T DO IT because a baseball mom mistaking something that is not a hit for a hit is the most egregious error committed in baseball. TRUST. ME. I. KNOW. It’s worse than a passed ball, a wild pitch, a fly ball dropped in the outfield. It’s even worse than the kiss-of-death ground ball that slips between an infielder’s legs. I don’t care how thrilling it is to watch the umpire decisively splay his arms as your cherub slides into the bag for an extra-base hit. Do not shout NICE HIT unless you are absolutely-without-a-shred-of-doubt certain it is one. If you’re wrong, it makes you sound (pardon me, but there’s no nice way to put it) stupid. JUST DON’T DO IT. And for the record, a walk is NOT as good as a hit.
You won’t find the heading JUST DON’T DO IT among the ten Divisions of the Code listed on page one of the Official Rules of Baseball, but I promise there are unwritten rules governing the baseball mom’s code of conduct. They do exist. In fact, the prohibition of shouting NICE HIT is just one of an entire compendium of similar unwritten mandates that exists for one singular purpose: to prevent baseball moms from embarrassing themselves – or more importantly, their sons – in public.
Using pet names for your son while cheering, as in “Way to hang tough, Roddy-Roo” is strictly prohibited. JUST DON’T DO IT. Females loitering in the dugout is strictly prohibited. JUST DON’T DO IT. Attempting to apply sunscreen to your son’s freckled face between innings (especially when said face is sporting a mustache and soul patch) is strictly prohibited. JUST DON’T DO IT. Furthermore, I do not care if it’s hot enough for the 16-inch numbers on your son’s jersey to sear themselves into the skin on his back; I do not care how hot (literally or figuratively) you think you are. Attending your son’s baseball game clad in Daisy Dukes and a halter top with no bra is STRICTLY prohibited. JUST DON’T DO IT JUST DON’T DO IT JUST DON’T DO IT.
Finally, while it’s perfectly acceptable to shout, “Run! Run! Run!” to a four-year-old t-ball player, you must learn once he heads off to college you just don’t do that sort of thing anymore. One might argue if he’s playing division I college ball (or for that matter if he’s over the age of 10), chances are pretty good he’s going to remember to run to first base when he hits the ball so there’s simply no need to shout, “Run! Run! Run!” anymore. I know what you’re thinking (once upon a time I thought it too). Aren’t there exceptions for emotionally-charged circumstances?
What if (hypothetically, of course) your son gets his first ever college hit in his first ever college at bat in, of all places, a minor league stadium with his larger-than-life face plastered across the jumbo-tron? What if you’re really excited to see him make solid contact? Is it permissible in this emotionally charged (hypothetical) circumstance to wildly flail your arms while screaming, “RUN!RUN!RUN!RUN!RUN!” so loud that the home plate umpire turns around and stares at you? Obviously, I’m not saying this actually happened, but if it did, I’m afraid you would find out there are, indeed, absolutely no exceptions to this rule.
Baseball is a complex sport. Things get confusing, but if you hope earn the rank and title of baseball mom, remember this: whatever your impulse…JUST DON’T DO IT. Happy Baseball Mothers Day to me…and to you.
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