The kid is 11 years old and has been playing Little League baseball almost every year since he was 5. He is a solid player – not the best on the team, not the worst. He usually plays in the outfield where he doesn’t get much action. He can hit; he also knows when to wait it out and often walks. This year his hitting has improved and he has gotten a hit at nearly every at-bat. The coach and manager have been impressed with him and have told us so. He goes to every game, every practice.
There are only four teams in the Majors division this year; each got to pick six for the All-Star Game, which was held last night. My husband felt that with all the compliments J has been getting, and with half the team going into the All-Star lineup, the Kid had a pretty good shot. I was more cautious as I know how stressful it is waiting and hoping to be picked...
Last Tuesday was the last regular game before the All-Star game, as there were no games over Memorial Day weekend. The manager said he had not yet made his All-Star picks, but we would know soon. This brought back bad memories of last year, when J's team had sent the five kids who were the kids of the team's coaches and managers (all different people from this year's group). He had made the decision in secret, as opposed to other teams who had made a big announcement and encouraged all the kids to come and cheer on their friends.
Back to THIS season... after practice on Friday night, the Kid was smiling when we picked him up. “I am probably going to the All-Star game!” The red flag went up in my pessimistic mind: “What do you mean ‘probably’”? He said that the manager was away, but the coach told him, "The manager has final say, but right now, you are on the list." My husband spoke to the assistant coach who told him what a great job our son has done all year, and how she is pulling really hard for him. My doubts still lingered but I was excited for him and he was excited for himself.
We received no phone calls regarding the game over the long weekend. While this put further doubt in my mind, my husband felt it meant nothing had changed, and he was still in the lineup.
What was stressing my husband out was that J has a major role in a play at school, and this would be the final week of preparation – dress rehearsal Tuesday and Wednesday, performances Thursday and Friday. J had been warned that he could not miss dress rehearsal, which was going on until at least 6:00 PM - but he had to be on the baseball field by 5:45 PM. I wrote him a note that I would be picking him up at 5:20 and he braced himself for a lecture from his drama coach, but said it would be worth it to him. He got the lecture but was allowed to go.
We picked him up. He ate and changed into his uniform in the car – baseball pants and his own t-shirt – he would be getting an All-Star jersey to wear over it! There was a moment of tension when we realized I’d forgotten his Yankees hat. I figured he could wear any hat from the car (the logo shouldn’t matter, this being the all-star game and not a regular team game – right?) or borrow one if worse came to worse. I let him and my husband off at the park entrance, and took the other kids to go find a parking spot.
By the time we arrived at the field, there was a problem. I thought it was the hat – had to be a Yankee hat. My husband was pouting but I solved that quickly – the assistant coach’s husband had on a Yankees cap and she took it off his head and offered it to J. No problem? “Yankee is Yankee” agreed the manager. Her son actually grabbed it and gave Jake his own little league Yankee hat and all was well, or so I thought. Then my husband took me aside to tell me what the real problem was.
Apparently, J was “never supposed to be” on the team. The assistant coach said she didn't find out until 1:17 PM that afternoon when the manager sent her the roster. She says she tried to call us, but got only a busy signal. Who gets a busy signal in this day and age? Besides, our caller ID log showed no calls from her. AND she has our cell numbers but did not call those either. But anyway -- even if she had called - who tells a kid, the day of the big game, that he is not actually in the big game?
His team members heard all the drama but J kept his cool. The daughter of the assistant coach (who is my daughter's new BFF, of course) even approached me to tell me "J is not playing tonight." I was trying to be calm but I was fuming.
Despite this, J had already put a jersey on. There was also some switching of jerseys due to size. The lineup was announced, he was batting sixth and would not be starting in the field but would switch in later. Someone, I guess, had not shown up, so there was a slot for him.
I got busy with the other kids, setting up chairs and getting them their food from the bags. My husband had already told me, quietly, that he had yelled and screamed – VERY UNLIKE HIM – when he found out what was going on. How do you do that to a kid? The manager was very calm in any case. He maintained that it was all a miscommunication and J was never supposed to be on the team.
Then there was commotion behind me. The final kid – a huge kid, the kind where you want to check his birth certificate – had shown up and his Dad was yelling about "Why doesn't he have a jersey?" and "Why isn't he he in the lineup?" I heard the manager telling the dad that the kid was late – it was already 6:01 PM and they were starting already – and the dad was making a stink. Next thing I know they are telling J to take off his jersey. But to my amazement, and pride, he didn’t. I tried to listen in without being obvious but in the end I just let things happen.
In any case, he was playing -- and when the fifth batter got out, ending the inning, he was set to lead off in the second. But when the Blues got up to bat again, he was scrubbed. Again he was told to take off the jersey, again he did not. The big kid batted in his place, wearing a Coach's jersey, and his dad was still yelling about "Where is the real jersey?"
J didn’t say a word to us, he sat in the dugout. Here is a kid who “wouldn’t say shit if he had a mouthful” and whose stubbornness sometimes pisses me off, and he was holding his ground without being fresh or snotty. Maybe he was told something encouraging out of my earshot, or maybe he was just hoping and hoping, but he waited it out.
I noticed the head of the LL was watching the game and I approached her. Actually I asked my husband to approach her but he said he wouldn’t know what to say. So I told her what was going on. She was concerned, asked if he had been in the field (which would mean he HAD to bat), but since he had not, there was no issue there. Her eyes seemed to say “Whaddayagonna do?” and she told us it was a matter for the commissioner. The coach came over and said HE was also really upset about the whole thing as he really wanted J in the game. She said that the manager and coach are supposed to be on the same page regarding all-star picks. And during this conversation, as my husband took over the talking, and I went to check on the baby, I realized J was out in center field. Maybe the manager saw us talking to her and didn't want an issue. Maybe he was going to put him out there all along. Who knows. But he was playing.
He got up to bat in the third inning and struck out. Three up, three down, he was the third out. But he was playing. He shrugged it off and went back in the field. The assistant coach wouldn’t look my way. I wouldn’t look at the manager.
He played the whole game. Our team was losing pretty badly but in the final inning, we rallied. And J got up to bat again. And this time, he HIT. A nice strong hit and he made it to first base. And on the next batter, he advanced to second. And on the NEXT batter, he ran and ran and scored a run and we were all beside ourselves. The team went on to score several more runs – we didn’t win, but we didn’t get trounced either.
And then the game was over and the manager was telling him he had to give back his jersey – it was for another kid. My husband was right in there – "He wore it, he should keep it." The manager said that the kid wearing the Coach's jersey had to give that to the Coach, and there were no extras because the sponsors need them, and that the J’s jersey had to go to a player who was actually on the team. Yes, he said that. J's jersey wouldn’t fit the big kid though – would it? No, but everyone had switched around to accommodate him and would now be switching back.
He took off the jersey. He was perfectly polite. He told us he didn’t need the jersey. He had played and played well. He was proud of himself. He only wanted to go home and put his pictures on Facebook. I told him I was proud of him – not only for the way he played but for the way he stood his ground and did so with class. Better than I would have handled it, especially at age eleven.
Labels: baseball, Frustration, Kids, Life Outside 409, Little League, Mom Stuff, Naches, We're Living in a Society