I never ever thought I’d use the words adorable and baseball in the same sentence, much less a title to a blog post. My apologies to Cooperstown.
Traveling to Greensboro recently, my wife and I watched our grandson play second base for the Greene County Athletics. Hitting leadoff, on his first swing, he hammered a drive down the 3rd baseline. That’s when the adorable part came in.
Oh, did I mention he is 4 years old and playing tee ball, or rather the version played by 3-4 year-olds? Ok, maybe he didn’t hammer the ball. A non-relative neutral observer might construe it to be more of a trickle. He was so proud of his hit that he just stood there admiringly and stared and stared and stared as five players of the opposing team converged into a heap, all grabbing for the ball as if it was the last lollipop on earth. His coach finally woke my grandson from his trance and pushed him toward first base.
This version of the game of baseball has adjusted the rules to match the maturity level and game knowledge of the athletes involved. First, there are no outs, no strikes, no balls, no score. Each team bats until every player has had their turn at the plate. Now before you uber-competitive parents pitch a hissy-fit about how such cream-puff rules undermine the American way of life and threaten Western democracy, please note that not once during or after the game, did any of the players ask what the score was or who won. They just wanted to know if the coach brought Pirates Booty (a version of cheese puffs for you non-parents) as the after-game snack.
The parents didn’t seem to mind either. They were too busy laughing and cheering. Every hit ball resulted in a cluster of rug-rats that easily resembled a Rugby scrum. Either that or someone called a kindergarten convention. One coach walked by the stands to inform parents the good news that his team just recovered the fumble. The bad news was, this is a baseball game.
This could well be described as an adolescent version of Abbott and Costello’s “Who’s on First?” comedy routine. One player, after hitting the ball, rather than running to first base, chased after the ball he just hit. Another player, a “Meltdown Molly,” got so frustrated at not being able to wrestle the ball from her teammates that she dropped her glove, crossed her arms, collapsed beside the pitching mound, and just boohooed the rest of the inning. Another teammate decided that doing “dirt angels” laying on his back in the red Georgia clay infield was more fun than playing shortstop. My grandson wasn’t to be outdone. He did his best to imitate the “Peanuts” character Linus by kicking up as much red dust as was possible for a 4-year-old seemingly out of reach of his father. Another hitter decided that the route to first base started at third base, then the dugout, before crossing the pitcher’s mound and finally arriving at first. No worries, he was still safe as the opposing team continued to fight over that last lollipop until one player stood up and proudly held the ball in the air as if to say, “I got it, we win!”
This was sooooo much better than a Major League Baseball game. This game only lasted 40 minutes, was free and, let’s face it, the Atlanta Braves are just not as adorable as the Greene County Athletics. Besides, I bet the Braves don’t get paid in Pirates Booty after their games.
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