t’s that time of year again when the Tri-Village Little League fields at Magee Park in Glenmont come to life with hundreds of children learning the great American pastime. This year the McAvoy clan is diving into Little League, and we’ve picked up a few pointers to share with other newbies.
Attire: Make sure you dress for a range of temperatures, from about negative seven up to 114 degrees. Be prepared for any emergency such as hypothermia or heatstroke, which may occur in the same afternoon. Spring in upstate New York! You can’t beat it. Well, you could – but that would require moving south.
Supplies: I recently took a crew of siblings and cousins to my son Peter’s first game. We had hats, coats, blankets, snacks, and various other goods to survive the hour and half game. Ten minutes into it, the youngest were dropping off already. Hunger, thirst, and a flagging interest in baseball led to the five girls huddling together on the blanket planning out what they’d write in their wills if they don’t survive the outing. Meanwhile more seasoned parents around me were better prepared with folding chairs and an ample supply of food and toys to entertain restless siblings. Now that I know I have to pack like I’m going on the Oregon Trail I’ll be better prepared next time.
What to expect: Weather and hunger pains aside, the game was riveting. Picture it; bottom of the first. 7 outs. The batter, my son, has 23 strikes. This is going to be the pitch to hit! The pitch comes in – DONK goes the bat and the ball rolls lazily towards the mound. Pete, stunned that he got a hit, stares for a second and then snaps to. He starts running towards first.
Meanwhile all the kids in the field on the opposing team spring to life, because something has finally happened. They’re running without any rhyme or reason like those little players in ‘electronic football’ from the 1970s. (That’s the game, in case you’re too young to remember, where you’d carefully set up your tiny plastic players on a long metal field. One player would get the foam football wedged in his arm crook, and then you’d turn on the vibrating board – which would result in all the players scattering in different directions, like some kind of science experiment about how molecules behave. We’d spend ten minutes setting it up perfectly and then after two plays realize it was an enormous waste of time and zero fun. This, I tell my kids, is what was childhood was like before video games.)
I break my reverie and look over at the blanket. Three of the girls have collapsed with fatigue and hunger. It’s been over FORTY MINTUES since they’ve had a snack. They are saying their last goodbyes. Meanwhile the other parents, camped out along the outfield, are either corralling their own children in a kind of toddler rodeo or bundling up to survive the cold front that has just moved through. But Peter is on base! He beams with pride as his cheering fans (the two left unfrozen) offer a tepid huzzah.
After two innings the game ends, and both sides are thrilled – nobody more than the spectators. We collect our things and thank the coaches. They truly are saints, the way they teach and encourage with a bottomless supply of patience. Just seeing how they have helped mold my son into a sports player, after only a few practices, has been worth it. He takes such pride in his uniform, packing the red shirt away carefully in his drawer and placing his TVLL hat on top of his dresser where his best Star Wars Legos are displayed. Woe to any sibling who dares touch that hat.
Peter wants to practice batting in the backyard when we get home from the game, so we head outside. I think he’s embarrassed about taking so many swings at the game. I tell him not to worry, everybody starts off learning baseball like this. We settle in to practice. He’s still missing far more than he’s hitting, but he’s getting closer to getting it right. Pete puts the bat on his shoulder and hunches down, coiled and ready for my next throw. He squints, and suddenly the look in his eye is not a freckly seven year old practicing with his dad, but the steely focus of a pro ball player at the plate in Yankee Stadium. He nods to me. This is going to be the pitch to hit.
The author is a freelance writer with more than 100 published pieces to his name. Much of his work delves into faith and human interest. He resides in Delmar with his wife and children.
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