For love of the game

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There’s an electric buzz in the air at my house. It’s the feeling I associate with warm weather and the cerulean skies of spring, often called spring fever. But, it’s raining sideways outside and the sky is a murky gray, so what exactly is going on? It must be the beginning of Little League baseball season.

I know this because if I pay close attention I can trace the origin of excitement to the two testosterone­-laden beings who share my abode—my husband, who is team manager, and my 12- year-old son, who hopes to make the post-season All Star team. It’s the endless chatter between them: Who should be our number one draft pick? What exercises should I do to get more power in my legs? When do we get to go to the batting cage next? It’s the fact that the Major League Baseball channel and the voices of announcers are constant background noise in the family room. My daughter and I are only spectators in this world.

Withstanding the weather

The first practice arrives on a day that begins with big, messy, wet snowflakes followed by dark sky, gusty wind and heavy rain. I wonder out loud if they should cancel, and am met with astonished stares. In unison, they both inform me “it’s never too cold for baseball.” They dress for the weather in Under Armour shirts, layered under long sleeves, polar fleece jackets and windbreakers, on top of traditional baseball pants which hide long underwear. Baseball caps perch on their heads. Baseball gloves are in hand.

They will not practice on the soft green fields found in warmer southern climates. This new team meets on a large covered blacktop area at our neighborhood school where the wind blasts them, but at least they’ll remain dry. As early darkness arrives, the playground lights come on and in the dim light of dusk you’ll see these dedicated boys in the distance, drilling and working on baseball mechanics several times a week through the wet spring. To my astonishment, all team members and many fathers show up day after day, week after week. All for the love of the game.

Worthwhile endeavors

It’s a long season, beginning in February and ending in June or July. The first game may be rained out. There will be make-up games, cold and windy games. Games where the sun shines brightly in their eyes and they can’t see the ball. Morning games, where parents wish for a coffee stand at the edge of the field. Night games that chill those who’ve forgotten sweatshirts or blankets. Last year, there was even a game when it began to snow.

Soon, familiar sounds like the crack of a bat, the thwack and pop of balls hitting gloves, and the cry of the umpire as he yells “Play ball!” will be my background noise. Shouts of “Hit it hard,” “Nice swing” and “Keep your eye on the ball” will become my mantra. Sooner or later my son, or someone else’s, will hit a home run and boys will dog pile at home plate while parents cheer and our team might move into the lead. The cold practices will be forgotten. Welcome to Little League season.

Deanna Hyland is a freelance writer and mother of twins. Her son and husband are avid baseball fans. She has discovered that even though she takes coffee to morning games, understanding and watching the action gives her a much bigger jolt than caffeine.