Jack had his first tee ball practice on Saturday. It was 40 degrees out. He wouldn’t take his baseball glove off all morning. He was excited to play baseball.
I didn’t know what to wear. Do I rock jeans and a sweater or sweatpants and a sweatshirt? At his last sports event – swim lessons – I would always end up in the pool with him, teaching him myself. Would the same be expected here? Or could I find a sunny place in the stands to watch, admire and read my Wired magazine?
I finally selected jeans and a long sleeve t-shirt, with a leather jacket and dark sunglasses. To put out that bad-ass vibe to the other parents. I also packed a bag with the latest New Yorker, Esquire, Atlantic, and Wired, and my iPad, and secretly prayed there was WiFi at Comstock field.
We got to the fields and we were the first ones there. I asked a woman who was in charge and found the head guy. He was finishing with the 9am session; we were early for the 10am.
“Everyone in Wilton calls me Coach Bob,” he explained. Clearly he enjoyed that. He was a classic gym teacher type: short, a little overweight, gray hair and gruffy, balding, with a confident, loud voice.
He reminded me of my 7th grade gym teacher. A man I feared. Gray hair, lots of yelling, and an uncomfortable period of puberty for me. Also, for some reason, that kid George with the terrible dandruff who had a locker next to mine.
He immediately tried to get me to be a head coach. “Need you to organize a team, get everyone’s contact information, and run the kids through some drills, and then get ready to play a game against another team.”
I listened nervously, and worked up my courage. Think fast! “Uh, I’ll do it if no one else volunteers, but I’d rather see if other parents are interested first.”
Long pause. I brushed my son’s hair back from his eyes a few times and studied the grass.
“Ok, I won’t hijack you before the others arrive.”
Relief washed over me. I guess he was fooled by the leather jacket, and assumed I was the confident, competitive, leader type. On the inside, I had no desire to spend this cold Saturday morning awkwardly talking to other parents. All I wanted was to get through the process of finding a team and get everything situated for Jack, so I could read Wired Magazine in the stands and admire how cute he was between pages.
The other parents arrived, along with 40 4 year olds, and chaos ensued. Coach Bob walked onto the field. Everyone gathered around him, waiting for him to render order.
He asked for head coach volunteers and thankfully there were plenty. Teams were selected. Jack went with his pre-school friends. I was about to head to the bleachers when they announced that all the parents were expected to coach. Ok, fine, I thought. Just embrace it. What kind of father doesn’t want to play baseball with his son?
Coach Bob passed out a sign-up sheet and asked each head coach to fill out names/emails etc and get it back to him. No one had a pen or anything to write on. So I pulled out my Adonit Jot Flip (a heavy silver pen which doubles as a tablet stylus) and the Wired Magazine I had stuffed in my coat pocket.
“Yeah I brought this in case I got bored. God forbid I watch my kid play baseball for a whole hour.” That got a few laughs – some fake, some real – and helped me see who the cool parents were. The laughs also helped me warm up a bit.
Coach Bob ran through his spiel – first drills, then run the bases, then hitting, and asked if there were any questions. There were none. It was quiet. I couldn’t resist.
“Where’s the home run line?”
Even Coach Bob laughed at that.
Some kids raced around the bases as fast as they could. My son was more meticulous about counting the bases and making sure he touched each one. I tried to watch like a cool, mindful, laid-back parent but a fire had started burning inside me and I could feel myself rooting for him. Don’t let that kid lap you! You can run faster than that! Come on!
On the throwing drills, he did amazing. He was throwing it practically over my head. Oh yeah. Some of the other kids were still trying to throw with their glove hand. Attaboy!
He hit the ball pretty good, too. I mean, for a 4 year old.
I spent most of the hour on first base, teaching kids to touch it and run towards the nerdy-looking father waving his arms on second base. I actually had fun talking to the kids, and meeting the other parents, who weren’t so bad after all.
Jack and I did ice cream after and he told me all about how fast he ran and how far he threw the ball.
His ice cream was the second thing that melted that morning.