When Katie turned three, and everyone else was starting up with soccer, I devoutly stayed away from all things organized sports. She’s three, I’m thinking, and I’m silently laughing at all of my friends shuttling kids here, there and everywhere at zero dark thirty on a Saturday morning, or sweltering in 95 degree July heat at 9am, while I’m home reading the paper and drinking coffee (you didn’t really think I was sleeping in, did you? God made the perfect alarm clock in the form of a small child.) I didn’t really see the point … she’s three. How much coaching can you give a kid who will still pick junk up from the floor, and covered in hair or not, promptly pop it into her mouth, no matter how loudly and insistently you yell NONONO!!!? The same 3YO who resolutely, absolutely, stubbornly refused to potty train? Yeah, great idea – add in the fact that a baseball bat is just another weapon and sign me up, Jack!
At five, though, I finally relented … in part because the teachers at Katie’s daycare kept telling us she’s athletic (the jock gene apparently skips a generation … or two, maybe) and because some neighborhood moms strongly encouraged me to get Katie involved in a variety of different activities, with different girls – that way, when the Mean Girls come out and Katie’s on the outside with one group, she still has other friends she can run with.
So off to Plano Sports Authority, aka PSA to the Plano luxury SUV-drivin’, wine-drinkin momma set (not drinking AND driving – oh no … definitely not at the same time – that’d be gauche). Katie had just finished Kindergarten, so T-Ball it is – I go online, pick up co-ed T-Ball, sign Katie up, punch in my Visa number and anxiously await her team assignment. Since we hadn’t done this before, and since there wasn’t a group of neighborhood moms with a team already going, I knew PSA would place her onto a team that needed another player, or that she’d end up with the rest of the kids whose moms were
slackers just now signing their kids up without benefit of a preformed “team”.
Finally, I got the email from Coach Ian – she’s a Dodger! So I look at the roster … Xander, Soren, Brent, Josh, Jack … hmmm. No girl Dodgers. I check every other team in the league … no girls. Not.One.
Craaaaapppp … I’m new to this, did I screw up and sign her up for the wrong thing? Checked PSA and nope – definitely co-ed … so, where are all of the girls? I asked a friend if her daughter was playing T-Ball – and the answer was no, Eva’s playing softball. DOH!
But Katie, my abhor-everything-pink and anything girlie girl, the girl who loves Darth Vader and video games – she LOVED being a Dodger. She loved the uniforms, she loved practices, she loved the games, she loved her coaches, she loved her teammates. Katie once famously said, as she confidently strutted onto the practice field: “I’m gonna show these boys how it’s done” – but other than that, she never really noticed that she was the only girl. And, to be honest … she played better than a good number of the boys on the field.
Last fall, back to PSA I go with my used and abused Visa card, and now my only option is softball: boys have baseball, girls softball. And, being the fall league, there were very few girls and teams that signed up (softball being more of a spring sport) so we were ‘placed’ onto the Rangers, an established team centralized mostly around an elementary school other than Katie’s. The Rangers managed to finish first both in the regular season and the fall tournament (OK, there were three whole teams, but still – FIRST PLACE BABY!) And we were invited to join the Rangers again this spring.
So now the regular spring season is over, just when I’ve finally gotten to the point where not every girl with a ponytail looks the same, and I’m not saying “Good hit Ava!” and then going oh crud, that was Catherine (or vice-versa, I did that a LOT … but in my defense, it’s hard to tell them apart when they look like big bobbleheads with their batting helmets on). Competition is a great bonding agent with the other moms and dads (as a nail-biting first tourney game tonight has proven), and it’s easy to see how any parent can become THAT parent in the heat of the moment, forgetting that the players are all but six and seven years old. And yes, we have had our share of “those parents” (none wear Ranger pink, of course).
And other than being with all girls, softball hasn’t been much different for Katie than T-Ball. “Ranger ready” means the same thing as “Dodger ready” which is coach code for “Quit playing in the dirt already!” OK, so there’s maybe more crying in softball … Tom Hanks was wrong, there IS crying in 7YO softball; lots of it, for every possible reason from skinned knees to hurt feelings to somebody looked at me funny.
Katie still loves practice, her coaches, her team. My abhor-all-things-pink girl never makes a fuss about her pink uniform shirt, and even asked if she should buy pink sunglasses for game days. And she insisted on sugar cookies, shaped like softballs – and frosted pink – when it was our turn for team snacks.
As for me, the reluctant softball mom? I love the chatter of the parents in the stands. I love watching Katie in left center or at short stop, hustling after the ball, making plays. I even love Katie in left center or at short stop, doing karate moves, playing in the dirt, or doing armpit farts (OK, maybe not the armpit farts so much). I love the clink of the ball on the metal bat, the dirt that’s permanently embedded in her cleats and her glove, the chocolate-smeared, post game snack sticky fingers. I love how all of the coaches are teaching the girls the fundamentals of fielding, defense, batting and throwing with kind words and instruction. I love how Coach Kevan ends every game by asking the girls “Did you have fun?” and not being satisfied until people in the next county can hear 15 grimy, sweaty softball players all screaming “YEEEEESSSS!” at a pitch that only a gaggle of 7YO girls can seem to muster.
I love life as a softball mom.