A Doug's Life: Having a Ball is an Adventure

The ritual has begun anew.

We're barely into February and the rites of spring are upon us. All around Menifee, wherever there's a park big enough to have a dirt infield and four bases, you'll see them.

Baseball. Softball. Little League. Pony League. ASA. Fast pitch. Slow pitch. Travel ball. T-ball.

It's a way of life. Sometimes exhilarating, sometimes aggravating. Almost always addicting.

I know. I've been there. And as a recovering youth baseball and softball addict, it's interesting to watch these people from the outside this time.

Driving past Wheatfield Park on Menifee Road the last couple weekends, I have noticed the crowds. Not just the young people in tryouts and practice sessions. Also the "older" folks -- i.e., parents, grandparents and assorted other "fans" of the ballplayers.

They pack the stands. They wander about. Some volunteer. Others just cheer.

Work the snack bar? No problem. Need a team mom? Right here. Short of coaches? Sign me up, as long as my kid is on my team.

Some stay for a couple hours, others seemingly days. RVs line the street, as if setting up camp through the summer.

Ah, those were the days. Youth baseball. I played it, then coached it, then served on the board of directors. I wouldn't trade the memories for anything -- nor would I wish it upon any adult with high blood pressure or a quick temper.

So while I take a couple more years off before returning to the field to watch the grandkids play, I offer from afar a few suggestions for the adults who will be supervising and supporting the young ballplayers of Menifee the next few months:

Find the silver lining: Help the kids find something positive in the experience. If they lost the game, praise them for the big play they made in the field or their improved hitting skills. If those don't apply, buy them a hot dog and tell them you love them.

Throw out the stat book: Does it really matter what a 9-year-old's batting average is? Stats are for the adults, not the kids. Who's playing this game, anyway?

Don't give special privileges to your child: If you're the coach, it's likely your kid has received more mentoring than half the other kids on the team. Is that a reason to give your son or daughter the best field position, best spot in the batting order, and all the innings in the starting lineup? Be fair. Once you see little Irving the right fielder beaming after his first hit, you'll know why.

Don't deny standard privileges to your child: Now we're talking the flip side. Say you're the coach, your kid has pitched three hitless innings and you're winning, 10-0. Don't take him out just to give some other kid a chance when your only other decent pitcher is out of town. It might result in an 11-10 loss and a heartbroken son. Trust me, I know.

Don't leave the taquitos in the microwave too long: No one said that, when working the snack bar, you'd have time to actually watch the game.

Give the umpires a break: C'mon, half of them are teenagers and the other half can barely see. You're lucky they find anyone willing to subject themselves to that kind of abuse.

Watch what you say: When shouting from the stands, "Get a hold of one, Billy!" is acceptable. "Stick it in his ear!" is not.

Keep things in perspective: Notice the reaction of the different generations after a tough loss. You and your friends might be yelling at the umpires or second-guessing the coach. Meanwhile, the kids have already put it behind them and are laughing at each other through their snow cones.

It's a fun life, this youth ball stuff. Or at least it can be, if you let it. So play ball in Menifee, but remember this:

They call it a game for a reason.


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