Monday, May 29, 2023

Sunflower Seeds

Sunflower seeds are a common element in the youth baseball scene. Most if not all of the players will have a package at practice and games. There's still the original flavor of David's available for old school baseball people like myself. But the kids prefer all manner of flavors over the original. There is also BIGS, a competing brand. I find many of the new flavors gross, BIGS taco supreme at the top of the list. Others are relatively palatable, like David ranch or David sour cream and onion. This can be an annoying part of youth baseball culture when kids help themselves to each other's seeds without permission, or when they spit seeds everywhere and a gust of wind takes a seed your way. But it's amusing to see kids take to the baseball custom of chewing and spitting sunflower seeds. I keep a package of David original seeds in my bag and enjoy them while on duty as official scorekeeper for the team.

Tough Day at the Office (Hitting is Contagious)

My kid pitched two innings on Friday night. He didn't have his best stuff, and he gave up some runs. There were some bloop singles, solid line drive singles, and a few errors. From a hitter's point of view, when you see your teammate have success at the plate, maybe it relaxes you a bit, and maybe it builds confidence that you can hit this pitcher too. From a pitcher's point of view, if you don't have your best stuff, you lose some confidence, take a little off your fastball, and worry too much about getting the ball over the plate. Suddenly a team puts together a string of hits in a row. We were behind 12-7 heading into the bottom of the 7th. There was some sloppy baseball on both sides. In ugly fashion, we came from behind to win 13-12. My kid said his arm was sore. He was frustrated. "Tough day at the office," I said, "this is how baseball goes." When he woke up Saturday morning, I asked, "You wanna know something funny about last night?" He said "I got the win." Exactly right. It was a rough outing, but he was the pitcher of record in the 7th inning when we won, so ended up with the win. Kid knows his baseball. 

When a kid is struggling on the mound, or at the plate, we can see a positive element of youth sports in that kids learn to deal with adversity. Coaches can instruct kids to change their pitching or swing mechanics, but ultimately it's the kid who has to figure it out. We can also see the kindness of teammates when they encourage their scuffling friend, e.g. by hollering "You got this!" or being supportive in other ways.

Sunday, May 21, 2023

Chirping at the Umpire

Tough loss today. 7-6. We got out to a 4-0 lead early in the game. By "we" I mean the team of 12 year-olds I help coach, including my son. My kid pitched 3 innings of shut out baseball. There are few things I'm fully present for in life. Baseball when my kid plays is one of them. It was like watching it in slow motion. My kid is on the small side, because genetics. It's enjoyable to watch bigger kids struggle to hit him. To be clear, there are many games he gets hit, and hit hard. But today was not one of those days. He didn't play perfectly, because no one does. He made an egregious baserunning mistake. And a bunt that he didn't place where it needed to be. On the ride home I told him to keep his head high. None of us are perfect. We win as a team and lose as a team. Too many runners were left on base. We made errors. We didn't hit enough. Collectively we didn't get it done. Cue Argent... Hold your head up

The coaches for the opposing team were chirping for the entire game. They complained about many of the calls the umpire made. They were relentless. I don't know how old the ump is, my guess is late teens. He did a solid job. Sure, he missed a few calls. But so does every umpire. Just like the players, umpires aren't perfect. This dude was solid. But there are coaches who operate like this intentionally. They chirp at the umpire all day long. To the credit of the opposing them, they came from behind and earned the win. They chipped away at us and beat us, legit. Sometimes, you're left with clich├ęs. You win some, you lose some. 

I should note, the coaches were complimentary of one of our players. They were impressed by our first baseman. One coach joked about how he would've been a good first baseman if he were taller. I can relate, I joked, as a fellow short man. Camaraderie among coaches is something I especially enjoy about the youth baseball scene. 

Sit on Your Bucket (On Being a Youth Baseball Coach)

Last summer, my then 11-year-old and his teammates played in the Ripken Experience baseball tournament in Myrtle Beach. It was awesome. It was also hot. We all knew it'd be hot in August in South Carolina. Kid you not, there were coaches from Florida complaining of the heat. I adjusted pretty quickly and thoroughly enjoyed our week spent in South Carolina. A buddy went to Coastal Carolina as an undergraduate so I used to visit him for Spring Break back in the early 90s. I hadn't been to Myrtle Beach since then. 

As one of the coaches for my son's team, I got to meet former MLB player Reggie Sanders, who gave opening remarks for the tournament. As a run up to the tournament, we listened to one of the organizers encourage us to behave ourselves during the tournament. In other words, act like grown men, and don't harass umpires. "Assistant coaches, let your head coach do the talking. Assistant coaches, sit on your buckets." We laughed. We did exactly that, we behaved and sat on our buckets during the games. I've taken that advice with me. I'm in my happy place keeping score for the team as part of my assistant coach duties. A lot of teams use GameChanger to keep score, but I'm old school and use a scorebook and pencil. I sit on a bucket, spit out sunflower seeds, and keep a good book. 

On occasion I see parents lose their cool and talk shit to umps, but mostly the parents stay cool when they watch games. I very rarely lose my temper in life so it's pretty easy to stay composed during baseball games. If I'm even close to getting mad, I remind myself to chill out and sit on my bucket. These are kids playing baseball, I remind myself, let's keep this all in perspective. 

Dreams of Being Unprepared for Class

The semester has ended. It's always weird when the emails suddenly slow down and there isn't grading and class prep every weekend. But I'm still having dreams of being unprepared for class. Last night I had a dream about the first day of class. It was minutes before teaching the Sociology of Aging--a course, in real life, that I haven't taught in 15 years--but there I was, dreaming of having nothing to teach on day 1. I have no plans to teach the Sociology of Aging anytime in the foreseeable future, but still I'm worried about content for class I won't be teaching even after the academic year has concluded.

This time of year, I do chapter updates for A Sociology Experiment. If I may plug the resource, check it out. These chapters are an unbelievable bargain. The Instructor's Resource alone is worth using A Sociology Experiment. I miss working with Peter Kaufman on our Social Class Inequality chapter. I'm proud of the chapter we co-wrote, and proud of the updates in place for the chapter and the Instructor's Resource. There's a compilation of supplemental readings, videos, and assignments in the Resource that ensure you'll never dream of being unprepared for class.

Unrelated to my life as a college professor, I also have a recurring dream of playing rugby. I played rugby in the early to mid 1990s as an undergraduate and then in grad school. I wrote my Master's thesis on rugby and masculinity. I miss playing the game, a lot, hence dreams about playing. My friend and teammate from the team we played on in my undergraduate days at Fredonia convinced me to play in a tournament this summer for 50+ year-olds. I'm 50, I figure, hey, I'm on the young end of this thing, why not? So I agreed. As a tune up I played rugby two weeks ago in an alumni game at Fredonia. Alumni ranging from twenty-somethings to age 60 gathered to play the current team. We beat them. I can't claim I made a major contribution, but I didn't embarrass myself, nor did I get injured. Mission accomplished. I'm still getting in shape for the tournament this summer and it's my goal to a.) not embarrass myself b.) not get injured c.) play well d.) score