My back door hallway is littered with bat bags, cleats, and helmets and there are clumps of dirt on the floor. My minivan is overflowing with half empty Gatorade bottles, undershirts, and hats. Saturdays are packed with games and my back is killing me.
It must be baseball season.
My boys (7, 9, and 13) love the game, but no one is as giddy to hear the national anthem and “Play ball!” as Wilson. His favorite time of year has him rushing home a few nights a week to coach third base, even if he has to do it in dress shoes and a buttoned-down shirt.
I must admit– after having no baseball experience in my life before becoming Mrs. Wilson– I was wary of the huge time commitment and long days on the bleachers. But I’ve come around.
Each of my boys plays a minimum of 2– maximum of 4– games per week so that’s at least 50 innings in my canvas chair by the dugout (those bleachers are murder on the lower back!) We eat like crap several nights a week and weekend plans are almost impossible with the ever-changing game schedule.
But there are benefits to being a baseball mom…..
—Parade One of my favorite baseball traditions is our town opening day parade. All the Little League kids gather in their primary colored uniforms (before half lose their hats) and raise team banners as they march through town. There are a few speeches and someone sings the national anthem and — even though we live only 16 miles from New York City– I always feel like I’m in Mayberry.
—Bonding family time Between school, sports, and work, we’re often running in different directions. Baseball grounds us as a family. We pile in the car and trek to a field to settle in for hours. Sure it’s a time suck, but there are few activities that bring us together the way baseball does. 7-year-old Eli makes himself right at home in every dugout– his or his brothers’– and 9-year-old Aden and 13-year-old Jacob usually find another player’s sibling to have a catch or play tag.
—Social outlet My boys play rec and travel baseball so we’re playing from April until August and the families we’ve met along the way have enhanced our experience. I met one of my closest friends on the sidelines of a baseball game. Other friends I see only during the season, but we pick right back up where we left off. People bring friends, relatives and dogs to games so it often feels like a big family. Because we’re all a slave to the game schedule we gather at diners, the town pool, and barbecues all summer. Sometimes we get organized and bring cocktails and snacks to games and we become like a traveling circus, with food, animals, and tents included.
—Forced outside time There are worse things than spending a sunny day watching baseball. It beats cold and rainy soccer season and the smell of a basketball gym!
—Excuse to eat ice cream Forget the peanuts and Cracker Jack, our go-to treat is always ice cream. Whether it’s celebrating a win or soothing a loss, a Strawberry Shortcake from the ubiquitous truck or a double scoop of chocolate from the parlor, we don’t go more than a few days without ice cream.
—Diversity of players Unlike some other sports, you don’t have to be the fastest runner, or the strongest hitter to play. It’s a very forgiving sport at this level, so there’s a wider range of kids who participate. There are plenty of boys who sit in the dugout discussing strategy and spewing stats as they wait for their turn at bat and find that as enjoyable as catching a fly ball. Baseball is more inclusive and fun for kids, regardless of skill level, so it attracts a wider group.
—Life lessons Three strikes and you’re out, waiting for your pitch, it aint over til it’s over. Baseball teaches all of us– players, coaches, and parents– lessons about courage, cooperation, and endurance. I still marvel that my boys– even the little one– is willing to stand in front of a kid throwing a ball as hard as he can, and has the guts, skills, and timing to hit it. Players are judged on individual talent but also have to work as a team, just like the real world.
I confess that by mid-July I’ll never want to see a baseball again, and the sound of an ump calling strikes will make me cringe. But for now I’m excited about the season ahead: dirty uniforms, busy weekends and all.