My son's summer baseball season is over.  How it was able to completely consume my life these past months remains a mystery.  Okay, so maybe it's not such a mystery -- lots of practices, lots of games, lots of driving, lots of laundry, lots of last minutes dashes to the store for bottled water and Gatorade, and I had the added pleasure of being the team secretary.  (I'm not kidding; it truly was a pleasure... which probably says a lot more about just how exciting my life really is than I care to disclose.)
Everyone else referred to the job as being the team "manager" which is a laughable misnomer -- a gross exaggeration most likely created decades ago by some poor wannabe sap with an inflated ego.  I managed nothing.  I located fields, looked up directions, chauffeured, collected paperwork, parroted information given to me by the coach, and sent endless boring emails.  I'm going to go out on a limb here and guess Ron Gardenhire's responsibilities as team manager might be a tad more involved. 

It's not that I wouldn't have liked to have had a role in setting the lineup -- but, strange as it may seem, my opinion was never solicited.  What a shame, too, because the whole world knows a 51-year-old parent sitting in the bleachers is infinitely wiser than the coach when it comes to deciding who will play which position, who will be benched, and who will be the starting pitcher.  Most importantly, it is an oft overlooked fact that a middle-aged mom who appears to know next to nothing about baseball has a much better handle on when it's time to remove a struggling pitcher and put in a reliever.  Don't ask me why; that's just the way it is.  Oh, the games we could have won if only I'd been at the helm!  (Did someone mention a wannabe sap with an inflated ego?)

While it seems perfectly logical to me (and only to me) that I would have been a brilliant consultant sharing my expertise in roster decisions, I'll be the first to admit keeping track of the game was not my strong suit.  (Though I contend I always had a general idea what was going on -- like whether we were winning or losing.  What more do you need?)   Yes, it's true; I seldom knew the score or the inning, but I was not alone.  I missed a game once and sent a text to one of the parents asking for an update.  The reply came back, "Some think it's 4-3, some think it's 5-3, and some think it's 5-2."  Good enough.  I asked what inning they were in, and the response was, "We don't even know the score; do you really expect us to know the inning?" (Had I not been a regular fixture in the brain trust on the bleachers, this ambiguous update might have been a source of consternation.  As it was, I simply took the possible scores and computed the average.  Duh.)

I learned a lot about baseball this season.
- I learned you don't scream, "Nice hit!" to the batter if his ball is caught.
   (Apparently, technically, this does not qualify as a hit.  Who knew???) 
- I learned you don't say, "The score is 3-2," when you're losing.  You're supposed        to give your own team's score first: "The score is 2-3."  Duly noted. 
- I learned people who know baseball find it rather annoying when you cheer for          routine plays, and if someone catches a pop-up it might be viewed as overkill to        give a standing ovation.
- I learned when you have a good group of kids who get along well, you'll find the          parents are equally congenial.  (Which is truly a gift if you've ever been in the            presence of not-so-congenial parents.)
I learned well-maintained fields, permanent bleachers, covered seating, bona fide      bathrooms, real concession stands, and working scoreboards are more likely to          exist in a city with a population of 5400 than a  population of 29,000.  Go figure.
- I learned Mapquest and Google Maps and Yahoo Maps and Rand McNally Maps        all give different directions when you ask for the shortest route between two              points.
- I learned that despite the fact we consider ourselves to be loving parents, we              would be much quicker to pull the trigger on a pitching change than our coach who    had no biological or emotional ties whatsoever.
- I learned that despite the fact we consider ourselves to be loving parents, when        things were working well we were mystified (some might even go so far as to say      aggravated) by the seemingly indiscriminate (and sometimes fatal) substitutions      which were probably done purely out of the kindness of the coach's heart in order    to give everyone an opportunity to play.
- I learned that despite the fact we consider ourselves to be loving parents, we are,      where baseball is concerned, closet cutthroats. 
- I learned on any given day any given team can beat any other given team.
- I learned when called upon to do so, I can outshout the most obnoxious mother          from Mankato.
- I learned a dugout full of 16-year-old boys displaying poor sportsmanship by              attempting to distract our pitcher during his windup, is no match for a bleacher          full of angry mothers defending their young.
- I learned after a month of games you yearn for the end of the season, and when        the end of the season abruptly arrives you yearn for another month of games.

When the season began, no one had any great expectations.  Through a series of unfortunate events, these boys were unceremoniously thrown together at the last minute and not much forethought went into the formation of the team -- it was more the result of who was leftover after the better team was designed.  At that point no one would have guessed the "better" team wouldn't make it to post-season play and our scrappy kids would just keep on winning.  
Our team was one win from going all the way.  One win.  If not for that last game, we'd be playing in the State Tournament next weekend.  It wasn't one of those losses where the other team was a lot better and the writing was on the wall (though, frankly, it would have been more palatable if that were the case).  We had beaten them previously so we knew it could be done, but on that Sunday afternoon it was not to be.  It was one of those heartbreaking games where a couple of uncharacteristic errors led to frustration... which led to foolish errors... which led to that clarifying moment when you're reminded these boys are still just boys, and they allowed themselves to become so demoralized that they shut down with several innings left in the game.  This was not a typical reaction for our team, but after playing seven games in less than 72 hours, they were psychologically spent. They fell behind and felt as though they'd already lost, and like any self-fulfilling prophecy worth its salt, that's exactly what came to pass.

So, we're done -- and it's oddly depressing that we're done.  I felt like an idiot going through baseball withdrawal, but I've since talked to other parents and was relieved to learn it is a universal affliction.   

In the words of my son: "I can't believe it's over.  Just like that.  No more baseball. All those games and suddenly nothing.  I wish the top two teams advanced instead of just the top one.  I wish we could keep playing somewhere -- anywhere."

Me too.  

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