Batter Up – Part One

team_snarky_closeup_grandeI’ve never been so glad that I have a ball free son. Wait, that sounds really wrong and anatomically incorrect. Let me start over, my son is ball-less. Okay, that sounds worse.

Here is what I’m trying to say – my son has never been into sports. Although, we tried. Lord did we try, but he has zero interest in catching a ball, chasing a ball, throwing a ball, kicking or hitting a ball. He wouldn’t even hunt for Easter Eggs.

I remember when he was three and wearing the cutest smocked, seersucker Easter suit with little bunnies on it. We were at our church’s annual Easter egg hunt and my son looked up at me with his big brown eyes. No, they’re better than brown. My husband has brown eyes but my son, my beautiful son, has eyes the color of brown sugar, butter and heavy cream mixed together in a saucepan on the stove right as those three simple ingredients hit the magical boiling point and transform into a rich, frothy caramel. So, make that he looked at me with his beautiful caramel eyes and asked, “Why do I have to run and look for eggs? Can’t we just go to the store and buy candy?”

I tried to explain that an Easter egg hunt was fun and that he would enjoy it. He didn’t believe me and no amount of persuasion was enough to make him leave my side and sprint around the church playground looking for eggs. It wasn’t until he was 15 and I started putting $20 bills in special “golden” eggs that he ever got into the whole “Peter Cottontail hopping down the bunny trail” of it all.

I will admit that having a son who doesn’t embrace sports puts you into a parenting wilderness. You feel left out, bereft at times and are without a common denominator that allows you to freely communicate with other parents. Which is why when other mothers are sashaying around town wearing a team jersey with their high school’s son name on it and displaying their teenager’s football number with a car decal on their Rover I had a similar T-shirt and bumper sticker made up with my son’s SAT score.

Okay, no I didn’t but it doesn’t mean I really, really don’t want to. I actually fantasize about doing this. The only thing that stops me is my son’s fierce disapproval and fear that he might someday put me in a sub standard assisted living facility.

This lack of mom/kid sporting experience is why last week I was sitting at a Shipley’s Doughnuts in an undisclosed town in Texas with my mouth very unattractively hanging open, making me glad that I had at least stepped up teeth whitening regime. (Thank you Optic toothpaste.) I was listening to a horror story about something called the Little League Draft. At first I was all, “Wait, they draft kids? WTH?” And then it got worse. My two friends from my childhood hometown (I was visiting my parents for spring break) began throwing out alphabet categories like AA and AAA, majors and minors. Were they talking about batteries, college degree plans? Had they gone all adult ADHD on me and were having issues with staying focused on one subject? Worse, had they been drinking? It was only 10 a.m.

I finally had to ask them to please shut up and to slowly explain to me what they were talking about. They both looked at me like I was mentally flawed, like how could a mom not know about the inner workings of Little League. I smiled and said one word – “Clay.” That’s my son’s name.

They smiled back, nodded their heads and then my friend Lisa said, “Oh yeah, that’s right. You’ve never been a boy sport’s mom.”

“Nope, never. Not one game, ever.”

I couldn’t tell if they felt sorry for me or were maybe a little bit jealous. I’m going with jealous. It makes me feel better. So, following my instructions they gave me a quick course in Little League for moms who have sons that don’t play sports.

If you have a child who plays Little League you may want to skip ahead if you don’t stay with me. Here’s the deal as I remember it. (I could have gotten some of the finer points wrong. I’m not saying this is the gospel people so please don’t email me a lengthy treatise on where I made a baseball error or left out a salient point in the history of youth sports – subsection Little League.) The important thing to remember for the benefit of this story is there is something called the draft and it’s a big freaking deal.

Try outs precede the draft and parents, most especially dads, get into it. I’m talking special outfits, clipboards and filming stuff with their iPhones and having assistants (who usually answer to the name mom) that take down notes. It’s huge. The tryouts are so the kids can be seeded for the draft. What all parents are hoping for is that if their son is ten or older he gets drafted to the Majors. That’s the big time. Second best would be the AAA, then AA and so on.

In this neck of the Texas suburbs the draft is held in private at the Country Cup & Kettle restaurant three days after try outs. Only coaches, Little League staff (which are all volunteers) and the commissioner are allowed into the draft room. What goes on is top-secret. I’m guessing it’s kind of like fight club as in the first rule of the Little League draft is no one talks about the draft.

This is the point in my lesson where when I hear the word “commissioner” of the Little League I burst out laughing. Really, a commissioner of Little League? You’ve got to kidding me? When did we, as parents, drink this special brand of crazy Kool Aid? It can’t just be the head volunteer or manager? It has to be a commissioner? I’m dying laughing. Seriously, squeezing my legs together and kegeling to prevent any unsightly leakage. I abruptly stop laughing and immediately forget about my pelvic floor muscles when my friend Nancy says, “And the commissioner is Martha Barnett.”

Ugh! Martha was my introduction to a female taking bitch and making it a long-term lifestyle choice. I have no memory of her ever being nice. No, correction I have no memory of Martha ever being genuinely nice. Even in grade school she was the queen of the backhanded compliment.  One of those girls who would say things like, “Oh, you look pretty today (pause, wait for it, it’s coming) you know, for you. Did your mom buy that outfit at Sears?”

Being a pre adolescent girl, you are, at first all smiles because of the “you look pretty” comment and then your feel good moment comes crashing down and gets stomped on like a bear dancing the polka at a post hibernation cotillion with the “for you” dig and to really make sure you got the insult Martha always had a follow-up insult in the form of a question i.e. – “Did you get your outfit at Sears?”

As I got older I avoided Martha to the best of my ability. If I did come in contact with her I was locked and loaded with an arsenal of quick retorts. For example, sophomore geometry, she told me I looked “decent” and followed up with “for a big girl” and then did her zinger. “Can you shop at regular people stores?”

I fired back, “If by regular people stores who mean where there are clothes for people with good taste, then yes I can shop there. So, I guess that means we will never be seen at the same stores.”

Martha choose not to leave her hometown. As far as I can tell she’s had the same friend set since pre school at the First Baptist Church. I know I digress, but I feel duty bound to share this with all the women out there who have a BIG issue with making new friends. So, here I go.

The problem with having ONLY long-standing friendships is the inbreeding. No one being allowed to move in or out of a group creates personality mutations where the worst character traits of each person slowly congeal and breed to create defective friendships. There I said it. You know I’m right.

So, back to hating on Martha. I had just seen her, when I was visiting, over Christmas, at the HEB grocery store and she had morphed into one of those Monogrammed Moms. Gag.

Head to toe monogrammed from her baseball cap (of course) to her hoodie and Uggs. (How do you monogram Uggs you ask? Well, she had what looked to be a label stitched above the Ugg label with her initials in a diamond pattern. I believe the font she used was bitch.)

She rustled her cart right up to me and had a big ol, fakey, smile and did the four-second Y’all which is when someone purrs out the greeting. I y’all-ed her right back as she gave me the once over and then said, “You look the same as you did in high school, like you haven’t lost any weight. Hey you’re not pregnant are you? Oh what I’m thinking it’s probably the menopause bulge.”

I succinctly replied by telling her she sounded exactly the same and accidentally rolled my cart over her Uggs. As I was leaving the grocery store parking lot I noticed even Martha’s Suburban had a large monogram decal on the back window. What’s with all these car monograms? It’s like saying, “Help, I’m too stupid to remember which car is mine so I had to put my name on it.”

As soon as Nancy and Lisa saw my eyes roll at the mention of Martha Barnett they start bitch slapping me with stories of, “When Martha made three moms in the bleachers cry” and “When Martha told so and so’s son he shouldn’t be allowed to play baseball because he ‘made all of baseball look bad.’” I tell ya they were both turning me right off my bullseye which is a mighty feat.

The bullseye, for you poor souls who don’t ever make it to Texas, is a hole-less doughnut impregnated with the richest vanilla buttercream/Crisco-esque frosting you’ll find anywhere in the South. It’s yumminess continues with a light coating of chocolate icing, sprinkles (whose change colors according to the holidays) and a jaunty flourish of the already mentioned vanilla buttercream that adorns the center of the doughnut like the world’s most darling “going to church” bonnet.

When they got to the part about Martha stalking the Little League fields with a monogrammed baseball radar gun and holding court I got queasy. When they told me about all the moms and dads in town kowtowing to Martha because of her “power” I went full on CVS – could vomit soon.

It took a fresh 32 ounce fountain Diet Coke in a styrofoam cup to clear my digestive track of the nausea.  As I’m slowly sipping my D.C. I discover that the draft is this evening. Which explains why Nancy and Lisa’s emotions are running so high.

Apparently, for the past three years Martha’s twin boys Belton and Beaumont always get on the best team. Well, if I believe everything I’ve being told, it’s more of a super team that trounces every other team in the league, which is not supposed to happen. The draft was set up to allow each team to draft an A player and then a B player and on down the alphabet so no one team could get all the good players. Somehow Nancy says Martha’s son team gets frontloaded with the most talent every year.

I sat there and listened to this thinking well, nobody ever said Martha Barnett was dumb. But I was also a little confused and asked, “Why haven’t the other parents called bull shit on this? Isn’t there something in the, I don’t know, the Little League Constitution about this?”

“Who knows and we don’t do anything because we’re scared,” confessed Lisa.

“Umm, scared of what? It’s boys baseball not Putin in Crimea.”

This gets Lisa worked up. “She has the power to put our boys on crappy teams. To ruin their Little League experience. Their whole summer even. Little League determines a lot of things like if they’ll make the high school baseball team or have a chance at a division one college ball”

This makes me laugh. “Lisa isn’t your kid 11? I don’t think Little League is going to make or break his athletic career.”

Both Lisa and Nancy give me looks that say, “Girl, you do not know what you’re talking about.” And they could be right, so I shut up for a good ten seconds and then ask, “Why don’t you crash the draft and find out what’s really going on?”

They both sigh and then Lisa says, “How? The draft is top-secret.”

“How top secret can it be. Didn’t you say it’s held at the party room at the Country Cup and Kettle?”

“Yeah, but they close the whole restaurant.”

This is when I get a little ashamed of both my friends. For the love of God they are both born and bred Texas girls. Where’s there ass kicking spirit? Their ingenuity? There, for the lack of a better word that would be much more ladylike, balls? Hell, the three of us spent one summer inseminating cattle. If you can survive that you can pretty much take on the world.

I shake my head in shame for them and ask, “Does the Country Cup have free wifi?”

Nancy says, “Yes, but why does that matter?”

“Do the coaches bring in laptops or iPads?”

Lisa volunteers, “Yeah, they would have to. I know a lot of coaches keep stats on the boys in excel spreadsheets. I’m guessing they would want to consult and update those as the draft goes on.”

“Well, then problem solved. Give me a minute.”

I take my phone out of my jacket pocket and text my son telling him to call me ASAP. I would never dream of calling him directly because being a child of the 21st century he doesn’t believe in answering his phone. Apparently, only losers or old people do that. Clay calls me back and I ask him if I’m right in assuming if an establishment has free wifi that I could maybe tap into it from the parking lot and somehow get eyes on what was going on inside?

He’s very quiet. I can only hear him breathing on the other end of the phone. Then he says, “For security reasons I will not have this conversation on an unsecure line. We’ll talk when you get back to grandma’s. Oh and bring me two bullseyes. No, make that three.”

I hang up my phone and ask, “What time is the draft?”

Nancy looks worried and says, “Seven.”

“Do you want a front row seat to the action?”

They both smile and in unison say, “Yes.” And then Nancy adds, “I think.”

“Okay then, we need a car no one will recognize and we can’t use mine it has out-of-state plates.”

Both Nancy and Lisa say their cars are out. They’re covered in Little League stickers.

I think for a moment and then say, “We’ll use my mom’s. It’s a white 1998 Camry. You don’t get more nondescript than that.”

I suck down more Diet Coke and say “Alrighty, I’ll pick you ladies up at 6:30 and then it’s off to the draft.”

“That’s it, just like that, we’re going to see what’s going on?” asks Nancy.

“Yeah, just like that. Do you not trust me?”

“Not really, but it’s worth taking a chance.”

I wink at her and she just shakes her head like I’m crazy. Yeah, I’m worse than crazy. I’m crazy with swagger. Martha Barnett watch out.

*Attcover_1.3-2ention Snarky Friends, I have a brand new book out. It’s the second in the Snarky in the Suburbs series – Snarky in the Suburbs Trouble In Texas. You can buy it for your Kindle or in paperback on Amazon.  It’s also available for the Nook or you can get it for your Kobo reader. Click on a link and give it a test read.  I hope you like it! 🙂