As I took my morning walk today, there were some of the telltale signs of summer. I could almost hear the sounds of baseball as I passed these three neighborhood mailboxes. The green and gold star balloons and the one baseball balloon can only signify one thing: it was time for All-Stars! If you had these three balloons hanging from your mailbox, you were one lucky kid.
My many memories of Little League came rushing back to me as I began to remember all of those long summer months when my boys played ball for All-Star teams.
It took a lot of dedication, as these games generally were played in other cities around the state. Sometimes we would drive an hour or so away only to find out that the game was rained out. Generally that would mean that the team would then congregate at the nearest pizza parlor.
Other than pizza, our main source of meals would be at the infamous concession stands! These were the places where you could dine on blow pops (for the uninitiated--these are big, round lollipops with bubble gum in the very middle), popcorn, hotdogs and greasy french fries. I used to wonder if they ever changed out that french fry oil or if they just recycled it season after season! But, when you are out in "nowheresville" and hungry...you will eat just about anything.
Of course, as a baseball mom I had to learn how to cheer the team on properly by yelling "Hey, batta, batta (batter)!", "Saaaaawwwwinnngggggg (swing) batta!", "Play ball!", "You need glasses Ump!", "Way to keep your eye on that ball!", and "Don't worry, you'll get 'em next time.". We seemed to say that last phrase a lot during those days.
Both of my boys played on All-Star teams at one point of another...and one thing that I will never forget was getting those darn white baseball pants clean! Here in Alabama we have a lot of red clay...so, when the boys were through sliding around in the dirt (and the dirtier that you got....the more proud you were!)...good ole Mom got to try and get the red dirt out before the next game. HA! The moms passed around little secrets on how to do this...but, somehow my kid's pants always seemed to have some of that red dirt that just wouldn't wash out. Why in the world did they make those pants white? Black would have been so much more efficient!
Then there was the tension of watching your kid perform. It was quite stressful to watch strike outs, over-throws, and dropped balls.... interspersed with those little rare victorious moments of a really good play. As a mom, you wanted to run out on the field and give your kid a big hug whenever things didn't quite go their way...(...in which case your son would by horrified, humiliated and totally embarrassed!) But, when it was all over, we always knew that there would be another game, another chance...another day.
Even though I wasn't a big fan of singling out a few kids for the All-Star teams (which meant that they were either very good players...or, that they were going to be around in the summer to play in the games! One could never be too sure of why their child was picked!)...and, many times, the coaches were frustrated ball players themselves, putting a lot of unecessary pressure on these little boys...but, throught it all I have to admit that I really did love to go and watch the games through the years.
Walking past those mailboxes today made me realize how very much I do miss all of that...
I think that I will go and buy myself a blow pop for old times sake...