Thursday, June 21, 2018

Who's On First? A Guide to T-Ball

Ready at first base!
I got to watch the Mariners play ball on June 11. No, I wasn't in Seattle. These Mariners were stars of a t-ball game in Manhattan. No, not the Big Apple either. We were visiting the Little Apple.

But it was better than a pro game in my book. (However, the weather in Seattle might be more to my liking. The temperatures when the ball was first hit off the tee was still about 95 degrees at 7:30 at night and very humid!).
It was Kinley's second t-ball game. The first week, we'd received a photo of our rookie t-ball girl. By the second game, she and her teammates were practically pros. Well, practically.

Still, from what I remember from 25 years ago when we went through this t-ball stage with our own children, the Mariners are knocking it out of the park ... so to speak. Or maybe I'm just wearing rose-colored Grandma glasses.
Kinley played catcher one inning after some instruction from the coach. She did not get her ability to get down in that stance from Grandma!
Jill reports that the conversation among parents is that girls' teams are easier to coach at this age. In Stafford, the t-ball teams were co-ed.

In Manhattan, they have a girls' league and a boy's league. One experienced dad in the stands lamented that coaching a boy's t-ball team was the most frustrating coaching experience of his life.

For the most part, the Mariners paid close attention. Eric gave me a clue as to the coaching mastermind behind the scenes. At the first practice, one of the coaching moms told every girl to draw a picture in the dirt. Then she said, "That will be your last picture in the dirt on a t-ball field. We're here to play ball!"

It seems to have worked.
Stafford Recreation Yellow Team - 1992
I dug out a column I'd written for The Hutchinson News back in July 1992, Jill's first year in t-ball. She was the same age as Kinley is right now. I thought it would be fun to repeat it here for posterity:

I have been introduced this summer to the toughest spectator sport known to man or mom.

For you uninitiated, I'm talking about t-ball. Our 6-year-old Jill is on the Stafford Recreation Commission Yellow Team. She and her teammates are all still alive and well after four games, despite wildly tossed balls, thrown bats and a 0-4 record.

Confucius was known for his snappy sayings, but he didn't know a thing about t-ball or he wouldn't have neglected this vital bit of wisdom, "The kids with gloves on their hands don't run the bases."

Although I am no expert in the baseball knowledge department, I had to impart this bit of wisdom to my daughter during a practice session. She had dutifully tagged second, getting the runner out. But when the next person hit the ball, Jill took off for third base. I called her back with that bit of wisdom.

"That's t-ball," her coach said, laughing.
My sister, Lisa, who has already lived through two t-ballers and has progressed to the "big leagues," said there were two brands of t-ballers - dirt diggers, who most often are little boys, and bird watchers, a more unisex label.

I know firsthand that she is right. On my night to serve as dugout Mom, my responsibility was to keep the children in correct batting order. But I spent more time saying, "Hey, get out of that water unless you want a drink. Coach didn't bring it so you could build roads. Watch the game!"
Rainbow at Jill's first t-ball game - 1992
Bird watchers don't actually have to be watching birds. They could be watching rainbows, which was actually an option at our first game. They could be watching a late arrival to the ball field. But they are usually looking everywhere but at the batter and ball - until it streaks by them to the far reaches of the outfield.
Even the first graders who usually have a little bit better understanding of the game play what I've dubbed the t-ball shuffle. That's when they fight over the ball and in the process, kick it between bases and gloves while the runner advances yet another base.
Parents bring their video cameras, but they are missing the best action. They should filming the stands where the parents are yelling. Usually, it's a word of encouragement, with an occasional moan thrown in under their breath. But as excited as we all get, you would think it was the World Series.
"Kill the ump!" a dad yelled, forgetting where he is until his wife shushes him and says that's not allowed in t-ball.

Those road trips are tough on us parents. The first game was about 30 miles away from our farm. The entire way home was filled with questions from our confused t-baller.

"Mom, who was that guy who stood behind me?" Jill asked.
"Who?" I thought for a second. "Oh, you mean the umpire."
"What's an umpire?"
"He's the guy who says whether you're out or safe."
"What's safe?"
"That's when you get to the base before someone tags you out."
"What's that?"
"That's when the other team touches you with the ball or tags the base before you get there," I said.
Kinley on first base.
I was beginning to think we were going to do this variation of the Abbott and Costello "Who's on first?" routine all night.

"Mom, mom, why did we hit each others' hands?"
"You know. At the end," Jill persisted.
"Oh, that's to say, 'Good game!' to the other team and to be good sports."
"What a good sport?"

That's when a mother continues to answer question after question on the ride home from a t-ball game.

There have been some moments that have been worthy of replays - like the time our pitcher actually caught the batted ball. Parents were excited and so was the pitcher after she figured out the ball was in her mitt, not rolling around on the ground.

There were some spectacular slides. However, these were into wet grass and mud puddles, not bases.

They have actually improved. But we've got to remember they're rookies. I know how that feels.

It doesn't happen only to t-ballers. It also happens to farm wives on their first trip to the ASCS office. I got to sign up for a new CRP bid while Randy was back home on the combine.

It was like they were speaking a foreign language. I could related to Jill's questions about umpires and tagging, after hearing such foreign phrases as "highly erodible land conservation," "wetland conservation" 156EZ," "AD-1026" and on and on on on.

Even with my cheat sheet, I was out of my league. And, of course, Randy had forgotten to tell me something I just had to know.

It was like a trip to the parts store. They always forget to tell you something vital and you're invariably out of business-band radio range when you need to ask a question. (Now, there's a flash from the past: This was written before cell phones!)

"What basis does he want this off of?" Katie, the CRP expert, asked.
"What? I thought were were talking CRP, not t-ball," I muttered under my breath.

The people at the ASCS office were really nice. They can spot a rookie a mile away.

"I could explain it all to you if you'd like," one said.

I think I'll stick with t-ball. Thanks anyway.
After the 2nd game!
Note - I can NOT believe I found photos from Jill's first t-ball season. Even though they aren't great photos, I included a few here. After I found them, I just had to use them! Oh how I wish all the photos were organized! As I've told my kids, if you want the story of your life, you'll have to dig through plastic storage tubs. It would have been nice if blogging were a thing back then. But, if you read the At Home with Column from The Hutchinson News from 1992, cell phones weren't even part of regular life back then!


  1. Loved the article and photos. They brought back great memories!

  2. Thanks! As another grandma said, t-ball is easier as a grandparent.