Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The LL Chronicles #4: Jalen Tries Out...Again

Since the end of Little League Baseball's fall season, my six-year-old son Jalen has remained in close contact with the game. During both Thanksgiving and Christmas week, he attended baseball camp at a nearby batting cage not-at-all pretentious training center.*

* -- In truth, the Frozen Ropes facility is a pretty cool place. Jalen seemed to respect the staff -- comprised of mostly former college players and minor league washouts. Meanwhile, Mrs. Bootleg seemed to appreciate the trainers' still-chiseled builds -- their upper bodies accentuated with ill-fitting Under Armour apparel -- and how, in my wife's words: "[Some of the trainers] just come up and give me a hug when I drop off or pick up Jalen!"

In addition, for the past month and a half, we've been regularly meeting up with some of Jalen's former teammates to practice hitting and fielding drills. Now, don't tell anyone, but I probably enjoy these outings more than my son. Y'see, when the kids are hitting, the fathers are in the field. And, I'll be the first one to admit that SOME of us take too much pleasure in turning 6-4-3 double plays against children.**

** -- It happened during our first practice. I was playing second base and Jalen was the runner on first. The batter hit a slow roller to the shortstop who flipped the ball to me for the first out. Knowing that my overly-intense son would be (poorly) attempting some sort of takeout slide or -- more likely -- sliding into the bag spikes cleats high; I cleared the base and fired to first for the double play in almost one single motion. There were witnesses to this.

Tryouts for the spring season were held this past Saturday. After last year's
tryout adventure, I assumed my son would be more comfortable with the chaotic Little League meat market scene. Jalen's greatest baseball trait is his enthusiasm and I was counting on that to get us out the door and over to the field where we'd wait...and wait...and wait for his turn to take three swings, field three grounders and shag three pop flies.

Enthusiasm!: Jalen's scheduled tryout time was from 10:00 AM to 10:30 AM. The kids were grouped alphabetically and by age while parents were given strict instructions to be there on time. I knew from last year's experience that these half-hour windows were the equivalent of an appointment at a black beauty salon -- bring an Ebony Magazine and expect everyone to be running 60-90 minutes behind. I had to fight with Jalen to get him out of the house. He seemed a little lethargic...hell, almost disinterested. Such preseason ambivalence hadn't been seen in
at least 20 years.

We Are Family!: The local Little League community is extremely close-knit. This poses a problem for me since I am the worst person on earth at remembering names and faces. Mrs. Bootleg, on the other hand, can remember everyone's names, faces AND their respective back-stories after one casual conversation. Since she wasn't with us, I was reduced to the role of
this guy.

I Remember You!: As Jalen and I navigated the multitude of mothers, fathers, prospective players and accompanying siblings; we were stopped several times by people whose faces seemed to light up at the sight of my son. He was remembered as the little boy who knocked over the catcher in a home plate collision during t-ball or the kid who "called his shot" before an at-bat last spring or the player who's uniform was consistently the dirtiest. Jalen was nonplussed by the pleasantries and couldn't be bothered to help out his old man.

Me: "Jalen, who was that?"

Jalen: "That was Joseph's dad."

Me: "OK, but do you happen to remember his name?"

Jalen: "I think it's 'Joseph's dad'."

Me: "..."

Power Mad: One of the least palatable aspect of my day job is dealing with the administrative assistants of upper, upper management. Many are dismissive, condescending and believe they wield as much authoritative sway as the VPs they support. But, they've got nothing on the leaders of American youth sports leagues. At tryouts, the director of our league's district -- armed with a shrill megaphone -- told kids where to stand, told parents where not to stand and offered shrieking reminders every two minutes or so. It was like I was
back in high school.

I Got the Fever: When Jalen's group was finally called into the dugout, I took a seat high atop the metal bleachers behind home plate. Moments later, I was joined by the mother of another child in my son's group. At this point, I should mention that I've been carrying a really bad cold for almost two weeks. I made some hoarse, congested conversation with the woman next to me, but after a few minutes I felt flushed all over. It was a warm morning -- on the way to an 80 degree day -- my head was tilted backwards, my mouth was noticeably open and the faucet of "fever sweat" couldn't be capped.
See for yourself. I picked a terrible day to wear a gray t-shirt.

"Now Batting...": I can already tell that Jalen is going to be one of those high-maintenance hitters. If even one inconsequential component of his at-bat regimen is out of sync, he'll need time to put his whole approach back together. Call him "Negro Garciaparra". As he walked to the plate and prepared to hit off the pitching machine, it happened. "Now batting...Jalen Cameron!" Jalen had never heard his name announced over the public address system before. He stopped three feet from the batter's box, instantly flashed a silly grin and anxiously looked around as if he wanted to hear it again.

Magellan Jalen: After his three swings, Jalen set up at short and fielded three groundballs. From there, he moved into short left field. My son is...not an outfielder. And, the machine that was feeding him fly balls was shooting them higher than any Little League bat could possibly loft a pop-up. Jalen held his own, even though his outfield routes bore an uncanny resemblance to a
certain comic strip.

Get ready for six more months of this, kids.


Lew B said...

Dude, I haven't even finished reading the post but had to stop and comment at the "..some of the staff come up and give me a hug.." comment.

So not cool.

All the pervert men at my AA meetings pull that crap. But at least there, it is supposed to be about caring and recovery. Why the heck would a batting cage guy need to hug Mrs TBG?

I'd call shinanigans if I were you.

Elena said...

Hey, Mr. Bootleg gets online love from adoring readers all over the world. Let Mrs. Bootleg have a go.

Aaron C. said...

HA! Actually, I approve.

*Everyone* hugs Mrs. Bootleg. I think people need confirmation that she's as short as she is.

And, why should *I* be threatened by the muscle-bound build of a former ballplayer when the exact same description applies to me?

More or less.

that mexican guy said...

I've taken my nephews to Frozen Ropes and talked with some of the staff. You're not exaggerating about all the Under Armour. Also, I think Mrs. Bootleg enjoys those hugs a little more than she lets one. Especially since everyone that works there seems to be between the ages of 18-25.

BTW - I'm calling bullshit (even by the lofty honor standards of bloggers) on the "I turned a double play in one single motion" thing.

Your creaky body rocks back and forth like a condemned building when you walk up ONE flight of stairs at work. We're supposed to believe that you JUMPED over Jalen, whipped a perfect throw to first AND stuck the landing???


thai said...

dear mr. bootleg,

you are, surely, aware that some of the readers of this lightly read blog have seen you toss roughly spherical cow hide-covered cork about and "fired to first" may sound a tad, dare i say, optimistic to us.



Lorraine said...

I can see it now... Mrs. Bootleg and I "taking lessons" at Frozen Ropes. Our cover story - we want to be able to keep up with our boys during baseball season. Yeah, that's a good story. Austin had his tryouts last weekend, too. Luckily, we take the same approach as the Bootleg Family: if you draft our child, you automatically get an Assistant Coach AND Team Mom.

sean in accounting said...

Am I the ONLY reader who's disappointed that you went with Morgan Freeman's megaphone over Jimmy Hart's???

Jag said...

Love these Little League posts (liked the basketball one too!).

Still think you should find a way to PUBLISH them!!!

Aaron C. said...

@Jag -- Don't think I haven't given it some thought...or sketched an outline in my head...or on paper. :)

@Sean -- Good call. I'll double up on the old school manager references next time.

@Thai -- In my defense, back when you and I played baseball together and you were at the plate, I didn't exactly have to "fire" the ball to first. (ZING!)

@Mex -- So's your face.

thai said...

does that imply that you *could* have fired said ball in any specific direction? :-D

Aaron C. said...

I'd like to think my legend was made at the plate.

thai said...

and your plates were made at legends. :-D

Aaron C. said...


Brilliant, Thai. I ain't topping that.


Carrie said...

In fairness to Jalen, I'm pretty sure that guy's name IS Joseph S'dad.

In other news, I'm equally excited that the little league recaps have returned AND that Jalen has not ventured into the world of football (those "early onset dementia" reports scare the shit out of me).

thai said...

thank you, thank you. i'll be here all week. please order non-dairy frozen yogurt with your server.

LaKisha said...

I'm so sorry that I'm late to defend my honor. Unfortunately, I missed this post, and my dear hubby had to shame me into reading it.

As far as the men at an un-named baseball training facility go, it was only one who hugged me. He played for my alma mater, so I guess that makes us kindred spirits. Yes, it was the highlight of my day, but I swear it had nothing to do with the muscles and under armor or whatever y'all were talkin' about. Honest!

Anyhoo, great post TBG! I'm sorry I missed it.

Mrs. Bootleg (your biggest fan!)