It’s a little embarrassing to admit. You think I’d know by now I’d know; life’s not a movie. We don’t tend to experience a Tom Hanks-Meg Ryan ending on the top of the Empire State Building. But I still feel like we should. The recent fad of flash mobs has given me hope that someday, life will turn into a musical and I won’t be judged for bursting into “the hills are alive” or “the sun’ll come out, tomorrow” (or ‘fill in any other song from nearly any musical’ here). And, much to my utter joy, at baseball practice a few weeks ago while my little portable ipod stereo played my “pumped up” playlist, a few of the boys started an impromptu dance session when the first notes of “Happy” began. It gave me so much hope. This WILL turn out to be a sports movie (and a musical one, at that!), after all, I thought. Despite all the obstacles, we’ve faced we WILL get our deserved victorious ending. The underdog always takes the championship in sports movies. Surely, after all the crap, we’ve put up with – it’s only fair that we take this whole thing.
I even thought: we’d win this whole thing in honor of my dad. In my own, sad little way, this season was going to lift my spirits. I thought, well, we deserve to have an awesome, fun season.
Life is not a sports movie.
We had the deck stacked against us from the very beginning. It was an uphill battle. Mike went into the draft ‘blind’ (having been asked to head coach at the last minute). His only knowledge of the kids was knowing a few that were on our team last year and the one kid that Matthew said was really good (and nice and a kid that Matthew obviously wanted to become friends with). Mike picked this kid, Nick, for his first draft pick. Nick was amazing. At the first practice, we were so impressed and thankful that Matthew was our little talent scout. But, apparently, Nick’s parents took one look at our sad little team and quit the team and went to a different league. And that was just the beginning.
So, we were the only team all season with no ‘first draft’ player. We had the youngest team with several of our kids being 8 year old ‘play-ups’. (Granted some of our 8 year olds were our best players). All the other teams had at least two – usually three – second year players. We were the only team with only 1 returning ‘kid pitch’ player (and he was returning because he wasn’t good enough to move up to the next level). We took a ‘safety hazard’ kid that no one else would take. Mike was the only coach who let all of our kids try almost all of the positions, whereas most of the other coaches sat their ‘safety hazard’ kids on the bench as much as possible from the very beginning of the season. Mike was the only coach who would argue an unfair call even if it was in favor of the other team. We were the team scheduled to play top seeded team more than anyone else. We lost thrice to them, beat them once and tied them once.
Other coaches replaced injured players by recruiting outside kids – kids known to be amazing ballplayers. We made do with what we’d been given. (We found out last night that one of the coaches should’ve taken not one, but two of the safety hazard kids, but managed to avoid taking either). Several of the coaches have “been in the league long enough” that they “know” the rules. Mike had to bring out the rule book at several games pointing out that what they’re doing just isn’t right. They still got away with it most of the time, arguing so much that they confused and frustrated the umps who finally gave in. We’ve seen awesome, wonderful people (close friends of ours) turn full-on psycho when arguing calls on the diamond. It’s just crazy.
We were the lowest seeded team going into the play-offs. In our first game Saturday, we were able to beat the third seeded team and went on in a double-header against the top seeded team. We almost had ‘em – ‘til the last inning when they scored two runs more than us. Last night, we played a team that we’ve managed to beat twice (by a lot!). We were up by 6 runs when several errors and just lameness made it a tied game. In the bottom of the six they – as home team – had the winning runner on third base. Two outs. The ball was hit to Matthew at second base, he fielded it cleaning, threw perfectly to our catcher who tagged their runner – a couple seconds to late. Game over. Season over. Life ain’t no sports movie.
Sure, we’re proud of what we’ve done with these kids. They’ve improved so much. But you can only do so much when the deck is so stacked against you, when the other coaches aren’t following the rules and only care about winning and don’t seem to have the kids’ best interest at heart. This league has a reputation, and tons and tons of families have left it for nearby leagues. We’ve stuck with it for four years now, but like many before us, we’ve realized that despite our best efforts there’s too much resistance to change for the better. The drama, the name-calling, the craziness…well, it just might be time for us to move on too.
Cardinals - Out.