Sunday, March 27, 2011

Friday Night Lights

Friday night lights in the Marchese home means baseball. Now, for all my die hard football friends out there, don't get offended or defensive. Yes, I stole the title which was originally meant for the familiar sounds and smells of our high school football team rushing the field. The boys of Fall who play their hearts out for the chance to go on to that coveted State division spot. But my boys are the boys of Spring. Pardon my bias for baseball, but it's what I married into and had planned all along for my kids.

Little league in Arizona is no different than anywhere else. From the little peanuts in T-Ball to the young men in "major leagues", all in their uniforms carrying their bat bags. It doesn't matter what their age is, those boys (and sometimes the occasional girl) step up to that home plate and bang the bat, practicing their menacing stare at the pitcher. Boof boof! Boof Boof! The red dirt flies up in clouds of dust, the sun sets over the mountains or across the field. The pitcher stares back looking at the catcher, raises his arms up, brings one knee up.... WOOSH! That white ball goes hurdling at the batter, he swings..... will he make contact?

CRACK! "FOUL BALL!" the umpire cries out as all heads swing upward to watch where that ball is going to go ready to yell "watch out, ball!" to anyone standing nearby not observing the game. Boof boof! Boof boof! The batter bangs the bat against the plate again, stares are exchanged, WOOSH! CRACK! The bat is eagerly thrown to the wayside as the batter takes off for first base wanting to slide so badly, but knowing he can't on first base. For some reason, that's what the kids at this age love to do.... slide. They will even do it coming up to home plate regardless if that ball is all the way out in right field.

I sat up in the score box last Friday night with John and a mom from the other team. We were doing the pitch count, she was doing the score book. We sat there and laughed together, helping one another keep stats, reminding the other that we were not allowed to "coach" from the sidelines as we were accustomed to doing in the Farm league. Nope, the Minor leagues are big business and us nervous, worried moms are not even allowed to go into the dugouts to console our children who are crying because they struck out or got hit by the ball. She turned to us and commented how she would not want to be anywhere else in the world right then other than where she was: in her home city watching her son play baseball on a Friday night. I had said the same thing to John the night before, that it was like the perfect night watching Zach play ball and sitting next to John on the bleachers cheering while Adam ran around with his friends. The other mom even commented how baseball families are always the nicest families, no matter what team they are rooting for and that is true.

Adam crouches down as catcher in front of us. I'm terrified that Carson is going to pitch that ball right into Adam's head, but that's what the catcher's gear is for. Adam doesn't let that ball get past him. The batter from the other team steps up to the plate, then I worry that the bat is going to make contact with Adam's catcher's helmet. I say a silent prayer to God to let this kid be okay as he's already been hit in the mouth by a ball that night. We watch the batter swing and hit the ball down the center. He runs to first as our boys scramble to get that ball to the base. The mom next to me is furiously watching all these plays making sure she's checking everything off and counting how many runs come in as only five runs are allowed per inning. I'm keeping track of the pitch counts to make sure that no one pitcher gets up to 65. Coach Sean swings by after each inning to see if we have the same number of counts.

Our boys are up to bat. We watch a scary play in which the other team throws a ball from second to third and the ball hits the third basemen square in the throat. No one is rushing out to the field to check on him and I want to jump up myself and run to him. What the hell are these people thinking? Finally I yell out that someone needs to get out there. The coach finally sidles out and checks him out, ushering him back to the dugout. It's been quite a night already as we had four kids not show up and thought we would have to forfeit. They've had two injuries now. It's freezing as we sit up in the box with our coats on shivering. Where are those 80 degree nights we are so accustomed to? The wind starts to kick up when the umpire sweeps the dirt off the plate and we cough as it enters our sinus passages.

Spectators ask us for the score. Adam's team is leading 10- 6. Dogs are observing the white ball being thrown around everywhere, wagging their tails wishing they could go after it. Siblings are at the snack bar asking for nachos and parents are happily cheering on their children. The other mom leans over to me and states that she has to pee. I start to laugh, understanding how she feels. Cameron is on the steps behind me talking to John. I see Zach on the bleachers surrounded by two other boys as he plays a game on his DS. WOOSH! Another pitch is thrown.... CRACK! The ball goes way out in left field as players round the bases, bringing the other team's score up to 9. "Hey ump! Was that call safe for that player or is he out?" the other mom asks as we have observed the third base coach confer with the other coaches when a player left the base too early for home.

Finally, the game has ended. They are only allotted two hours for these games and our team was leading in score anyway. The teams have quick meetings before all those boys make mad dashes for the snack bar to get their treats. Adam comes out of the line holding an icee and a lemonade. He's so proud of himself, knowing he did a good job. Our goodbyes are called out to the other families we know from both teams.

So, there you have it..... we don't have cheerleaders in cute little uniforms jumping around and doing fun dances. We don't have a band belting out Gary Glitter's "HEY!" or even the line for the players to run through as they leave the locker room for the field. But we have peanuts, the seventh inning stretch, players spitting from the pitcher's mound (that's for you Jay!) and adorable little sluggers across Scottsdale and the U.S. who long to be like A- Rod or Randy Johnson.

And I would not trade my Friday Night Lights or the other three or four nights of the week for anything.

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