I made my third sojourn to watch my friends' kids do their little league thing last Saturday.
A few weeks earlier, my guitar teacher/producer, Steve Gibson's son Guy was playing with the son of another pal, percussionist Mark Rosenthal's boy Julian. A week later, I saw my friend Ben Klein's son Isaac do his thing, and then last Saturday, there was the fun of a doubleheader in Lafayette.
Lafayette is a little closet community about 10 miles from where we live in El Cerrito, and on a beautiful Saturday I trucked off--top down on the car even--to watch my friends George Anderson and Julie Schmit's sons Ben and Zach play.
Zach plays in the Triple-A level while Ben is a level lower--both boys are ten--and Zach is at a point where he has shown some physical prowess, playing with kids that are a couple of years older.
I got to the game in time to see Zach get a hit and then toss a couple of innings--which is what I really wanted to see--as I knew he was indeed doing some pitching these days.
The reality is though it does eat up a little of what small amount of free time I have during the baseball season, I really enjoy watching the kids, who know I do baseball work and get as much of a kick out of my coming as do their parents, and even me.
Zach actually pitched pretty well and his team--the Athletics-won their first game under my guise, so then we moved on to Ben's contest where his Blue Jays' team was working at their own win (Ben collected a couple of hits, too).
However, what became interesting is that though George carried a pad and pen, tracking the kids' pitches with hash marks (there are pretty strict usage rules), Julie was asked to actually score the game for the team, an honor she had previously avoided.
So, I sat next to my friend and explained the numeric designations of the defensive players, along with the cryptology of decoding things like 43/G and 5/P. I also told her little tricks I have for tracking RBI and stolen bases, and marking the scoresheet so you can pick up the next inning in the right column with the right batter.
Julie is pretty smart and she picked it up quickly, although it was admittedly fun when a wild pitch or passed ball occurred, allowing a baserunner to advance a base (at this level walks and "steals" are the core of existence). "Is that a steal?", she asked, to which I initially replied, "No, that is a passed ball." Julie's perplexed raised eyebrows was the response and I said, "Just write it down as a stolen base for that is fine." Note that things like the Infield Fly Rule don't exist either at this level, and in deference to our kinder, gentler generation of parents, the "slaughter rule" has transmogrified into "the mercy rule."
Julie actually had to leave the game to meet friends for a night out before a wedding, so for the last two innings of the game she handed the scoresheet to me and I logged pitches and plays and outs, which was actually kind of fun.
For one of the reasons I so enjoy watching my friends' progeny play is that Infield Fly Rule and such aside, the kids are indeed playing the same game they play at ATT and the O.co Coliseum, where I indeed track stats the same way for Major League Baseball.
Which, curiously I found myself doing both the next day--last Sunday--on another beautiful day in San Francisco, then again on Thursday night in Oakland.
While the Sunday game was really crisp (two hours and twenty-eight minutes), the Athletics/Orioles match-up was torture, with five four-pitch walks (and four more 3-0 counts that could have become walks). There were errors and misplays, and the reality is that it always amuses me that the smoother the game on the field, the easier it is to track the pitches and subsequent disposition.
Meaning the Sunday Giants game was pretty easy, while the Athletics game was much closer to Ben's Blue Jays game, where passed balls and wild pitches and the Infield Fly Rule were as illusory as guys throwing strikes in Oakland.
How can you not love the madness and beauty of that?