Zach ran and ran, despite anything his coach said. All that ever stopped him was home plate, or getting tagged out.Another boy charged past third base, an outfielder in pursuit. A teammate threw the ball, and in trying to catch it the outfielder reached both arms around the runner’s head. The ball beaned the runner square on the forehead. He tipped his helmet, rubbed his noggin for one second, and shrugged.My son Roy, 7, hit his first (potential) home run, and ran like the wind to first base. He ran like the wind to second. Then he ran home, forgetting third base. Another boy once swatted a good hit, ran to first, and then heeded the parents shouting, “Go! You can make it to third!” He cut straight across the field to it.Summer baseball is heavily upon us. All over the valley, teams practice and play, sainted volunteers coach, and we on the bleachers watch, while the heat of the day wears off.In our Youth League are the youngest kids, playing friendly “coach pitch.” Some are veterans of a year or two; many are playing for the first time. The kids swing at everything, but they get six strikes. (When one boy misses, his entire body follows the spinning bat around in a 360. When he hits, though, he slams.)In a typical sequence, a kid makes a decent if unremarkable hit. Someone throws to first for an apparent out, but misses, and the first baseman chases the ball. The batter pelts toward second, and the ball is dropped there, and again at third. Balls fly back and forth across the field, and the kids just go, and go; I’ve never seen so many home runs. An inning ends after three outs – or at six runs.Roy’s team has the luck to have a vacuum cleaner of a first baseman, Tanner, 8, who stretches to meet the throws and seldom misses. Until a recent game their team had been undefeated, a fact in which Roy reveled, even as I pontificated about sportsmanship, and that we didn’t care if they won or lost.I got home that night, and told my husband it had gone well; the boys had lost but been very good sports.”Well, that’s too bad. It’s cool to be undefeated,” he said.My friend Lori told her husband she thought it was good the team finally lost.”What’s good about it?” he said.I’ve seen fathers leaping from lawn chairs to yell about technicalities: “Hey, don’t you have too many adults on the field [coaching]?” said one (the extra was a volunteer helping the umpire). And bleachers full of moms yelling to end a game, between kids from the same town, at a gentle tie.Baseball is great, and it’s nuts. Last week we had four games; this week is a practice, two evening games, and a tournament. I am dumbly thankful that this year my older son, 10, went on an extended trip with my sister, and came home too late to play. Yet he’s doing mountain-bike races, so it’s almost a wash.We get home late and eat late, and throw the kids in bed at 10, and then I face two hours of laundry, making lunches, packing for field trips, unpacking from a recent weekend, and baking a birthday cake.Logically, we should skip some games, but that’s more easily said than done. To my surprise, Roy, a disciple of all X Games sports and marketing, loves baseball. He knows when all the games are. He’s learning, and on a team.And he’s stricken if we parents plan to miss even 10 minutes: “But, Mom, what if I make a home run then?”Really, now is his best chance. They’re all learning. These days, Zach listens. They’ll be different players next year. Which is almost too bad.Alison Osius lives in Carbondale and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org (please write GSPI as subject heading).Alison Osius lives in Carbondale and can be reached at email@example.com (please write GSPI as subject heading).
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