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Saturday, October 11, 2014

Orange With Envy

As you probably know by now, the Washington Nationals were eliminated in the first round of this year's baseball playoffs.  Yes, just like in 2012, the team that led the National League in wins was defeated by the Wild Card team, in this case the San Francisco Giants.  All the talk of a "Beltway World Series" between the Nationals and Orioles quickly faded away and is now a distant memory.

So what happened?  Well the games weren't really that exciting.  In game 1, which my husband and 10-year-old son attended, Bryce Harper and Asdrubal Cabrera hit home runs, but they were the only runs scored by the Nationals in the 3-2 loss.  Don't get me wrong - we had a great time at the game.  My main purpose in going was to create some unforgettable memories for my baseball-loving son, and I'm pretty sure we achieved that.  He got his curly "W" pretzel, we bought a post-season program, and we were given free rally towels, which we can bring to future games (those rally towels, I might add, are very hard to spin.  I mean, I can do the "Macarena," I can jump a mean double-dutch jump rope, but for the life of me I could not spin that thing without wrapping it around my hand or swatting my husband with it across his face).  My son enjoyed the pre-game military fly-over and was able to experience one of the hardest-hit home runs at Nationals Park.  For us, it was a good day.

The second game was a disappointing one.  The Nationals were leading 1-0 in the top of the ninth inning with two outs, and Jordan Zimmermann (who had pitched the entire game) was removed after walking his first batter.  That is the move - not the wild pitch in game 4 - that cost the Nationals the game, the series, and a lot of sleep (you see, that game ended up going 18 innings, ending in a 2-1 loss).

Game 3 was a little better, since the Nationals won it 4-1 in San Francisco.  But they lost the next game (and the series) again by a score of 3-2.  So in four games, the Nats were only able to muster 11 runs.  The pitching was fine - all four starters pitched respectably - but no one was hitting.  I shouldn't say no one - Bryce Harper and Anthony Rendón's bats were somewhat hot - but leadoff hitter Denard Span, who ended the regular season with a team-record 184 hits, failed to get on base much during the playoffs.  Adam LaRoche and Jayson Werth, the heart of the Nationals' batting order, went 2 for 35.  2 for 35!  I don't have an explanation for their lack of offense - they just plain did not hit.

So what does it feel like when your team is eliminated so early after showing so much promise during the regular season and after being picked by many to win the World Series?  Well it just sucks - plain and simple.  You spend six months following these guys - 162 games day in and day out.  You memorize their statistics and batting stances.  You start calling them by their first names or nicknames as if they're your buddies or neighbors (in my case, my younger brothers).  You get totally consumed in all things Nationals, wearing your red "W" lanyard at work and helping your son pick between his Werth jersey or his Harper one.  And then all of a sudden the last out of the last game is made, and it's all over.  Just like that.  Change out your lanyard, put the jerseys away, and forget about bidding for a Jayson Werth garden gnome on eBay.

What makes it more frustrating is that baseball is not over.  There are still plenty of games to be played this postseason, with 4 teams still vying to make it to the World Series.  The Orioles and Royals are playing in the ALCS, and the Giants and Cardinals (again!) are at it in the NLCS.  But the Nationals - their players, managers, massage therapists and athletic trainers - are all back home licking their wounds.  They were not the underdogs, like the Royals - they were the top contenders and they lost.  This fan, at least, is disappointed and feels let down. :-(  I did watch game 1 of the ALCS (and will continue to watch until the last out of the last game of the World Series), but it just wasn't the same.  I was watching as a casual fan, rooting for the hometown Orioles but not disappointed when the Royals (whose players are cuter) scored some runs of their own.  Oriole Park at Camden Yards, only an hour away, was packed with fans - some of whom I knew - in their orange sweatshirts waving their orange rally towels, smiling and cheering and rooting for their birds while I sat on my couch wanting to get excited but just not able to.

But hey, wait a minute!  This is actually way less stressful!  I have nothing invested in any of these teams; I don't own any jerseys or t-shirts for any of these clubs and I don't have to wait for a commercial to go use the bathroom!  I can go to bed at a decent time before a game is over if I want to!  I can root for Yadier Molina and Buster Posey at the same time!  I can make fun of the color commentators instead of getting upset at how little they actually know about the Nationals!  I can like both Markakis and Moustakas and any other player with a Greek last name who happens to come along!  I can side with the umpires during a play challenge and laugh at the fans who get upset when a call in their team's favor is overturned!  Hey, I can enjoy these last 2 weeks of baseball - and guess what?  I WILL!

Friday, September 26, 2014

Goodbye to #2

In case you've been living under a rock and didn't know that Derek Jeter of the New York Yankees is retiring at the end of this season, let me be the first to tell you (of course, if you've been living under a rock for over 20 years, you may not even know who Derek Jeter is, so stop reading this now and go take a shower!).  Jeter has had a storybook career full of personal and team accomplishments and free from scandal, gossip, or inappropriate tweets.  Look up "All-American boy" in the dictionary, and there is a picture of Derek Jeter.

Much has been hyped about Derek Jeter's retirement; not only because he announced it about six months ago and has had a whole season to milk it wherever he goes (he has received numerous retirement gifts at each city the Yankees have visited), but because Derek Jeter is pretty great.  Yankees fans idolize him, and even us Yankees dis-likers who have followed his career ("hate" is too strong a word, reserved for liver and onions, dental work, and my first marriage) have to admit that he's a pretty cool dude.

Born in New Jersey and raised in Michigan by a substance-abuse counselor father and accountant mother, Derek was drafted by the Yankees in 1992 and has exclusively worn pinstripes ever since.  Among his accomplishments (I can't include all seven hundred of them) are 14 All-Star game appearances, five World Series championships, the AL Rookie of the Year award in 1996, and over 3,460 career hits (sixth in the all-time hits list).  He has had many "storybook" moments, like when he hit his 3000th hit for a home run and had a walk-off single in his last game at Yankee Stadium.  He is also very philanthropic, starting the Turn 2 Foundation to help teens with substance abuse.  His jersey number, 2, will most likely be retired by the Yankees in the near future, leaving no more single-digit numbers for future Yankees players to use.

Off the field, this "golden boy" had cameo appearances in a handful of TV shows and movies (my favorite was in the movie "The Other Guys"), and he endorsed many different products from the typical ones like Gatorade and Nike to more interesting ones like his own "Driven"cologne by AVON.  And I'm sure he's not done - we will surely be seeing Derek Jeter's pretty face on TV for decades to come.  I'm OK with that, as long as he has a self-deprecating sense of humor and doesn't come across as having no personality.

How "great" is Jeter's legacy?  It depends on whom you ask.  Some say he's better than Babe Ruth, while others say he was just an OK shortstop who happened to play for a long time.  While Omar Vizquel will always be my favorite defensive shortstop, I will always admire Derek Jeter for his offensive talent, his leadership as the Yankees' captain, and for his ability to keep his nose clean and scandal-free in New York, which can be a tough city to live and work in if you're a celebrity.

So now that Derek Jeter has played his final game at Yankee Stadium ("the house that Derek built"), let's get excited about playoff baseball - WITHOUT the Yankees! :-)

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Rip Van-Me Finally Woke Up!

So much has happened in baseball since I last posted on my blog!  The Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw notched his Major League-leading nineteenth win on his way to yet another Cy Young award (remember my previous post about being "bad-ass?"  Kershaw is definitely one of those!); the Houston Astros fired second-year manager Bo Porter; team owners elected a new Commissioner who will take over after Bud Selig retires in January (and they didn't pick me!); the Kansas City Royals inched their way closer to a playoff spot; and did you hear that Derek Jeter is retiring?  I know; I had no idea either!

Let's take a peek at the division standings and how things look playoff-wise now that I'm back to the grind (by the way, my husband and I went to two games at Nationals Park during my hiatus, so I was definitely paying attention!).  In the AL West, the Los Angeles Angels (which in Spanish means "the angels angels") became the first team to clinch a playoff spot and have the best record in the Majors.  People will watch them because of Albert Pujols and Mike Trout, but they should also pay attention to Matt Shoemaker, Howie Kendrick, and Erick Aybar.  They're surely going to have the AL West clinched by the end of the week, and people better start paying attention to these guys.

In the AL Central, things aren't so cut-and-dry.  The Detroit Tigers are only a game and-a-half above the Royals, who refuse to give up and are hungry for a playoff birth.  Some people are tired of the Cabrera-Verlander-Scherzer Tigers and want to see the Royals have a go at a pennant (they haven't amounted to much since the days of George Brett.  Pine tar, anyone?).  I would be happy with either team.  The Tigers are always fun to watch since they have such collective talent, but the underdog Royals would be a breath of fresh air.  And they have some cute guys on the team too!

As far as the AL East, it's Baltimore all the way.  They hope to clinch their playoff spot tonight (or may already have, depending on when you read this), and they've played some really good baseball despite injuries to key players.  Last year's home run leader, Chris Davis, has to serve a 25-game suspension for not submitting the appropriate paperwork to allow him to take his ADHD medication, but it's not like he was hitting anywhere close to last year, so the Orioles will be fine without him. 

On to the National League, where my mighty Nationals are also hoping to clinch a playoff spot tonight (if they can beat those annoying Braves).  Their lineup is solid, their starting rotation is strong (with Geo Gonzalez as the weakest link - who would've thought that would be the case this season?), and their bullpen is decent.  They fired Rafael Soriano as their closer and replaced him with Drew Storen, who was the closer when the Nationals lost to the Cardinals in the 2012 playoffs, but Storen has matured a lot and is better able to handle stressful situations.  Now if only I could afford to attend a playoff game...

In the NL Central, those darn Cardinals are in first place AGAIN.  Aren't we all sick of the Cards?  Really; give those Pirates a chance, will ya?  The Bucs are only 3 1/2 games out, and are technically still "in it."  Plus they have Andrew McCutchen, whom everyone loves, and a nicer ballpark and better fans.  Plus the "pirate" was my high school mascot, so there's that.  A lot depends on how the San Francisco Giants do (that whole Wild Card thing is a whole other story).

Lastly, the NL West belongs to the Dodgers, who have excellent pitching, a great manager in Don Mattingly, and an enigma named Yasiel Puig.  While an all-LA World Series would be boring to most casual fans, I would find it interesting and would actually root for one if the Nationals and Orioles are eliminated in the playoffs.  I could easily live vicariously through the LA fans but would have a hard time picking a favorite team (while I usually root for the National League team in the World Series, I like the Angels a little more than the Dodgers, so I would definitely be torn).  Yes, a "Beltway Series" would be super-exciting for those of us here in the mid-Atlantic, but a west-coast series would suffice.

So as you can see, there is still a LOT of baseball to be played and most playoff teams to be decided.  As for me, I promise to blog more, because I really missed writing while my life was busily filling up with family obligations, kids' activities, and the demands of my "real" (paying) job.  I'll be back soon with more predictions and more shallow commentary (sorry!), but in the meantime, keep rooting for those Nationals, Orioles, and Pirates! 

Friday, August 1, 2014

A Trade-Trade Here and a Trade-Trade There (with a peek at our next Commissioner?)

Every year, the end of July brings with it a lot of wheeling and dealing between Major League baseball teams.  With a deadline of July 31st, teams in contention do whatever they can to strengthen their rosters, and loser teams give up some good players with hopes of getting some prospects or cash in return.  Many of these players being traded are going to be free agents at the end of the season, so they're being traded solely for the purpose of helping a team get to the World Series and sometimes don't return with that team the following season.  It makes things exciting, because most teams wait until the last minute to make their trades, leaving us nerdy fans at the edge of our seats until 3:59 pm (after 4:00 on July 31st, no more trades can be made).

This year was no exception.  The day started with the Oakland A's surprisingly getting rid of slugger (and two-time Home Run Derby champ) Yoenis Céspedes in exchange for starting pitcher John Lester and older-than-dirt Jonny Gomes, who has played for more teams than I can count (he's actually only 33, but he has played for 7 different teams, so it seems like he's been around forever).  This trade left me going "Huh???" because it doesn't seem to make much sense.  While I normally don't question anything that A's General Manager Billy Beane does, I think renting Lester for 2 months (he will be a free agent at the end of the season) at the expense of losing Céspedes was very risky.  But Beane has made it very clear that he wants to make it to the World Series this year, so I guess he has the off-season to worry about restructuring his ball club.  In the meantime, the Red Sox are going to be hitting home runs left and right with Céspedes and David Ortiz, but will sadly remain in the basement of the AL East.

Another trade worth mentioning involved three teams.  Former Cy Young Award winner David Price went to Detroit (a team that now has three Cy Young winners in its rotation), the Tigers' Austin Jackson went to Seattle, and Drew Smyly and Nick Franklin went to Tampa Bay (Smyly was with the Tigers and Franklin was with the Mariners).  I know; very confusing!  What killed me was that Austin Jackson was removed in the middle of the Tigers' game against the White Sox - manager Brad Ausmus went out to the home plate umpire in the middle of the seventh inning to let him know that Jackson was being removed because he had just been traded.  Couldn't they wait for the inning to finish?  Poor Jackson looked a little confused, and when he reached the dugout, all his teammates were giving him good-bye hugs.  That's when I feel like these guys are treated like cattle, but then I remind myself how much money they're making, and I stop feeling badly.  Still - were they going to give Jackson a few minutes to go to his apartment and get his things? 

And of course my Washington Nationals couldn't sit there and watch everyone else get traded; they had to get in the game as well, acquiring infielder Asdrubal Cabrera from the Cleveland Indians for Zach Walters and some cash.  Cabrera will be a welcome addition to the Nats' infield, since third baseman Ryan Zimmerman has a Type 3 hamstring strain that has him on the Disabled List for a long time (in case you were wondering, "Type 3" means his hamstring is so messed up that it's practically hanging by a dental-floss-thin muscle fiber and can roll up like a cheap window shade at the slightest movement).  Ryan's absence has me so sad, because he's the quintessential clutch hitter who always came through in the bottom of the ninth inning.  The Nationals are trying to fill that void by moving Anthony Rendón from second base to third (his natural position) and putting newly-acquired Cabrera at second base.  Problem is, Cabrera is a natural shortstop and hasn't played second base since 2009.  Is that an issue?  I don't know; I haven't made the transition from shortstop to second base myself, so I can't speak from experience.  

Something else that is noteworthy from this past week's baseball action was the appearance of former President George W. Bush when the Texas Rangers hosted the New York Yankees.  Bush was there as part of a pre-game ceremony in honor of Derek Jeter (have you heard that he's retiring?  I KNOW - I had NO IDEA!)  And I would be remiss if I didn't mention that Ivan Rodriguez was there too.  Anyway, I have always thought that "W" would make a good baseball Commissioner.  No, I'm not high; hear me out for a minute.  He's a former team owner like current Commissioner Bud Selig was (I'm OK with former owners being Commissioners as long as they know a baseball from a softball), he is a genuine fan, and regardless of my political views, I can admit that he has charisma.  He definitely seems more personable than Selig, and he would do a better job at throwing out a first pitch than most people who make that attempt.  So if they're not going to offer me the job, the next-best person may just be POTUS #43.  Again, my observation has NOTHING to do with my political views!

Alrighty, friends - two more months of regular-season baseball left and two more games for my husband and I to attend.  Keep cheering for the Nationals and Orioles (or at least cheer against the Phillies, Braves, and Yankees), and keep an eye on José Abreu of the White Sox, who currently has a 20-game hitting streak going.  Gosh, I hope I didn't jinx him by mentioning it!

Monday, July 14, 2014

Halfway Over Already???

Happy All-Star break, my friends!  As we look back on the first half of the 2014 baseball season, we Washington Nationals fans should be pretty pleased with our team.  Not only are the Nationals in first place in the NL East (percentage points above the Atlanta Braves); the Nats have won 10 of their last 14 games, their bats have come alive, and their pitching continues to be solid.  And I have to mention the Baltimore Orioles too - just because Chris Davis isn't hitting doesn't mean the team doesn't deserve to be in first place in the AL East - go Os!

While some ESPN critics claim that the Nationals have “under-performed” during the first half of the season, I have to say that these people are idiots and are only looking at statistics on paper.   The Nationals are tenth in the National League in batting with a team average of .246, and their best average is held by cutie Anthony Rendón, who is batting .287 (number 22 on the NL list).  But that doesn’t tell the whole story.  The Nationals lead the NL in pitching, with a 3.08 team ERA, starter Stephen Strasburg leads the league with 149 strikeouts, and closer Rafael Soriano has 22 saves with a 0.97 ERA.

And how about all those guys on the Disabled List?  Bryce Harper, Ryan Zimmerman, and Wilson Ramos all spent most of the first half of the season on the DL, and as far as pitchers, Doug Fister and Gio Gonzalez also had short stints on the List.  So chill out, critics; the Nationals are right where they need to be at the halfway point of the season.

But what do the Nationals need to do to remain on top?  First, Bryce Harper needs to do some hitting.  Since his return from the DL, Harper has gone 6-40 with one home run.  Bryce is a talented kid – I know he can hit!  Hopefully he can analyze his swing during the break (isn't that what they all do - "review the tapes?"), take some pitches from his dad, and come back ready to do some damage.  Just think about your parents, Bryce; you're embarrassing them!

The Nationals also need to get rid of Danny Espinosa.  Don’t send him down to the Minors – trade him for some prospects or some cash or for a nice hand-made Amish quilt.  He calls himself a switch hitter but can’t hit from either side, and just being a good fielder is not enough if you can’t hit.  Danny has to go - he plain old sucks.

Finally, the Nationals HAVE to beat the Braves.  They have nine games left to play against the Braves this season, and they need to win at least 5 of them.  The Braves aren’t all that – their hitting has been up and down and their pitchers aren’t as dominant (except for that Craig Kimbrel guy with his weird pitching stance) – so there’s really no reason why the Nationals can’t win most of their remaining games against the Braves.  If anything, they need to win the games in Atlanta so I don’t have to hear that annoying “Tomahawk Chop” that their fans do when their team is winning. 
How about the rest of the teams in the Majors - any surprises during the first half?  Well I'm glad you asked!  I'm surprised to see the World Champion Red Sox on the bottom of the AL East; I'm a little surprised that the Oakland A's have the best record in baseball; and I'm saddened that the Cardinals' Yadier Molina is going to be out for a while with a torn thumb ligament.  Ouch!  I was even sad to see a Yankee go down (and that's rare for me!) when rookie pitcher Masahiro Tanaka suffered a partial tear of the ulnar ligament in his pitching arm.  He had my vote for Rookie of the Year, but now he has to undergo all sorts of aggressive rehab which will sideline him for a while.  Luckily, he may be able to avoid Tommy John surgery because he had platelet-rich plasma injected into his elbow, and that's supposed to make the tear heal itself.  Let's hope it works, but not if the Yankees make it to the post-season. :-)

So, my friends, the second half of the season should be a good one.  Enjoy tonight's Home Run Derby (I'm rooting for Giancarlo Stanton) and tomorrow's All-Star Game (National League fan, obviously!), and may the second half bring good health and many home runs to the Nationals and Orioles.  I, for one, would love to see a "Battle of the Beltways" World Series-style!

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Phew! I'm Back!

Mercy me!  It's hard to believe that I hadn't blogged in over a month!  May was utterly crazy with 3 family birthdays, my daughter's 8th-grade graduation, my son's hectic and unpredictable baseball schedule, and house guests.  Now that life has settled down a little and my husband and I have returned from our vacation in Italy (sans kids - it was just terrible!), I can finally take a breath and focus on my blog.

A lot happened in Major League Baseball during my hiatus - the Dodgers' Clayton Kershaw no-hit the Rockies, Hall of Famer Tony Gwynn passed away, and my husband and I went to Nationals Park to watch the Nats gets their butts kicked by Yu Darvish and the Texas Rangers.  But hey, my Nationals are in first place in the NL East, so there's that.

One thing I've neglected to do this season, which I usually do in May, is to submit my All-Star ballot.  Since it's better to do it late than not do it at all, I went ahead and voted earlier today (it's Primary Day here in Frederick, so why not vote?).  Some of my usual players are there (Miggy, Canó, Yadier) and some are new (Blackmon, Prado, Perez).  Here are the players who got my vote and the reasoning behind my selections:

First base:  Sorry, Orioles fans; the Tigers' Miguel Cabrera always gets my vote.  Until he decides to have a crappy year or switch to DH, he will always get my vote over Chris Davis.

Second base:  I could have voted for José Altuve, but just like with first base, Robinson Canó always gets my vote.  He is just bad-ass, especially since he's no longer a Yankee.

Shortstop:  Alexei Ramirez of the Chicago White Sox gets my vote this year.  Not voting for Derek Jeter should come as no surprise to you if you've read my blog in the past.

Third base:  I really wanted to vote for Manny Machado, but since he was out for the beginning of the season, I had to go with the Rangers' Adrian Beltre.  He's batting .309 so far this season, so there.

Designated Hitter:  As much as I hate the DH, I forced myself to vote so I would have a full ballot.  No, I did not vote for "Big Papi" or for the Tigers' Victor Martinez - the Orioles' Nelson Cruz got my vote, because he has proven that you can come back from a drug suspension and still kick butt.  Not that I think he should have taken PEDs in the first place, but if MLB is going to give him a second chance, he has certainly made good lemonade out of his lemons.  Plus I had to vote for an Oriole.

Outfield:  This is the hardest category by far.  I wanted to vote for six players, but I had to cut it down to Alex Gordon of the Royals and the Blue Jays' Melky Cabrera and José Bautista.  That left out Nick Markakis and Adam Jones of the O's and Mike Trout of the Angels.   Sorry guys; I can't vote for EVERYONE!

First base:  I voted for Adam LaRoche because he can play a mean first base and he's leading the Nationals in batting.  He'll probably be named as a reserve player, but at least I can say I voted for a Nationals player.

Second base:  I had to vote for the Pirates' Neil Walker even though I love Anthony Rendón of the Nationals, because Walker is just having a better year and Rendón has been playing at third base lately.  Chase Utley is having a good season too, but I don't vote for Phillies players, so he's out.

Shortstop:  Troy Tulowitzki of the Colorado Rockies, hands down!

Third base:  I chose Martín Prado of the Arizona Diamondbacks because Chipper Jones and Mike Schmidt are retired.

Catcher:  Sigh!  Jonathan Lucroy of the Milwaukee Brewers is having a great season, but I had to go with my Puerto Rican heart and vote for the Cardinals' Yadier Molina.  He's kind of trashy, but he's the best catcher in the game today.

Outfield:  I left out the three "P"s who are playing well - Angel Pagán, Yasiel Puig, and Hunter Pence - and voted for three players who are playing better:  Andrew McCutchen of the Pirates, Charlie Blackmon of the Rockies, and Carlos Gomez of the Brewers. 

So there you have it - now I have to wait and see how many of the players I voted for end up making the All-Star team.  So much of it is a popularity contest, but I like to think that I actually put some thought into my voting.  Enjoy the last 3 weeks of the first half of the season, and don't forget to watch some World Cup soccer too!

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

From Mudville Mom to Proud Mom

(Warning:  "Mudville Mom" is taking a break from her snarky, tell-it-like-it-is, opinionated views to bring you a heartfelt account of her life as a baseball mom.)

Hello, baseball fans!  It's been a while since I've blogged, because honestly, there hasn't been much worth blogging about lately.  I was going to write about Nolan Arenado's hitting streak, but it stopped at 28 games.  Yu Darvish's no-hitter?  No, it was broken up in the bottom of the ninth inning.  José Fernandez being on the DL?  That's just so devastating for baseball that I don't even want to think about it.  So instead of blogging, I've been enjoying my son's Little League baseball games and beaming as a proud mom.

My son is 10, and by no means is he the next Babe Ruth.  He tried machine-pitch baseball in first grade, but thought that he was better-suited to play soccer, which he has played since Kindergarten.  I can honestly say that he's lightning-fast, but he's way too nice on the soccer field.  The competitive Puerto Rican in him has not come out yet, and he's more of a "No, it's OK; YOU go ahead and kick the ball!" type of kid.  But he's been with the same teammates since first grade, and he genuinely likes to play soccer every fall.

This spring, Son decided to give baseball another try.  He has always enjoyed watching baseball with me, and now that he has a good understanding of the game, he figured he could give it a shot.  So we took him to tryouts and were disappointed to find out that Son was placed on a machine-pitch team again, while his best buddy was moving up to the Minors.  Son was devastated, and I thought "Boy, this is going to be a LONG season!"  I thought he would whine about having to go to practices and we would have to drag him to all his games.  Well, putting my kid in machine-pitch turned out to not be such a travesty after all.

For those of you not familiar with Little League rules, machine-pitch is a level where they focus on instruction, skill development, and fundamentals.  They don't officially keep score at the games (though there is always someone keeping very detailed track of each at-bat, hit, out, and run), and each game lasts less than two hours.  You also aren't allowed to heckle (gone are the days of "go batterbatterbatter, SWINGbatter!" and "We want a pitcher, not a belly itcher!"), and all the parents had to take some sort of oath on Opening Day promising they weren't going to be obnoxious potty-mouths and were going to behave themselves appropriately while spectating (they clearly haven't seen me during a baseball game).  Now I must say, I've been pretty good so far, though I have questioned two plays with the coach and have asked if the infield-fly rule is used in Little League.  I'm sorry; I know the game, so I'm going to question!

So why has my son had such a good experience so far?  First of all, he's one of the biggest kids on the team (since he's on the older side for machine-pitch), so he's naturally beyond the "playing with the dirt in the infield and looking at the birds in the outfield" phase.  He always plays hard, and because he knows the game, he knows where to stand, who to throw the ball to, and how to get someone out (when playing first base one time, he decided against trying to make a leaping catch because he figured it would get him off the bag, and as the catcher at last night's game, he made the last out because he knew he had to cover the plate and tag the runner coming from third base when the ball was thrown to him).  He also has a very good coach, a parent-volunteer who stresses fairness and good sportsmanship and has even called out a few opposing coaches who have not played nice.  His kid is not the best on the team, which my son finds refreshing, and he genuinely likes to teach little kids how to play good baseball.

My son still has a long way to go - remembering not to slow down as he's reaching first base (he's afraid of running into the kid covering the base); working on catching fly balls; following his swing all the way through so his hits can someday leave the infield - but he's already come a long way, and whether he decides to play baseball in coming years or not, at least I know I'm raising a kid who plays hard, can think under pressure, and gets along with his peers.  I may consider myself a die-hard baseball fan, but I am a mom first and foremost, and my kids make me proud every day.