-by Beth Dugger Brown-
Few things make me happier than watching my kids play sports. Seeing them do their best and have fun warms a mom’s heart. We count seasons at our house like this: football, basketball, baseball, and off-season. This is different from most people’s fall, winter, spring, and summer, but it is the truth. In my time on the bleachers, I have learned some things that I want to share with you. Since it is still baseball season, I’ll focus on things that happen on the diamond.
Visit a kids’ league baseball game, and you’ll find several kinds of fans. First, there is the enthusiastic, but mostly clueless, fan. I was once in this category myself. Imagine an epic play is made at third base. The third baseman dives for the ball thrown from center field. It is a truly beautiful catch. The third baseman makes it to the bag before the runner. The enthusiastic (but mostly clueless) fan starts going crazy, clapping and cheering for the stunning out that was just made. But the umpire calls the runner safe. Now the confused-but-enthusiastic fan stops celebrating and asks the people around in the crowd why the kid wasn’t out. At this point, the mostly clueless fan is introduced to a tagged out. The third baseman forgot to tag the runner.
This brings up our next type of fan. This is usually an obscure relative of some poor child, a person who was the Best Baseball Player Ever (or BBPE). He never made a mistake—ever (from T-ball up to when that college scout came to watch and the BBPE got a pinky cramp in the top of the first and was put on the disabled list for the rest of the season, thus ending his chance for a career in the National League). Anyway, when the poor third baseman forgets to tag the runner—because he is 9 years old and worried about what’s for supper—the BBPE loudly asks how a person could forget to tag the runner on a tag out. And then, also loudly, explains how he would never have done such a thing. And then he makes reference to the career ending pinky cramp. And for the rest of the game, he continues to berate the poor kid for his oversight. That is, he continues until our third subject intervenes.
The third type of fan has been around the baseball field for quite some time. This may be a grandparent who realizes the outcome of this little game is not life-altering but also knows there is more happening on the field than just baseball. Little boys (or girls) are being taught character, manners, and teamwork, lessons they will always remember. They will mostly recall the negative lessons because that is how people seem to be made. Rude and ridiculous statements and/or actions often sink deep in a child’s brain and stay there. This baseball-wise person will, with tact or without tact, tell the BBPE to stop being ridiculous (and whoever heard of a pinky cramp ending a baseball career anyway). He or she may go on to explain why a person should not act in the manner that the BBPE seems to think is okay. Unfortunately, most such arguments are wasted on people with the BBPE mindset, and every eye in the ballpark will be focused on this exchange.
Fan Type Number 4 might go unnoticed. That’s because they sit far down the first baseline in folding camp chairs or because they are at the top of the bleachers in the corner that no one else wants because you can’t see the scoreboard over the visitor dugout. Mostly quiet, they will bring forth applause or encouraging yells as required by the action on the field. They listen to the commotion made by the other fans around them. They quietly file away things that need to be addressed with their players in private after the game, deciding what advice to give and what actions to compliment. Often, these fans are looked at as anti-social or just weird. They like to live above the noise and stay out of the drama that follows little-boy baseball like a virus that won’t go away. They might shake their heads at the things they witness or smile to themselves. Who knows what thoughts are going on through the head of the quiet fan?
There are other types of baseball fans, like the ones that never played a sport in their life but can tell everyone else how to do it better. Some just come for the popcorn. Then there’s the granny that comes for no other reason than to watch her favorite player strike out time after time. You know all these fans. So—which one are you?
I want to leave you with an image that has been making the rounds on social media this spring.