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party of one The art of dealing with today’s ballplayers

May 3, 2019

Welcome back to Little League baseball, boys! It’s good to ha —

What’s that, Carl? You want to be called what? Like Casey Stengel, the great baseball manager? No? Like Kacey Musgraves, the great country songstress. Mom and dad on board with that? Cool. Let me grab my clipboard.

All right, let’s try this again.

Welcome back, children, to Little League baseball. You all have good winter? Played some basketball or some hockey, did you? Well, what sports did you kids play over the winter?

Fortnite does not count as a sport, Roberto. Neither does Minecraft. I agree, it does help your hand-eye coordination. It also helps prepare your glutes for another three months of riding the pine.

Mickey, put the ball down.

Question, Alec? No, I did not “get fat” over the winter. It’s the 17 layers of clothes I’ve got on. Global warming, my frozen tucus. Forecast looks better for practice next month, though.

Tucus? It’s, uh, Latin. For eyelids.

All right, let’s talk baseball. You’ll recall we had a tough go of it last season. The switch to those bigger, deader bats really hurt our hitting. So, this year we’re going to focus on playing what they call “small ball.”

No, Kacey, I’m not referring to you when I say “they.” But is that your preferred pronoun? Duly noted.

So, “small ball.” That means bunting. That mean working the counts. We need to crouch in the batter’s box to try to draw walks. We need to crowd the plate to try to get hit by pitches.

Yes, Anton, by “we” I mean all of you kids. The other coaches and I routinely sacrifice our bodies for this team so it’s time you did your part. How’s that? Well, first off, we regularly rake and level these minefields our town calls baseball diamonds. Second, we throw about 500 pitches a day to you kids in batting practice. That’s how we lost Coach Johnson this season. His shoulder is on rehab.

No, Dante, Coach Johnson is not at the same facility as your mom. Yes, I’m also looking forward to her coming to our games when she gets out. I’ll reserve her usual spot out in the far, far picnic area.

Mickey. Ball. Down.

OK, speaking of a change in habits, there will be no in-game snack service this year, Carter. Sunflower seeds in the dugout are fine, but your parents can’t wander down here in the third inning with juice boxes and orange slices. Juice boxes and orange slices are for soccer players and you know how I feel about kids who play soccer instead baseball. That’s right, Alec - they’re only in it for kicks.

That reminds me, there’s a new team rule about gum. Only sugarless will be allowed to be chewed during practices and games. Hey, I agree with you, but I was out-voted. You’d think it’d be the other way around being sponsored this season by an orthodontist and all. Well, at least someone in this league has ethics.

No, Roberto, I didn’t say “FX.” You shouldn’t be watching that channel, anyway. We need to talk to your folks about your screen time.

Mickey. Ball.

What’s that, Alejandro? Do you have an EpiPen in your bag? Good. I’ll disinfect the snack bar and ask the league president to ban “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.”

Say, on the subject of singing, let’s talk about our in-game chatter. It’s chatter not sea chanties. I got through my entire baseball playing career yelling only two things: “Let’s get a little bingle!” and “Put it down the pipe!” And that took us to the state finals in ’83! Not once did that championship team feel the need to break into song about a teammate’s holey socks.

All right, any questions before we take infield? Baseball questions, Alec. Baseball. Questions.

Yes, Kacey. Well, I’m not sure what the league’s stance on that is. I definitely know the portable out by right field is gender neutral. Well, if that’s where you feel most comfortable — sure — I’ll stand guard at the door for you. It’s not like I’m coaching or anything.

Stamford native and resident Kevin McKeever, whose nationally award-winning column appears here every other Friday, is a freelance writer for hire. Email him at kevin@writeonkevin.com.