There’s No Crying in Baseball (Unless Mommy is Coaching)

By: Tosha Woronov

kids playing baseball

I had been a new mom for about six months when my first Mother’s Day came around. It was the happiest of days. Peter booked me a massage at Burke Williams, which was, back then, just up the block. (We moved, Burke Williams didn’t.) I remember the walk home, after hours of alone time and extravagant pampering. Freshly scrubbed and relaxed, I was made new again. Flecks of granite sparkled in the sidewalk. Birds sounded sweeter, the sky was clear, and it all made sense to me, finally. I was a mom, and I was lucky. I couldn’t wait to get home.

I must have well expressed my gratitude that day, because every year since, my husband’s mission is to make Mother’s Day extra special. It’s not even a day in our house, but rather a weekend. “Mom’s Weekend”. Date night on Friday, just Peter and me. Family Day on Saturday, which usually means a Dodger game. And, because Sunday, the actual day, is for Mom to be alone and do whatever she wants, I sleep in late, wake up to a hazelnut latte thrust in my face, open heartfelt and homemade gifts and cards (even from the dog), workout, and visit a spa. And, because “whatever Mom wants” actually does include being with my family, the perfect day – er, weekend – is capped off with a fun dinner together. And every year I’m left as I crawl into bed with that same realization from my first Mother’s Day: I am so lucky.

This year would be different. My husband is out of town on a seven-week business trip, and the knowledge that Leo won’t get to see his dad (nor his dad, Leo) for a very long time is far too weighty and painful for me to even think of myself on Mother’s Day. There would be no sleeping in, no date night, no dinners, no pampering, no alone time.

We would improvise.

People say that children model the behavior exhibited by their parents. Following in the footsteps of his thoughtful and romantic dad, six-year-old Leo stealthily purchased for (and hid from) me a heart-shaped cubic zirconia pendant from the 50% off section of the Macy’s jewelry department. (He had been worried the week prior about what to get for me –and how to get it with his dad away –and brought it up while at Macy’s shopping for sunglasses. I directed him to the sales sections, giving explicit instructions to not go over a certain amount. “Do I have to use my own money?” he asked. “No sweetie. Daddy will pay for it.” I recruited a kind and elderly sales woman to help him while handing her my credit card. She was tickled by his determination that I dare not see what he had chosen. She commended him for being such a “fine young man” and wrapped the tiny white box, which he promptly hid under his bed when we got home, announcing loudly, “It’s hiding under my bed, ok Mom?!”)

Instead of our usual Mom’s Weekend dinner out, we had a picnic on the living room floor. While I carved his favorite roast chicken, he set the “table”: a sports logo-covered blanket laid over the rug, paper plates, napkins, spoons (we didn’t need spoons), and a flower just-plucked from our back patio, resting on my place mat. (Man, he’s good.)

On Sunday, there would be no sleeping in. Hmph. Leo’s baseball team had a game scheduled for Mother’s Day. At 8:30 in the morning. But you have to be there a half-hour early. That means leaving the house at 7:30, getting Leo up at 6:30 (theoretically), and, because the dog and cat need attention too, getting myself up at 6:00. 6:00! On Mother’s Day. Geez.

But there’s more. Leo’s Little League has this insane 50-year tradition that the moms coach their kid’s game on Mother’s Day. I was nervous about it for days, hoping I wouldn’t have to pitch –one knee on the ground (they are little kids, after all), trying to not bean a kid in the head, making sure the overhand toss is good enough to yield a hard and mighty hit, avoiding being smacked in the face myself. I joked about it too much with the other moms in the games leading up to it. “Ha, ha, you’re pitching all four innings, right??”

When we arrived at the field the mood was jovial…and weird. The bleachers were filled only with dads and dad-coaches, each giggling hilariously at nothing –just the sight of females in the dugout, poring over batting orders and field assignments. There was heckling. “Hey Greg! Do I ever hold a coffee cup while I’m coaching?” “Is that her purse on her shoulder??” I loved it. I got in the mood.

But the actual game. What a mess. I couldn’t stop thinking, Really? Are we really this bad at this? Because we have VAGINAS these kids suddenly suck at baseball? Even our best, focused kids couldn’t make a play. Balls were dropped. Kids forgot to run. Moms screamed. “Aidan!! Run back to 1st! You have to run back to 1st!! TOUCH THE BAG!!” No one hit a thing. The pitching was, as expected, pretty horrible.

And then there was the crying. Crying! In baseball! One little boy was so distraught at being tagged out that his mom had to carry his helmet-topped, sobbing body off the field. Another, just pissed that he couldn’t get a hit off that crappy pitching, would do nothing but cry. For two innings he refused to leave the dugout. One mom had to don a catcher’s helmet because there were no longer enough kids to field. They were dropping like flies. When Leo started to tear up over the general shittiness of the game, I got right in his face, imploring him, “Please baby, don’t start too. We NEED you.”

And all the while the dads just rolled in the stands, hooting and guffawing, coughing and sputtering, trying to catch a breath. I wouldn’t be surprised if they were wasted.

And so, on my Mother’s Day, I thought a lot about fathers. I developed a new level of respect. I found myself amazed that, in 15-plus games with the dads coaching, the boys hadn’t cried. They wouldn’t. Even at their tender young ages, they simply do not cry when the dads are out there with them. It’s some kind of cool guy thing. Men, even modern, loving, sensitive men, have this “proper place and time” sense about sports that is completely opposite from the sentiment of “go ahead baby, let it all out” unconsciously offered up by the moms –not to mention knowledge, confidence, energy, and skill about the game that we just didn’t have. I hate to admit it, but we didn’t have it.

That night, I lay in bed next to Leo, recounting the day as we always do, and he started to cry that he missed his dada. It was the proper place and time to do so, and he cried hard. And I was so damn happy to be a mommy, a mommy who could be there to hold her little boy while he let it all out. And although this Mother’s Day was so different than the rest, I was again reminded of how lucky I am.

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Comments

  1. says

    Great story. I coached girl’s softball for years and we were tough and they won and we were as good as the male coached teams. I also coached girl’s soccer and on one particularly wet, muddy, field day I made the girl’s get filthy before the game so that they wouldn’t be timid in the mud or worried about ruining their uniforms which were pink. It worked we won easily. It is all attitude and not just the difference between Mom coaches and Dad coaches. You just need more practice. I never coached my sons only my nieces. Boy are another species altogether.

  2. Tosha says

    Madge, yes 7 weeks is long. We are holding up fine. A combination of being a little used to it, finding small and unexpected joys in our mommy-Leo-only time (like staying up late together on the couch, going out to dinner a lot), and scheduling trips, playdates, and visits from family.

    And yes, it is all attitude, which is kind of what I was trying to say. The moms had an attitude of “oh gosh, I’m not quite sure what I’m doing/I don’t want to mess up”; the dads had an attitude of “ah this is hilarious” (all in good fun). Combined with the boys’ I-don’t-know-what (boys ARE a different species altogether, also part of what I was saying), it all made for a crazy day. Certainly they cried when they never do, certainly they failed to make easy plays that they almost always make, and certainly more practice would have helped. But it’s just a funny tradition, one that I found fascinating after thinking about the dad/mom/little boy thing going on. I should add that we have a spunky and equally athletic little girl on the team, but she didn’t appear to act any different that day. It truly was a weird mommy/little boy dynamic. This really wasn’t a point about females in sports.

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