Mick, our second-grader, decided this would be the year he would test his skills at that great American pastime, Little League baseball. Saturday mornings, when kids should be watching cartoons while mom and dad are still asleep, will never be the same.
I think Mick has entered this sport at the lowest level, though I’m not sure. After all, it’s been half a dozen decades since my dad allowed me to lie about my age (by two weeks) so I could make the cutoff and join my Central Davis schoolmates on the field of play.
Because Multnomah County couldn’t find my birth certificate, we had to convince the Little League folks to accept my baptismal certificate signed by Father Laidlaw at Emanuel Hospital on the east side of Portland. The baptismal certificate, however, didn’t have the date of my birth, but — logically — the date of my baptism.
To be eligible for Little League that year, I had to be 8 years old by Sept. 1. My birthday was Sept. 12. Since most babies back then weren’t baptized until they were at least a few weeks old, everyone figured I must have been born in August, given that Father Laidlaw’s signature was affixed on Sept. 12.
What I didn’t tell them, nor did my dad, was that I was baptized on the day I was born, just seconds after taking my first breath of that fresh Oregon air, giving new meaning to the term “Cradle Catholic.”
I realize that admitting this now puts me in the company of such famous cheaters as Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire and Lance Armstrong, but it’s better to admit it while I can before someone decides to exhume Father Laidlaw’s body to ask him when I was really born.
Obviously, I will no doubt be stripped of all my Little League records, including the three errors I committed in one inning when I kept turning my head while trying to field ground balls as a third baseman for the mighty Cubs.
But back to our son Mick and the still young 2013 season. Mick was thrilled when he was handed his first uniform and learned he would be a member of the Cardinals. He still isn’t sure if these are the St. Louis Cardinals, the Arizona Cardinals, the Louisville Cardinals, the Stanford Cardinal or the 115 Cardinals who gathered in the Sistine Chapel last month to elect Pope Francis.
But he now proudly wears the coolest uniform in all of baseball, featuring two bright red birds balanced on either end of a baseball bat. It doesn’t get any better than that.
The best part about Little League, however, both now and when I was a kid,is the snack bar, formally known as the Snack Shack. For early Saturday morning games that start before the dew has left the infield grass, the snack bar serves large cups of hot chocolate and breakfast sandwiches stuffed with real sausage.
Mick’s four sisters dutifully attend every game, partly because they love their little brother and hope he one day hits a home run or at least learns how to catch a pop fly, but mostly because of the wide variety of bargain-priced offerings at the Snack Shack.
By the third inning, instead of announcing who the next batter is for the Cardinals, the public address announcer, who can be heard halfway to Dixon, let’s everyone know that “Pizza is now available at the Snack Shack.”
For those lucky enough to work behind the counter, there are some hard and fast rules that have been developed over the years. First, “no dogs.” Except hot dogs.
“Every player in uniform gets a snow cone at the end of their game.” Makes me want to dig out my old jersey and see if it still fits.
“Every umpire in uniform gets either a nacho or a hot dog and a fountain drink at no cost.” Hey ump, can I borrow your face mask and chest protector for a second?
“Every volunteer that works at least a FOUR HOUR shift gets either a nacho or a hot dog and a fountain drink at no cost. If you break your shift into two-hour shifts (or any variation less than four hours) those volunteers do not get free food.” I want to talk to my attorney.
Even if you don’t have a kid playing this wonderful game of balls and strikes and the occasional line drive, you really ought to give the Snack Shack a shot. Get your food and drink, then simply slip into a seat in the bleachers — it’s free — and root, root, root for the home team. If they don’t win it’s a shame.
But remember, at this level, with Iron Mike pitching for both sides, you clap for everyone.
Even when they strike out.
— Reach Bob Dunning at firstname.lastname@example.org