The summer has been a fine one, good weather and bad. This weather crept up from the east, with me keeping an eye to the changing cloud formations while I marked the evidence of nests, true and false, along the beach. It rained, of course, so we took ourselves to a comfortable bar for a beer and a bite. It was one of those places they keep the TVs on behind the bar without the sound. One of the TVs was tuned to the Little League World Series in Williamsport, and this started a rant inside my head. Rodney's heard it before so I spared him. You, naturally, are not so lucky.
Long years gone by, my heroes, I gave many hours to St. Augustine Little League. It was a natural fit, more or less: the boys played baseball, I'm bossy, er, assertive, by nature, they needed volunteers, and all else aside, there is this simple truth: I love baseball. Our boys played, and I volunteered in the concession stand. They played, and I was the Team Mom. The boys played on, and I learned to keep a scorebook. They played, and I eventually served as a league VP. Apart from the possibiity of good karma earned for the volunteering, the thing that stayed with me was the Art of Keeping a Book. I read a memoir by Doris Kearns Goodwin, a fine historian and deovted fan of The Game, in which she recounted learning to keep a book and sharing its arcane details with her father in the long summer evenings, and especially during several World Series. Her father taught her that a good scorebook is a guide to every pitch, every hit, every out...virtually everything that happens in a baseball game can be recorded in a book by any scorekeeper meticulous enough to take it on.
It was harder to learn than you might think. I asked people I thought would know: the coach at my kids' elemetary school, baseball fans I knew, to no avail...I had to take a class to learn the basics. From there I had help from my friend O'Hare's husband Tom, a sport cameraman who first taught me (by phone, long distance, during a Phillies-Braves game) the meaning of "6-4-3". He was astonished to find I didn't know what it meant. Later, I was astonished to find that while an average guy watching a game knows it means the out was made because the shortstop (6) threw the ball to the second baseman (4), who threw it to the first baseman (3) for the out, most of those guys aren't quite sure about the relationship of that numeric sequence to a scorebook. In time I would learn to keep a book clean and legible enough to be read by someone who had not seen the game (thank you, Lynyrd).
And when the boys eventually left Little League behind, their dad and I were left to watch the Little League World Series on television. The rant comes to this: the love of the game is a fine thing, and the gift of instilling that love in a new generation is fine, indeed. Even having a final tournament to determine, once and for all, who's best that year, or whose team has the best day that year. Having grandmas and grandpas come out for the games is a tiny bit of magic; having them cheer and perhaps have a tear gather for the departing youth of their young ones is no less common and no less magical. But maybe it shouldn't be on TV. Maybe it should just be kids, their families and coaches, the dedicated volunteers who serve as umpires and officials, who sell the popcorn and hotdogs to pay for next year's uniforms, the quiet grass and a breath of a breeze on a hot afternoon in late summer...maybe it should be just them. And maybe it will all be penciled into some grandma's tattered scorebook, stored in the attic with the dog-eared baseball cards and the balls nested in gloves, wrapped in rubber bands, until the next kids trot across the grass and the next spring sun warms the base paths. But that's just me.