Children – Gotta Love ‘em!
-Fred Stock

          A little boy perhaps three and one half is in the mall with his folks. They are talking to the sales kid in one of the cellular telephone kiosks. The little lad is standing next to the giant full color lighted photograph of two shiny new cell phones shown about three feet tall – larger than the lad! His nose is about five inches from the picture, and he’s carefully placing his tiny index finger on each button on each phone, and pressing it as if it were real. At each one, without regard for who may or may not hear him, he utters a little chuckle and flashes a little guy smile! You can never forget something like that!

          Kids sometimes know baseball, too! There was a little girl about eight years old with curly locks bouncing under her baseball cap, slowly and carefully making her way down the steps of the ballpark, close to the first base corner position. You could see her dad up a few rows closely watching her. When she finally got to the railing, she could see the ball-boy in position for shagging fouls. He had been collecting the wayward baseballs, and tossing them up into the crowd. As she reached the end of her little journey, the little cutey turned around to wave to dad; that’s when you noticed she had a fielder’s mitt half as big as she was on one hand. She leaned over the railing and called to the ball-shagger, “Can you please get me one of those, mister?” He smiled and nodded. She grinned, then waited patiently.

          The very next pitch, the batter lined a ball directly to the place the little girl was standing. She instantly put that oversized baseball glove up to protect herself from sure disaster. The ball found her glove with such force that the mitt snapped closed around it! It got really quiet for a second or two. She straightened up, the crowd holding its collective breath. She looked into the glove as the whole stadium watched, and saw the baseball. Triumphantly, she raised her other fist and hollered, “He’s out!” Then she looked back at the ball-boy and said, “Never mind. Thank you!” She carefully climbed the steps grinning, all the way to where her folks were sitting, the ball still proudly clasped in her mitt! Everybody applauded!

          Other kids don’t know a thing about the game! One of the parks has an outfield fence, and about five feet behind it, there is a three or four story tall chain-link safety fence. Back of that is a play-land park for the little ones. The perimeters of the area have elevated seats for the parents. They can watch the kids and watch the game from there as well! Good plan!

          A long hard hit home run drove a ball smashing against the screen, startling the children in the play area. One kid, not the least bit interested in the baseball game, looked at Mom and Dad in the nearby seat, hollered, “What the heck was that?” and immediately went back to play, not waiting for an explanation!

          When I was a kid, I never learned baseball. Never played the game at all, never was coached or taught the game at all, and cannot remember ever swinging a bat! I told you earlier about the Lakewood Little League where they were so desperate for Coaches that when I brought in a sponsor for our boy’s team, I was pressed into service as a manager. I enlisted a relative who played adult league ball as a coach. His schedule changed after one practice, and he never came back. I “coached” the team without the advantage of knowing a damned thing about the game. I even umpired, carrying a white cane, of course. My wife had to bat the fielding drills because I couldn’t hit the ball after I tossed it up! It was sad.

          We won one game of an 18 game schedule that first season. The following year I had two other fellows helping me, and with three coaches, we won three games! Ahah! A plan unfolds! Next year, we’ll have 18 coaches! Alas, I was transferred before I could test the theory. I won’t even tell you about the draft held the second year… I was an expert at picking talent! Yah, right!

          My son Joe was on the team that first year. He was maybe nine at the time, and knew exponentially more about the national sport than I did. I had him start at catcher, then moved him to third, then center field when I saw the other team starting to hit. Finally, as our pitcher started tossing the ball over the backstop, I called Joey in and told him he was going to pitch. He looked at me, glared, and said, “D aa addd!” He pitched far better than the other kid!

          Years later, Joe’s eldest son Jeremy was introduced to baseball at the T-Ball level. Jeremy, a truly amazing artist at his young age, even then was drawing what he experienced. He was up to stick men whose arms were the correct shapes at that time. He sat in our living room one day, and drew with colored pencils on typewriter paper.

          In the foreground there was a bright red stickman holding a baseball bat. It had a prominent number on the shirt. Further back a blue stickman smaller with a mitt. And at the edge of the drawing a baseball with speed streaks flowing from it. He explained, “This is me in my red uniform and my number 16. And this is my homerun going out of the park, Grampy.” Cool, and what is this back there, Jer? “That’s the other guys. He’s blue!” Works for me!

            There was a little girl in a Philadelphia Phillies uniform much too young to appreciate the game but attending the televised San Diego Padres game with her folks. Their Pennsylvania batter had just struck out with the bases loaded and two outs. He had swung at a ball about 18-inches outside the strike zone. The local S.D. fans were cheering, and the Phillies fans were all sittin g g lum. Well, not all of them. The little blondie was suddenly center stage on camera cheering and clapping along with the locals! Oh, what fun this is! Her folks were not amused.

          Kids also have a way of remembering things when you least expect them to do so. Our youngest grandson, Logan, lives several hours away. When he came to visit for a few days when he was not quite two, he discovered my bass guitar in its stand next to my big chair. I saw him coming and reached around and turned on the practice amplifier. When he plucked the string, a loud, deep, musical tone filled the room. He looked at me with an inquisitive half grin, and said, “What’s that?” I said, “That’s a sound!” He plunked a few more strings, each time saying “That’s a sound!”  For months after he returned to the Central Coast with our son and daughter-in-law, any time we heard a golf ball hit the house, or a car going by at three A.M. with it’s rapp music thumping, we’d look at each other and say, “That’s a sound!”

          A year and a half later Logan was back visiting, and he spotted the guitar in the floor stand again. This time I had not fired up the amp. He walked over and plunked the lowest string. It made its twang sound without amplification. He looked at me with a devilish grin and said, “That’s a little sound!”