In the pre-Passover spirit I found myself asking last night: "Why is the State of Florida different than all other states?"
Just as the rest of the country kicks into baseball season, the Little League season here in the Sunshine State is coming to an end. Our kids have been playing from winter into spring, while much of the rest of the country was scraping snow off its collective windshield. Here we can see clearly all year round, which is why you should never miss this column.
Last night was the last game of the regular season and I was there as always, yelling myself hoarse in support of my youngest son, Abraham, who will turn nine in July. His team had produced three walkoff victories while going 6-5. This time our beloved Reds were going up against the tough black-shirted Blue Jays, who had beaten us black-and-blue in our first meeting. Playing in this eight-to-ten age category, they seemed unbeatable with their poised squad of superannuated ten-year-olds making our preponderance of eight-year-olds seem frail in comparison.
My strapping lad of twenty was home from college for spring break and he strapped on some gear to warm the kids up. He had been a star in this league and the coaching staff was happy to welcome him into the dugout. The boys looked pretty good in practice but then reality set in, our prospects turning immediately bleak. Strike out, pop out, line out, and we were done in the first before the head was off the non-alcoholic beer. The Jays got up and -- look out! -- balls were flying in all directions. Thank the Lord for the five-run per inning max; they scored their five while making just one out.
So there we were, down 5-0 after one, overmatched, underage, outgunned; get me outta here! Nothing left for us stricken parents to do but socialize.
We may look like a bunch of namby-pamby urbanites to your salt-of-the-earth son-of-toil jock dads, but we refuse to apologize for being a group of D-list celebrities who enjoy each other's company. We count among us a broadcaster on the local network TV affiliate, one of the top defense lawyers in town, captains of industry, a woman doctor, an array of actresses and beauty queens, even a columnist for some right-wing rag I wouldn't use to line my birdcage.
The natural rapport between this crew of highly accomplished people has complemented our parental roles nicely. We encourage each other's children and celebrate the hero du jour regardless of the lucky gene donors. The kids have cooperated by spreading the stellar performances around pretty evenly. But this time, unable to get to first base hitting, unable to get outs pitching, surmounting that deficit looked like climbing Mount Everest with a one-legged sherpa.
Abraham led off the second inning with a walk, went to second base on a wild pitch; those two seconds proved pivotal. We scored twice in the inning to move to within 5-2. Then the manager gave my little guy the ball. The league limits the pitches an eight-year-old can throw, so they can generally only do one-inning stints. The first hitter grounded back to the mound; Abe fields cleanly, tosses to first, one down. He strikes out the second and third hitters: inning over! Suddenly those big kids in the black uniforms are shrinking in the wash.
In the third inning, little Abraham gets an infield single and scores again. We get one more on a single by Alex Sacks (Jewish too; his polyglot Mom speaks French, Spanish, Italian and German as second, third, fourth and fifth languages), but leave the bases loaded, down 5-4. We send little Moises Lencovsky to the mound, another Jewish kid originally from South America. The other guys hit the ball pretty sharply but our kids do some snappy fielding, and first baseman Luke Rier (son and grandson of Jewish defense lawyers) picks up a grounder in the hole and darts back to step on the bag unassisted for the third out, leaving two runners in scoring position.
We go to the fourth down just one run and Carlos Cotto leads off with a triple down the right-field line. Hey, they can't all be Jewish. Moises drives him in with a ground ball out and the game is tied. A walk, a hit, then Abraham walks again, and the bases are loaded. Who gets up? Jonas Senker (yes, Jewish, but who's counting?), who gave up the five runs in his ill-fated outing on the mound earlier. Is redemption in the offing?
Swing and a drive deep to left… a three-run triple to crown Jonas as today's king! The kids win 8 to 5, but what's it to us oldies? Fuhgeddaboudit: we have shed our decrepitude. The year's at the spring, and day's at the morn, the lark's on the wing, God is in His Heaven -- All's right with the world!
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