Having loved cars and racing all my life, ''ball'' sports never held much appeal for me. My wife and stepson, on the other hand, are big Browns and Indians fans. I was an Indians fan when they were winning big; I think it was in the late 1980s. I can't remember when the Browns were winning big.
Not being a fan never kept me from thinking I knew enough about baseball to coach my wife's softball team, though. My blunt ways and lack of baseball knowledge didn't exactly endear me to the ladies on the team or some of their husbands. My wife reminds occasionally that I told one of her friends and teammate that I could put a glove on a stick in the outfield and catch more balls.
It was a short career.
I have attended my share of Little League games though, watching our son and grandson. Not being a big baseball fan, I've been able to look more dispassionately at the process by which little tykes become transformed into ballplayers. If I had to describe Little League in one sentence, I would say that it is a process by which young men spend seven or eight years verbally scrubbing away the ''kidness'' of little players hoping to find a Cal Ripken or Omar Vizquel beneath. Beside the pure enjoyment of the game, there is that ''Lottery scratch off'' appeal to some degree with everyone hoping to reveal baseball's next great phenom.
Hardest for me is knowing, at the start of every game, that nine youngsters are going to leave having suffered a defeat. I know it's a good life lesson, but it makes me sad. Too much empathy, I guess.
Many Little League moms and dads applaud when an opponent makes a good catch, but also cheer wildly as their kids round the bases on missed catches and overthrown balls. Me? I can't help but notice the dejected looks on the faces of the failures. Most importantly, everyone has fun and the kids learn a lot.
Starting with T-ball, it's fun to watch the kids as they transform into ballplayers. For those who aren't familiar, T-ball is the earliest league. The ball is placed on a post, and the kids swing until they whack it, then run to base. It introduces them to handling bats, balls and gloves, and gives them their first chance to kick up a little dust on a ball field.
I enjoy watching the astonishing level of inattention they are capable of as they skip into the outfield swinging their little arms, only to face away from those batting while they wave at their parents, who of course, are yelling for them to turn around. The frustrated coaches are more fun to watch.
Following the kids from year to year, you get to watch as they slowly start to grasp the game. The coaches are increasingly able to harness them into real baseball behavior and stances (hands on knees, while yelling, ''Hey batter, batter'').
The coaches, of course, progress as well. They take more serious demeanors, with some of their encouragement turning into tongue lashings, which the kids fear or ignore to various degrees. The years go by, and the ones who stick with the game rapidly start acquiring real baseball skills; not to mention ''spitting,'' ''scratching,'' and ''hoisting,'' if you catch my drift.
All in all, I have enjoyed the sport, almost to the point of following major leaguers. And if the Indians ever get close to a pennant, I could get drawn in again. If only the big guys still spit tobacco. It really ruins it for me when they blow bubbles, but I guess all the ''kidness'' doesn't get scrubbed out.
Moadus is a Girard resident.