The boys signed up for baseball last Saturday, just in time for the season start. Which, like everywhere in the world, begins with a parade, complete with a band and a siren. [Hint: pump down the volume.] But, heck, it ain’t a parade without a siren!!!

The team names are deceptively un-sinister. Except for the vicious Los Tigres [TEE-grace, tigers], of course. And the equally terrible Los Toros [TORE-os, bulls]. Otherwise, there are Los Ardillos [are-DEE-jos, squirrels], Los Mapaches [ma-PA-chase, raccoons], Las Avispas [ah-VEEZ-pas, wasps… ok, they can cause some damage], Los Carpinteros [car-peen-TEAR-os, carpenters], Los Conejos [ko-NAY-hos, bunnies]…

And Los Musicos [MOO-z-cos, musicians], the boys’ team. The Fighting Musicians. Scary, huh?

No Los Caracols [car-ah-KOLS, snails]. Er, conchs. Er, rather, Fighting Conchs. That would be the Key West Baseball Team. I better be careful with my sarcasm here, talkin’ about the home team that way. Slugs or no, they are the state champs and they take their baseball VERY, VERY seriously.

When the boys were 4 and 5, we signed them up for T-Ball in Key West. You know, learn the rules, bond with their future winning teammates, have some fun. Well, baseball in Key West is NOT ABOUT FUN. IT’S ABOUT BEING STATE CHAMPS. AND YOU ARE NOT ALLOWED TO FORGET THIS FOR AN INSTANT.

Their T-Ball coach would spend 15 minutes doing HIS warm-ups: leg stretches, running in place, knees high, warming up his pitching arm. Even though, of course, there was no pitching going on.

Meanwhile, the tiny tots were on the field doing their warm-ups. If you’ve ever been the parent of a T-Baller, you know how comical it is: if they don’t have their mitts covering their faces trying to see through the holes, they are drawing circles in the red dirt with their toes (or their bodies) or spinning in a circle staring at the sun, arms wide, not a care in the world.

This scenario sent our coach into a tizzy. He screamed at them – yes, screamed – "HEY, BALLPLAYERS, PAY ATTENTION!!! KEEP YOUR EYES ON HOME PLATE. WATCH OUT FOR THAT BALL!" Like it was ever going to reach any of them. Right. And all that red-faced yelling caused the tots to briefly stop what they were doing, stare at him curiously, like he was behind a plate-glass window, then glance toward home plate (if they knew where home plate was), then go back to the fun stuff. We lasted about three practices.

The boys hated it. It’s so completely boring. The coach’s son got to be at bat all the time. And it was hot as blazes: 10am on a Saturday morning in June in Key West. It’s frickin’ hot, melting hot. The boys were right: this was no fun.

We tried again a couple of years ago. Ryan was in Little League and Mo played Pony League. Big mistake not toughing it out from T-Ball on, because by the time those boys who did follow through got to Little/Pony, they were bad ass players. Pretty stiff competition and proud of it.

Ryan played the season and had a blast. Not me. For me, it was torturous. All that pressure! I was pretty pissed the last game of the season. Our "team" was in line to play the finals if we won this game and the coach didn’t let Ryan play. Ryan, who enjoyed the hell out of the game, never missed a practice, always gave 1000%. I’m gritting my teeth remembering it.

Meanwhile, the coach’s son got to play his allowed three innings. The coach’s son who was a TERRIBLE sport: threw his hat, threw his glove, threw the bat, scowled and cursed when things didn’t go his way. He got thrown out of so many games for his bad behavior. But, my prince of a son didn’t get to play ONE inning? Gimme that bat for a minute. Just gimme the little one.

Mo did not finish out his season. The Pony Leaguers were good, really good. This is the minor league in Conch baseball. They threw a mean ball, hit a mean ball and a few of them were pretty mean to boot. Uncompetitive Mo didn’t have a chance. Then, during third practice, a 14-year-old pitcher threw the ball so hard into a 15-year-old batter’s face, he smashed it in. Big time. That was it for me. And Mo. The kid has a lick of sense.

I don’t think that’s likely to happen here. The teams are mostly made up of only 6 kids, and they just don’t look like fighters (praise the Lord). Speaking of whom, his name is everywhere, even on the field. The words at the bottom of the only banner say: "No to drugs, yes to sports. No to violence, yes to God." I can hang with that.

And ticos are so nice, even in soccer, opposing players help each other up off the ground! The other mothers keep telling me not to expect too much from this baseball season. I keep telling them how fine that is with me, but they don’t believe me. They haven’t grown-up surrounded by Fighting Conchs.

The boys are at practice today and I’m looking forward to hearing all about it. I know they were anxious about going – they have only ever been the lousiest player on the team. The parade put some of those anxieties at rest. I think they will actually be playing for fun here. What a concept!

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