Oh the People You’ll Meet: Little League Edition

THE OVER-ENCOURAGER – This fan is actually pretty good to have around for a few reasons. They counteract the loudmouth very well when he or she hurls the insults. Better than that, they are often so over the top with their encouragement, they provide some well-needed comic relief.

A fly ball hit to the outfield that is missed because a kid was watching a game on the other field? To the untrained eye, that is a costly mistake, but not the over-encourager! “HEY BUDDY, NICE TRY! YOUR FOCUS IS THERE, NOW JUST CONCENTRATE ON THIS GAME! YOU CAN DO IT BUD! GOOD JOB!”

How about a kid who bails out on a called third strike right across the plate, as if he’s being shot at? To most, that’s a terrible thing to watch. But the over-encourager sees it for what it is! “IT’S OK BUDDY! YOU KNOW WHAT TO DO WHEN THE BALL’S GOING TO HIT YOU, NOW JUST TRY YOUR BEST WHEN IT DOESN’T!”

Four strikeouts for a kid? LOTS OF GOOD PRACTICE SWINGS! Three straight walks from a pitcher? HAVEN’T GIVEN UP A HIT YET! Second basemen sitting down during the middle of the game? WAY TO CONSERVE ENERGY!

THE POSSIBLE DRUNKI try not to judge based off appearances, but for some reason, this one always looks like they’ve come straight from a shift working at the carnival. Dark, leathery skin and freakishly skinny, you can’t tell if they are 25 years old or 75, or anywhere in between. So why are they possibly drunk? Have a conversation with them and you’ll know. As they lean in close to share their thoughts with you, your first thought is, “Why are you so close to me that people think we are about to kiss?” but that is quickly overshadowed by the heavy stench of booze seeping off of their body. You glance down and see that in their hand is…a silver thermos mug.

Are they actually drunk at the game? My honest guess is sometimes they are, yes. In fact, there was a COACH in the league last year who I was convinced was drunk at half the games. They’re not awful people to be around. Heck, being drunk usually makes them chatty and kind, which is better than some of the mean-spirited people you see. Still, I truly hope this person isn’t drunk as they are the ones driving their kids to and from the games, but even if they aren’t, they’ve got great experience at it.

THE SIDELINE COACH – I’ve been guilty of this one, but my guess is 90% of dads have. The sideline coach apparently knows enough to coach the team…but doesn’t. In some cases (like my own), it’s simply because they can’t commit that much time. But I have seen sideline coaches who attend not just every game, but every PRACTICE, which of course makes you wonder why they don’t coach in the first place? The sideline coach doesn’t annoy the parents all that much, but the ACTUAL coaches can’t seem to stand them. Coach tells a kid to lay down a bunt, sideline coach tells his child TO SWING BIG. Actual coach holds his runner at second, sideline coach tells his kid TAKE THIRD. Actual coach tells kid to plant feet and turn with the swing, sideline coach tells kid to PICK UP YOUR FOOT. What this results in is a confused child who has no idea what to do while being told to do several different things.

As a recovering sideline coach, I can offer two simple pieces of advice to any sideline coaches out there: Continue to give your kids pointers, but tell them before each game, “Listen to your coach first. Do what he says, even if it’s opposite of what I say.” And also…STAY OUT OF THE DUGOUT. Coaches hate that.

THE LITTER – There are THREE litters on my son’s team this year. What is a litter? Pretty simple. The mom who shows up to the game with her son, and her daughter. And her other son. And her other daughter. And her twins. And her baby. And the older son. And the oldest daughter. As you see a group of eight-ten children racing back and forth playing, it’s quite easy to spot the mother of the litter. She’s the one sunk into a chair, either passed out or simply enjoying the fact that her flock is not confined to a living room for two hours. Word of advice: Let her kids go wild (without being demons) and play. This is her time of freedom. DO NOT TAKE IT AWAY FROM HER.

THE SNACK MOM – Every little league game has snacks afterwards, and it’s always a revolving schedule with the parents. But there’s always one mom who has snacks every game. No, not for everyone. Just her precious little all-star, and I use the term “little” quite loosely. There are some ten year-old ball players who already outweigh me! I was stunned by their size when I first saw them, but I grew to understand it over the course of the season. One player on my son’s team consumed three Gatorades, two pouches of Big League Chew, a bag of Sunflower Seeds AND a protein bar in a game one day. How do I know? I was sitting next to his mother when he came asking for more, and she told him she was out of snacks. His soul was crushed. His spirit was broken. His waistline was healthier than ever. Snack mom’s not bad at all, and she will often share her snacks with other kids (or parents!), provided her child doesn’t gobble them all up first.

THE DAD WHO’S NOT ACTUALLY THERE – This is a sad one to me. Either dad (or mom, to be fair) legitimately does not come to the games, or they are there, but not REALLY there. The entire two hours is spent yapping on the phone away from the field, checking text messages or generally doing things that send a clear message: This game is not important to me, and therefore neither are the players, one of whom is my child. You’re sending a lousy message bro. Step up your game.

THE OLDER KID – Personally speaking, this is my least favorite person at the game. The older kid can range anywhere from one year older than the players to a senior in high school, but make no mistake. Whether they are 11 or 18, they believe that being older gives them the right to do whatever they want. Sit in the dugout? SURE. Get in line for warm ups and take some ground balls with a team you don’t even play for? Why not! Generally act like a huge dong the entire time? GUARANTEED. The older kid can be seen messing with his little brother before the game, DURING the game and after the game. If his brother made a costly mistake, rest assured the older kid will let him know about it while applying a half nelson. There is some solace to be found in the older kid though – the occasional older kid who genuinely loves baseball will help the coaches set up bases, put away equipment and is just a bonus to have around.

THE SKANKY MOM – Ladies, there are few places more inappropriate to try out your new outfit that appears to be lingerie disguised as clothes than a nine year-old’s baseball game. But that certainly hasn’t stopped you, skanky mom! You grew those boobs all by yourself (or bought them) and you’re gonna parade them around like they’re going out of style! (They won’t, by the way.) Skanky mom thinks she is hot, and maybe she is, but here’s what she fails to understand. Every other woman there hates her, every guy there is not going to look at her for fear of being murdered, but every boy on that team is getting a GOOOOOD look. And they are letting her son know EVERYTHING they think about his mom in the dugout. Congrats, skanky mom, you’ve made little league something your son will bring up in therapy for years to come. Side note: The possible drunk always, ALWAYS makes his way to skanky mom.

THE QUIET TYPE – There are parents for my son’s team who have been at every game. They’ve sat right next to me at a couple of them. And I’ve never heard them say a word. Their kid is up? Silence. Their kid gets a home run? Silence. Their kid is beaned in the head and requires immediate medical attention? SILENCE. The quiet type may be an immigrant for all I know. Maybe English is their second language. Whatever the case may be, it doesn’t make it any less awkward to try and make small talk with them. It’s easier to chat with the umpire during the game.

THE SMOKER – Smoking has taken a lot of heat in our culture over the years. You can’t smoke on planes anymore. You can’t smoke in restaurants now. Even BOWLING alleys, once a haven for smokers, are now smoke-free. So where is a smoker to go? Oh, I know! HOW ABOUT RIGHT NEXT TO THE DUGOUT. Listen smoker, you’re outside. Fields are big. We don’t care that you smoke. But go somewhere else. Go to the parking lot. Go to the trees deep in the outfield. Go to the concession stand even. But please, if you’re going to smoke, don’t stand DIRECTLY next to the kids.

That’s just a nice little primer for your little league-going experience. I’m sure there are other classic types that I’ve missed. Of course, I didn’t even touch on the fact that many fans are COMBOS of these things. How about the skanky mom who is also the smoker, or the sideline coach who is also the loudmouth? You’re gonna see a lot while you’re at the ball field. My advice is to try your best to focus less on the wild people you’ll see and enjoy watching your kid play the game.