My son is a 9-year old baseball player. Watching him and his teammates play ball over the years has brought me more joy than I ever would have expected. We’re five years in and I still feel disappointed when practice is rained out. We play rec ball in the spring and travel ball in the fall (for now).
Last year he made the all-star team (AA coach pitch) and my love for baseball was fully cemented. I don’t know what we ever did to deserve the stroke of luck that threw us together with the team we were on, but last summer marks the best season of my life as a parent. The boys won their sub-district championship, won their district championship and we went on to the state championship.
"I don’t know what we ever did to deserve the stroke of luck that threw us together with the team we were on, but last summer marks the best season of my life as a parent."
We (the kids, coaches, spouses, families, friends and everyone else who came along on our journey) had something special. We won and we won and we won some more and it was because the boys loved their coaches and they loved them back. Parents didn’t squabble or politic and no one expected special treatment. The day we got put out of State (finished 4th I think) I cried and cried like a big dumb baby because I just wasn’t ready for the magical experience to end.
I tell you all that to give reference to the thing I want to talk about. My boy managed to make this year’s all-star team as well (AAA minors) and we’re super excited and proud. We begin tournament play in less than two weeks and I just about can’t contain my excitement!
But there’s one thing gnawing at me. I am absolutely dreading encountering what I call the “bully spectators”. These are the fans (usually parents – scratch that – usually mothers) who heckle and harass the children on the opposing team.
I’d never experienced it during rec ball at our home park so I was not prepared to watch mothers (mothers!) stand behind the backstop with plastic megaphones while a 7-year old is up to bat and SCREAM just as he is about to swing in hopes that he would miss the ball. I was not prepared to watch little boys startle and jump then look over to see someone who resembles the person they love most be the source of their torment.
"I was not prepared to watch little boys startle and jump then look over to see someone who resembles the person they love most be the source of their torment."
I was not prepared to see dads circle the fences of the outfield to yell things like, “I got it!” hoping to throw off two outfielders running toward the same ball.
I was not prepared to watch adults gang up behind a child warming up to bat to tell him how terrible he is, how he’s a joke, how he can’t hit, how he shouldn’t even be here. Just to try to crush his spirit enough that he might not get a good hit.
In the beginning I wondered (hoped?) the issue was unique to our district but soon found the same abhorrent behavior at the state tournament. Do you know what the age range is for AA coach pitch players? It’s 7-8 years old. Could you ever imagine bullying a 7 or 8 year old child like this? As a mother, it breaks my heart.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m no softy. I’m a pretty hard-nosed mom. I don’t coddle my children and don’t expect anyone else to. If anything, I’m that mom other moms look at and think, “sheesh, she’s tough”.
I should also point out that there’s nothing wrong with being LOUD and excited and cheering your face off to support your team. There’s not too many people louder than me. But there’s a difference in being loud and in being a bully. Just let the kids play ball. May the best team win - without interference from outside forces. Forces who should recognize, as parents, what they’re doing to innocent children.
"there’s nothing wrong with being LOUD and excited and cheering your face off to support your team ... But there’s a difference in being loud and in being a bully."
I think the youth baseball organizations do what they can to police this behavior. Tournament officials and umpires have the authority to ask spectators to stop but what’s true is the umpires can’t be focused on doing their job and wrangling ill-mannered spectators at the same time and there are only so many officials to go around. I’d like to see coaches and parents take more ownership of it and ask their fans to represent their team more honorably.
So, that’s what I wanted to talk about. If the person sitting next to you starts being a “bully spectator” maybe think about having a soft word with them to remind them these are just children. If you know someone who behaves this way, maybe talk with them about it.
Thank you for letting me talk about something that doesn’t have a recipe or come with a yummy picture ;)
I was reading over this and realized I missed a point. I have come to understand this bothers me for obvious reasons (the effect it has on the children, etc.) but I think the reason this haunts me so is my frustration of having no way to deal with it or change it. It is a feeling of complete impotence.
I know how I want to handle it. I know how I would handle it on private property or out of the view of children. Maybe it’s my age or maybe it’s how and where I grew up but the way I’d like to handle it is to drag that heifer to the woods and show her just exactly how I feel about her and her megaphone. That’s how we handled things where I come from. But I can’t do that. I would never traumatize my or any other children by making them bear witness to adults fighting (verbally or physically). So I’m filled with this impotent rage that I have no escape from. There’s nothing I can do. Nothing. I have to just sit there and endure it. And watch these children who I love endure it.
I’ve thought about approaching these bullies and respectfully asking them to please stop. But people like that wouldn’t react to a sincere request the way most of us would. They would jack their jaws and bob their heads and point their fingers and yell and curse and, though I hope I’d be able to walk away from it for the sake of the children, I have my limits.
And I’m pretty sure watching mama get carted off by the county police would be 10X worse on my boy than anything the bullies could have thrown his way.