Before I had any thoughts of my son playing baseball, we had heard that one of the local youth baseball leagues was pretty competitive. I took this to mean that winning mattered a lot to the kids and that yelling and bursting forehead veins mattered even more to the dads. I usually try to avoid this nonsense and was pleased when things seemed pretty calm and fun when my son joined the league over the summer. That is, until people started looking at me sideways.
Over the last half-dozen games or so, I have realized I am becoming one of those dads. But it wasn’t just one bizarre or inappropriate behavior, rather a Forrest Gump “never know whut you’re gonna get” kind of thing. Here’s a sampler (there’s clearly some funky stuff going on with the font colors in this WordPress theme, so please bear with me):
The Elbows-and-Knees Dad – This dad, although generally laid back, provides two pieces of guidance to his son when he comes to the plate – 1) “Keep your elbows up,” and, 2) Immediately before the pitch is thrown, “bend your knees.” The result is a batting stance that looks like a woefully undersized Atlas trying to hold up the sky with a stick, along with the facial expression of extreme discomfort that one would expect from holding such a posture. And when the pitch comes, the boy chops down at the ball and finishes in a camel spin, foot high in the air, for which the Canadian parent sitting in the opposing bleachers gives full marks. A close cousin of the Elbows-and-Knees dad is the Tuck-In-Your-Shirt dad.
The Primate – This dad stands up against the fence near home plate so that when his son does something, like walk back to the dugout at the end of the inning, he can jump up and down in plain view of the child and all his teammates and yell something incomprehensible as if channelling his inner baboon who’s just caught a glimpse of a nearby female’s bright red fanny.
The Congressman – Knowing next to nothing about a topic doesn’t stop this dad from speaking at great frequency, length, and volume about it. A parent at a recent game might have seen this dad yelling “Throw the ball! Get it out of your glove! Get rid of it quickly!” even though his son wasn’t even on the field at the time.
The Consoler – When a child falls down for any reason, such as from a lack of balance while tying his shoes, these dads run onto the field and surround the boy, asking him repeatedly, “are you ok? Are you sure you’re ok?” until the boy believes he really is injured and crumbles to the ground in a heap of trembling and sobbing.
The Thespian – This dad appears on the scene in a rush and just before game time. But his real identifying characteristic is his use of language. For example, instead of encouraging his son to run hard through first base, he will shout “All Attendant Haste!” with a tear in his eye and hand on his breast.
The Clapper – This dad claps not only the loudest but he must also be the last one to stop clapping. On occasion, he will give one single loud clap for no apparent reason, perhaps just to ensure he got in the last clap. Having two Clappers at the same game can result in a competition similar to two Japanese men of honor bowing to each other.