It seems like a hundred years ago, but I recall the memories of playing Pee Wee baseball for the Mack’s Meat Heads.
My uncles ran a grocery store known as Mack’s Cash & Carry on Main Street in the little hamlet of Lexington, SC. They were kind enough to sponsor our team, which meant they bought our tee shirts, which bore their name.
Since they were best known for their famed western beef, we were given the name of the Mack’s Meat Heads. We played teams like the Harman’s Pill Rollers (Harman’s Drug Store), Berley’s Bruisers (Berley Kyzer’s beer joint) and The Dispatch-Newsmakers (Lexington Dispatch-News).
Most of the time, I played pitcher and shortstop. Occasionally Grover Ray Revels, our catcher, took the mound. Then I was behind the plate, because everyone else on our team was bat-blind.
As a catcher, I remember going out to the mound one day to speak to my pitcher, Grover Ray Revels, to see why he couldn’t seem to get anybody out. Our coach, Johnny Shelley, joined us at the mound.
I could hear Grover Ray making his case to Coach Shelley. “I can get this guy out Coach. I got him out the last time!” To which Coach Shelley responded, “Yeah… but he’s the last one you got out.” So we swapped equipment and I pitched and Grover Ray caught.
Such were the times in those days. Pee Wee and Little League baseball were (and still are) a rite of passage for those of us who lived in small towns. Our games were held on Wednesdays, which worked out nicely because they always closed the local businesses on Wednesdays at noon, our redneck version of a siesta.
By rule, Pee Wee and Little League require every player to get into the game. During the course of the game, Coach Shelley had to take out one of his kids to allow another to play.
“Son, you understand that I have to let everyone play.” The boy nodded “Yes sir.” The coach explained, “And you understand teamwork, not arguing with the umpire, and cooperation is all part of the game.”
Again, the boy nodded. “So when I take you out, I want you to go over there and explain all that to your grandmother!”
There are two types of parents that show up to Little League games.
The first is the fanatical parent who is trying to vicariously identify himself with his kid. The second is the Supply Depot Mom, who has all the solutions.
If her little boy has to go number two just before the game, and a port-a-potty is the only option, Supply Depot Mom has toilet paper, baby wipes and hand sanitizers. She also comes equipped with a full set of tools to fix equipment, ice packs, hair paint, eye black, extra sunglasses, a needle and thread, chalk to line the fields… and even an extra score book with pencils.
And so it is with parents and grandparents. Baseball is made for kids. It’s the elders who screw it up. As Yogi Berra once remarked, “Baseball is great because it keeps the parents off the streets!”
Parents want to turn it into a six-inning heart attack. Yogi was famous for his quotes. “Baseball is 90 percent mental; the
other half is physical.” And for Little League kids, the mental part is the key.
For us, being on display for the entire town of Lexington was a thrill of a lifetime for a small town kid. Wednesday afternoon baseball was rivaled only by Friday night football in towns in the deep-south.
We built memories for a lifetime on those hot summer afternoons. At the conclusion of the games, everyone would gather at my grandfather’s house for hot dogs and hamburgers on the grill. That’s how we did it
Those days are, for the most part, only a memory today. Nobody takes off any more to watch a Little League game. Nobody hosts a cookout for 200 people who come to celebrate the gift of the game. It’s a gift that keeps on giving in the form of fond memories of yesteryear.
Michael Aun is a syndicated columnist and writes a weekly column for this newspaper. To contact Michael Aun, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.