Well, it's January, Baseball Moms and Dads, and you know what that means!
Off season? Time to relax? Have dinner at a table with a knife and fork?
No. No, it does not.
Come on. A girl can dream, right?
No. No, she cannot.
You must know by now that baseball doesn't take a break. In my experience as the mom of three who have played or are playing baseball, there really isn't an off-season. Perhaps an off-week, but not a full season. I'm sure many of you are currently organizing carpools for winter workouts and schelpping through snow and ice to get your kids to various hitting lessons, catcher's clinics and/or strength and agility training.
What is that saying about how neither snow nor rain nor gloom of night will keep mail couriers from doing their appointed tasks?
Well, I see your mailman and I'll raise you one baseball mom in a mini-van. Every single time.
I'm not complaining really. I came to enjoy my time in the parents' waiting room at the indoor facility where my kids worked out. I often wrote a number of blog articles in that space. Many times I brought a book or magazine, a snack, a diet coke and even considered bringing my own throw pillow and a candle or two to brighten the place up. I was sure I would be rewarded for my time with my own parking place, but alas, that never came to pass.
Seriously, though, I actually believe this off-season work is a good idea. I agree with a phrase I heard once that "Hard work beats talent when talent doesn't work hard." And hard work often happens during the winter months. Of course every parent has to decide for their own kid, depending on his age and potential for burnout, which training is most important during the so-called "off-season".
Today, I'm suggesting that for you with little kids, we take a lesson from my son, Drew and his teammates, who at the age of eight and nine, would have told you that perhaps the most important skill to learn as a young ball player was the execution of "the dawgpile" - a baseball player's favorite celebratory act. Drew and I would contend that winter is perhaps the best time to perfect this technique because if you're lucky enough to have some fluffy precipitation on the ground, you can invite your teammates over to practice piling in a soft cushion of snow.
(Note: A quick Google search of this term leads us to two spellings - dogpile and dawgpile - and no clear decision on whether this is a one word or a two word phrase. Going forward the author will adopt a one word iteration and use the "aw" spelling because frankly, that seems cooler to her. You do as you wish. The author, who desperately wants to be cool, is not the boss of you.)
First, in case you are unaware, Google defines the dawgpile as "a disorderly heap of people formed around one person on whom the others jump".
This actually seems to define pretty much every night in the family room of a mom with three boys, but that's neither here nor there for this discussion.
Without further ado, here are the tried and true steps to mastering this very important aspect of America's game as performed by a bunch of nine year old knuckleheads.
Before game time: Become a true student of the dawgpile by watching every college or professional baseball game that is on tv. Don't miss a minute. Don't leave the couch. Don't do your homework. Become fully invested in the game no matter if it's your favorite team or not. Be sure to judge all coaching decisions and declare that you would never strike out like that professional just did even though you were literally playing in the dirt during a tee ball only a few years ago. During the winter months, google all manner of championship games. Again, doing homework or household chores is apparently optional when studying this technique.
Game Time: Encourage your pitcher. Giving him the heads up that you have told all of your teammates to run at him like a band of maniacs if he strikes this guy out is optional. The element of surprise for the pitcher can be delightful, but also a tad bit alarming, so to inform or not inform the pitcher is completely up to the head maniac.
Have an amazing and adorable kid, like our friend, JackMac, on the mound to throw the 3rd strike for the win.
Drop your glove and run at your pitcher like he's on fire. (Notice: The amazing and adorable, JackMac, was ready to pitch again even though he just struck the batter out because that kid is a gamer to this very day.)
Squeeze the life out of your pitcher so that he can't get away until all maniacs have reported to the pitcher's mound.
Proceed as shown.
Leaping into the air is advised.
Screaming at the top of your lungs, also appropriate.
Forcing the person at the center down to the ground could take a village.
Don't give up. Don't ever give up.
When the pack of little boys truly looks like a pile of puppies? When you can't tell where one begins and another ends? When they are tangled up in a mess of arms and legs and sweat and smiles?
Well, then that's a job well done, friends.
I would say that witnessing a perfectly executed dawgpile has been one of the greatest parts of being baseball mom. So if you get a chance to see it done well, take those kiddos to the nearest sports bar and grill and let them proceed to consume their weight in root beer and buffalo wings. They'll deserve it. And so do you, Mom.
Jennifer P. Skinner