The Glamorous Life of the 1st Base Coach

The girls have played softball since about 2010.  Two of the three are still playing.  Our oldest, after a few years of softball and an extremely brief foray into basketball decided to stick with dance.  Which meant I was of no help whatsoever.  Dance is a lot like wrestling to me.  I cheer and clap when everybody else does and look confused when the crowd gets restless over subjective decision-making that I have little if any context with which to translate the restlessness.

Regardless, this spring our sophomore played on a 16U team put together by the high school varsity coach that more or less makes up the JV team that is playing right now.  Somehow it was decided that I might be helpful to some degree.  Yeah, I was just as surprised as you.  In fact, and this is a direct quote, here’s what I said when I was asked to help coach the team, “Listen, I don’t have a whole lot to offer the girls outside of a few well placed Major League quotes.”

Surprisingly that was enough to get me the job.  We started practicing once a week in February and after we got past spring break we went to twice a week.   Indoor softball practice is weird by the way.  But we wanted to be ready to start playing in March.  We scheduled five weekend tournaments but only played in three because, and you may have heard this before, spring weather is unpredictable.  The temps hovered between 35 and 48 degrees in the first tournament.  Yeah, super fun.  But we won the last one and the girls got rings!

The guy who was the head coach played baseball in college and knows the game pretty well.  The other guy who helped coach called pitches and has some coaching experience.  Then there’s me.  I didn’t play baseball.  I have no coaching experience.  Although I once had my two front teeth knocked by our 16 year-old when I was throwing batting practice to her three years ago.  Evidently, that qualifies me.

Anyway, I was assigned 1st base coaching duties.  And as far as I can tell, here are the responsibilities of the 1st base.

1-Know the count, the number of outs and the signs.

Sounds simple.  And it relatively is assuming you are paying attention.  Turns out a team of 15 and 16-year-old girls don’t always know the count.  Or the number of outs.  Or the signs.  Or the score.  And sometimes the batting order.  So I reminded them.  A lot.

2-Hold elbow and ankle protectors.

Turns out I’m good at holding stuff.  So no issues here.

3-Yell loudly using softball slang.

This was kinda fun.  My favorite was to yell “GET HERE!” whenever it looked like the play at first might be close.  Which, if you think about, it is the equivalent of yelling “MAKE IT” every time your kid shoots the ball in the basketball.  Or “FREEZE! THEIR VISION IS BASED ON MOVEMENT” if confronted by a T-Rex.  Or “NO ONE CARES ABOUT YOUR FEELINGS!” to your millennial co-workers.  It’s a completely ridiculous thing to say because of its unconditional obviousness.  Like the kid doesn’t already know where to run.  Or that they don’t know they’re supposed to beat the throw to the bag.  But if you’ve been around youth softball, you know that there are an astounding number of parents who think yelling is analogous to coaching.  And since I don’t know jacksh*t about coaching softball, my vocabulary was limited to the following phrases:

“Turn and look”

“TWO!”

“Wow, you really hit the crap outta that one.”  I liked to use my impression of Cleveland Indians manager Lou Brown’s voice on this one.loubrownmajorleague

Sometimes I got to call timeout for a courtesy runner for our catcher.

But the real test was the weekend I got to be the head coach.  Which meant I had to set the lineups, make in-game decisions and coach third base.  Which meant I had to give the signs instead of just read them.  So here’s what I learned:

Making out the batting order/lineup takes time more thought than I expected.  15 and 16 year-old girls behave like 15 and 16 year girls regardless if they are in the dugout, on first base or at the mall.  And the girls really, really don’t like using the signs…and nobody likes to bunt.

So we didn’t bunt.  At all.  For seven games.  What?  Nobody drags their tired butt outta bed to play an 8 a.m. Sunday morning game to bunt.  Also, if the signs you give the batter are the double finger guns while using the “pew pew” sound effect, they get that confused smile but it relaxes them.  Also if the sign you use is the under the arm fart  move, the coaches on the other team will both laugh and think you’re an idiot.  And finally if you do the Captain Morgan pose every time there’s a lefty up, the other team’s 3rd baseman will absolutely begin to believe that it’s a real sign and some crazy play is on.

I also decided if there was even a remote chance of somebody scoring from third on a throw to the plate, I was sending the girls home.  Every girl, every time.  Went six for six on plays at the plate.  Which the parents chalked up to aggressive coaching when in reality I just enjoyed doing the windmill with my left arm while yelling “you better run the wind blows!”

But nobody got hurt…seriously…and we went 4-3 the weekend ostensibly in charge.  So it was pretty fun.  But the jury is still out on whether or not they ask me to do it again…

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Sleep and Other Stuff

I’ve never run a marathon.  Never been through Navy Seal training.  Never had to listen to a full speech from Elizabeth Warren.  All these things require endurance.  And in the case of the last example the ability to suppress audible laughter.  Staying awake also requires endurance.  Because staying awake can be hard.  It doesn’t matter if you’re watching golf, listening to Ed Sheeran, or staying at work for nearly 24 consecutive hours.

Stop me if this also happened to you a couple weeks ago.  You show up at work at 8 a.m. Friday morning.  With me so far?  Then you leave work at 7:15…a.m. Saturday morning. Sound fun?  How about this – starting Monday morning April 17 and ending Saturday morning April 22, I put in exactly 80 hours at work.  Which made me curious as to how many hours actually passed between the time I arrived that Monday morning and when I made it home alive the following Saturday.  There are only 119.25 hours in that time frame.  80 hours at work, 39ish hours for everything else.  That includes about 25 hours for sleep.

You may be asking yourself how dumb my job is.  Fair question.  April is normally my busiest month.  By the time we finish up the busy season I usually reset my personal bests for caffeine consumption use of the “f” word.  But lots of people have busy jobs, busy lives with kids’ activities and other assorted bullsh*t.  Mine all just happened on the same freaking day.

On my drive home I was trying to do some rudimentary math because I suck at it and because I had a pretty busy Saturday about to commence.  I’ll get home about 7:20, Bails softball schedule for Saturday is 8, 9:30, 2, 3:30.  Also happened to be Prom weekend for Rye.  Pics downtown at 5:30.  Then Mom stupidly volunteered for the After Prom Committee so we have to pick up subs from Jersey Mike’s at 8:45 and be at the high school at 9.  Then work the After Prom party until…wait for it…3 a.m.  Then be up at 6 a.m. Sunday to get to the softball fields by 7 a.m. for another set of games at 8 and 9:30. Once that’s done I needed to mow the lawn because it looked like Vietnam out there.

I walk into the house and two things are of the utmost importance.  1) I’m hungry.  2) I have never wanted out of a jacket and tie this much in my life. Not even when I went through first communion back in ’78 and I had one of those clip-on ties and those little blue sport coats that make every other Mom comment on your cuteness.  No boy wants comments on his cute mini-me grown up clothes.  Its uncomfortable.  Anyway, after eating what was easily the best two pieces of toast I’ve ever tasted in my life and shedding my work clothes I got in bed.

Now I’m sure there are some super Dads out there who in the name of proper parenting would’ve thrown on jeans and a sweatshirt and headed right out to the 8:00 softball game because nothing is more important than showing your kids that they are your #1 priority and you’d do anything for them.

Turns out I’m not that guy.  Adversity struck and I hit the sack faster than the donations to the Clinton Foundation dried up the day after the election.

Two things though  – 1) once you’ve missed your sleep window, its not that easy to force yourself into a peaceful slumber, and 2) the brightness of the morning sun spikes your aggravation levels to unhealthy heights.

So I, and I’m not exaggerating, totally buried myself under blankets and pillows in order to simulate darkness.  Worked for a couple hours until Mom, Bails and Kinz got home after the first two games with Chinese food for lunch.

eggrolldust

I made my way downstairs and without warning attacked the egg rolls.  I looked like a wood chipper clearing a street after a tornado.  Instead of sawdust it was remnants of egg rolls and fried rice.

Then it was out to the softball fields for the last two games of the day.  Its weird how Saturday feels when you really didn’t have a normal Friday.  My Fridays in the spring normally consist of me getting home, drinking more than one can of the variety of summer seasonal beers I like to populate my basement fridge with, watching Youtube videos of classic NFL games from the 70’s and 80’s and then waiting for Mom to get home.  Its a tried and true system that has consistently served me well.  So not only was I knocked off my routine but I was working on 2 hours of sleep fueled only by grocery store Chinese food.  I surprised myself with my coherence.  Didn’t have too much trouble speaking in complete sentences.  But eliminating the “f” word from your normal parlance is difficult after it becomes so culturally accepted in nearly every setting when you’re at work for 23.5 consecutive hours.  Normally walking into a room at work and asking, “Who is the asshat who called this f*&$ing meeting?” isn’t a thing that is heard without eliciting some kind of response.  But that’s what happens.  Unfortunately that doesn’t translate to a 14U softball game.  You can’t sit there behind home plate and comment in a conversational volume that, “this f*&$ing ump couldn’t find his ass with both hands, no chance he finds the strike zone.  He’s missed a f*&$load of calls already.”

So I decided to be silent with my feedback.  And I was able to stay awake…but the 5 or 6 Diet Pepsi’s probably had something to do with that.

Last game ends and we head for home for about 30 minutes to be there in time for Rye’s date to pick her up before we head downtown for Prom pics…

Next blog…After Prom…

 

Show Teeth Part 4: Liquid Diet

When your dentist tells you that you’re on a liquid diet for the next two weeks what is your reaction?

If you’re like me it was, “Woo hoo! Every beer’s a sandwich!”

No seriously, what’s your reaction? A liquid diet severely limits the available intake. The twist is that in order to take the painkillers you can’t have an empty stomach. So you have to ingest something. Unless you enjoy pain radiating from your gums. I’ve never been on a liquid diet before. Well, not counting Friday afternoons in college. Doesn’t anybody else miss FACing? Regardless, anything that requires you to use your front teeth to bite, tear or even hold a piece of food in place is off the menu. Because, in case you forgot, you’re two front teeth are as useless as an ethics seminar for Hillary Clinton. They’re show teeth, not work teeth. And while the magic dental cement is holding your teeth in place, it’s rather painful if anything touches them – literally anything – your other teeth, your tongue, air.

My initial reaction was just a matter of fact, “well if that’s what the deal is, I’ll figure it out.” My subsequent reaction was “Crap, he really said liquid diet for two weeks.” So we stopped at the grocery store before heading home from the dentist. We made a short list that essentially was “stuff that I could put in a blender.” But the thing I didn’t really think about was walking through the grocery store around 9:30 on a Thursday night looking like John McClane after that night in the Nakatomi Building might be somewhat disconcerting for other grocery store patrons. Unless it’s Halloween, nobody really expects to see a guy with blood spatter all over his face and shirt in the grocery store. Well, unless its a random drunk millennial couple who took a selfie while picking out some organic frozen pizza on the way home from the bar and was deservedly punched in the face. That wouldn’t shake me or any other Gen Xer at all. Probably get a few head nods and an “about freaking time” comment. But nobody expected to see a 45 year-old dude with a top lip the size of a zeppelin with stitches poking out of it walking around the grocery store with bananas, blueberries, raspberries, protein powder and milk. What? Smoothies man, smoothies. You can’t put nachos in the blender.

So after my weird shower where I couldn’t feel the water hitting my face, I took the painkillers and drank the smoothie. Didn’t sleep much. I was afraid to close my mouth. Or move my tongue. I was jarred awake at one point after I presumably, albeit unconsciously, introduced my replanted teeth to my permanent teeth on the bottom row. Mom had set the alarm for exactly 8 hours after I took the initial dose of painkillers so I could take the next dose and avoid “chasing the pain.” So I had another smoothie. Then I had the stark realization that until I ceased looking like Marko the Albanian crimelord after Liam Neeson beat the crap out of him in Taken, I was going to be drinking smoothies and nothing else. Two things here. First, it wasn’t like drinking the smoothies was easy. I had to tip my head back and pour the smoothie into my mouth without any of it touching my front teeth. Not as simple as it sounds. I’m serious. Go do it right now. Tough isn’t it? Second, you quickly get to the point that you decide that being hungry is preferable to consuming anything. It was such a freaking production, and not to mention still painful, that it was easier to determine how much I actually needed to consume in order to the take the painkillers. Turns out not much.

Saturday morning, and I assume this was because she wanted to torture me, Mom went out to Panera and got the girls some breakfast. The only item that wasn’t fully consumed was a cinnamon roll. Yes, cinnamon rolls are kinda soft. And yes, I did put some thought into mixing it with milk in the blender. But in the end I just decided it wasn’t worth it. But just before taking the girls to the mall, Mom took the time to cut it up into tiny pieces. And I mean tiny. Like Barbie size pieces. Like Barbie and Ken, using Barbie sized plates and forks could each have had one of these tiny pieces on those plates while using those forks and it would have looked like a photo from the 1977 JCPenny Christmas catalog.

So you can guess what happens next. In words of Joel Goodson in Risky Business, “Sometimes you just gotta say, what the f*&#.” Or you throw caution to the wind and eat the cinnamon roll. You kind of chew with your tougue and your molars. Mostly your tongue. Oh, and you never actually close your mouth. Go ahead. Try it. It’s not easy. You eat less but it takes a long time. You smash the tiny pieces of cinnamon roll against you molars. I also tried this with tiny pieces of pineapple and cantaloupe. Tested a couple soups. And then eventually moved on to oatmeal. Lots and lots of oatmeal.

Thankfully I’m about 8 weeks post impact and if I hadn’t told you this story you’d never notice that any of this happened. You might ask why I lost some weight but there’s really no noticeable difference save a small scar on my top lip. A week after it happened the dentist did a double root canal on each tooth. It was pretty uneventful. Two weeks after that she took off the bonding that was the front of the teeth and then about 2 and a-half weeks after that she took the bonding off the back of the teeth. In her words, the ligaments and the gums are healing surprisingly really well. She’s going to write an article about me and submit it to a dental journal. Turns out while I’m 45, my teeth my gums are only 12. Teeth are solid. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a better chance the media recognizes that Bernie Sanders sounds a lot like the totalitarian national socialists of 1930’s Germany than a 60’s era socialist than I take a bite of an apple or even a sandwich. But I’m fine cutting everything into manageable pieces.

So you’re wondering, have I learned anything from this experience. Well, yes. I bought a catcher’s mask and won’t pitch to the girls without it. Also, after people experience something painfully stressful, I completely get why they might be a bit jumpy when it comes to doing it again. Additionally, I might write a quick full-proof weight loss plan based on consuming nothing other than liquids and soft foods cut into tiny pieces. Finally, I believe I’ve found the phrase that best describes this:

“Man, the sh*t you do for your kids.”

Show Teeth Part 3: Replanting

We arrive at the dentist’s office about 10 minutes after leaving the ER. Despite my skepticism, the anesthetic was still working so I felt okay…for a guy who was just smashed in the face with a line drive and had his top lip sewn back together and was holding his front teeth in a container filled with milk. So it’s all relative I guess. Dentist does a quick calculation on the amount of time the teeth have been out of my mouth and says “Well, if they’re intact, we’ll replant them.”

Okay, so two things here. Replanting teeth is exactly what it sounds like. And it turns out I was actually pretty lucky with the result of the impact. I’ll explain.

My now free range and cage free teeth were perfect. No cracks, no chips, no fractures, nothing. The impact of the ball simply ejected them from their original location in my mouth. Also, I had absolutely no damage to any other teeth in my mouth. No cracks, no chips, no fractures, nothing. Plus the two teeth on either side of my front teeth weren’t even loose. They were hanging in there like the ’92 Bills in the divisional round against the Oilers. Gums were enflamed, extremely bloody and sore but the teeth were solid. X-Rays showed that I also had managed to escape without any fractures to the bone below my nose and above my teeth. Nose wasn’t broken either. No concussion. Ball didn’t hit me in the eye, the forehead, the jaw or the ear. My face is evidently constructed much like a Terminator’s…albeit one that, without warning or anesthetic, essentially had it’s front teeth involuntarily removed with near surgical precision by a line drive. By a 13 year-old girl.

So the dentist wanted to replant them so the gums could heal with the teeth in there and then, when they eventually have to put replacement teeth in, everything will be healthy. Or something like that. He also told me that none of this should really work either because I’m 45. Replanting the teeth normally is only possible, and only works, on kids and teenagers. Something about blood flow in the gums. When you’re 45 and you take a line drive to the mouth, in the words of the dentist, “it’s like a grenade went off and there are broken teeth, pieces and fractures everywhere.” I had none of that. Hence the plan to replant. Only problem is the teeth had been out of mouth for a little over an hour. And once you get past an hour, the success rate goes down.

Anyway, replanting requires more needles to the face and to roof of my mouth. Again, unpleasant. But at this point, who really gives a crap? The dentist fishes out the first tooth from the cup of milk and says to Mom, “Do you have a picture of him smiling? I want to put them back in as close to what they were.” And trust me on this, as long as he didn’t put them in backwards, I really didn’t care if they looked like they had previously.

He consults the pic then tips me back in the chair so my head is now the lowest part of my body. After several tries to get the first tooth in it becomes apparent, to me anyway, that the anesthetic from the ER has completely worn off and the stuff administered by the dentist hasn’t kicked in. Since teeth only survive so long out of your mouth, the time crunch meant the anesthetic really didn’t have the requisite time to take effect. So it felt like he was trying to push a nail into my gums. I’m sweating like a fat kid who is last in line at Krispy Kreme and Mom has to literally hold down one my legs down because it started shaking. Turns out, if you have an unpleasantness ranking, this is far more unpleasant than the whole needle in the roof of your mouth thing.

So the dentist says, “I’m going to give you some stronger anesthetic and hopefully it works. But here’s the deal, we gotta get these teeth in so it really comes down to whether or not you can take the pain.”

“Doc, put those fu@#ers back in.”

So he did. They put two cotton balls under my top lip to keep it away from my gums and then they stuck two torture devices in the back of my mouth that literally wedged it open. It’s like two mini car jacks on your molars. It wasn’t enjoyable. But the anesthetic thankfully kicked in and, once the teeth were replanted, he used some kind of magic dental bonding agent and cemented the two replanted teeth together and then to the teeth on either side placing the dental cement on both the front and back of the teeth. The idea being that the teeth need to be held in place while the gums heal and reattach to the teeth. And remember how I told you that my head was the lowest part of my body? Yeah, so all that anesthetic kind of pooled in the middle of my face. I couldn’t feel my nose, my eyes, the top of my mouth and most of my eyebrows. Yeah, that felt weird. Ever try to take contacts out when you can’t feel your eye balls?

Mom drove me back to my truck, I smirked at the bloody hand prints, and drove home. She stopped at the 24 hour pharmacy, and I waited at home. And listen, I was like Bigfoot going after wayward hikers when she got home with the painkillers. I still couldn’t feel my nose or eyes but it was starting to wear off in my gums. Took the painkillers, took a shower and tried to calm down. And I really started to think about how the hell I was going to eat anything…

Show Teeth Part 2: Needles

Finally, Mom arrives in the parking lot. Kinz takes off on a dead sprint to her car. And yes, right after the relief I felt knowing I wasn’t going to bleed all over my drive while driving myself to the ER, I made a mental note to tell Kinz that the speed she showed running down the sidewalk to Mom is the kind of speed she needs to show when she lays down a bunt.

“Mom why didn’t you answer your phone? I hit Dad in the mouth with a ball and his teeth are knocked out.”

Mom, obviously not expecting this turn of events, answers with, “Umm…what now?”

Then I show up. This was really the first time I looked down. I had left a pretty impressive blood trail up and down the sidewalk. If this were the zombie apocalypse, we’d be attracting them like crazy. I jump in the car, mindful not to bleed all over everything, and we take off for the emergency room. We stop quick at home to get my insurance card because we didn’t want any kind of delay and then head over. Thankfully for us, the softball fields, our house and ER are all with 10-15 minutes of each other.

We walk into the ER and the nice lady behind the desk says, “Nose bleed?”

And I’m pretty sure she was serious. What I was about to say before Mom cut me off: “Yeah, I came to the f’ing ER because I have a f’ing nose bleed!” Mom quickly says, “No. He got hit in the face with a line drive and it knocked his teeth out.”

She checks me in and then we stand there for a good 15 minutes before the nurse walks over and takes us into a room. A quick scan of the ER waiting room reveals exactly one person is bleeding from his face. It’s me. So yeah, I was kinda thinking I had pretty good chance at jumping up in line over some of these other people. Nurse comes out, takes a look at her sheet before looking up at me and says, “Now, you got hit the mouth and your teeth are loose?”

Without any hit of sarcasm I reach into my shorts pocket, retrieve the two items in there, and then extend my arm towards the nurse, “No, my teeth are in my pocket.”

“I’ll go ahead and get the doctor,” she says.

She comes back quickly and takes the teeth and puts them in a cup of milk. Evidently it is how you preserve teeth. If I actually was a hockey player or a boxer I guess, I’d have already know this. I happen to walk by a mirror and get a look at myself. I looked like Balboa after 15 rounds with Creed. I looked like Carter after the last debate with Reagan. I looked like Isaiah Robertson trying to tackle Earl Campbell in the Astrodome back in September of ’78. Blood all over my shirt, dried blood on my face and arms. Some even on my shoes.

Doc comes in, takes a look, and says he’s going to stitch up my lip and suggests we call our dentist ASAP. Mom makes the call. We get the answering service who tells us we’ll probably have to wait until morning. Mom politely, but sternly, explains that simply is unacceptable. A couple minutes later we get a call from the dentist who clearly understood the nature of the situation better than the answering service. Our dentists are a husband and wife team. They actually have evening hours on Thursdays and we were hoping that we could get them while still at the office. Turns out we just missed them still being in the office. Mom explains the situation to Dr. Mindy who then tells us that she’ll tell her husband to turn around and head back to the office and meet us there. Which, by the way, was really, really awesome. If you ever need a dentist, I know two of them who are bad asses.

So getting stitches isn’t a big deal. You’ve probably had some at some point in your life. Getting stitches in your lip, with all the nerve endings, requires a fairly healthy amount of anesthetic. So he sticks me with the needle on both sides of my nose but just above my top lip and in the roof of my mouth. So, in case you were curious, a needle in the roof of your mouth is unpleasant. You might want to write that down so you don’t forget.

Anyway, he gives me about 10 minutes or so for the stuff to kick in and he gets to work. Doc puts one stitch in the inside of my bottom lip. A whole line of them horizontally across the inside of top lip. Then a couple vertically on the inside of my top lip. On the outside of the top lip, I had an arc-shaped cut right in the middle. He stitched the two ends of the arc then essentially used some kind of glue on the rest of the cut. We grabbed the cup holding my teeth and headed to the dentist. Right before leaving I had one more question for the ER doc regarding the length of time I should expect the anesthetic to work. “Don’t worry, it’ll last well after you get to the dentist.”

By the way, during the stitching, Mom calls our neighbors to ask them if they can run down to the fields and pick up Kinz and Bails. Because, remember, they are still there practicing. Unfortunately, our neighbors were on their way to Minnesota to see family. Also Mom evidently has a natural tendency for cliffhangers.

“Brian, hey, can you pick up the girls at the fields at 8:30? We’re in the emergency room. Kinz hit a line a drive and…hold on the doctor just came back into the room, I’ll call you back.” Click.

She calls back a couple minutes later and explains the whole situation. Then they explain that they can’t pick up the girls because they’re half way to Minnesota. Thankfully Kinz’ coach drove them both home. But right before Mom hangs up the phone, our neighbors ask, “Hey, before they fix everything take a picture and send it to me.”

Yeah, so that’s what they wanted. A pic of me with a smashed mouth, covered in blood and no teeth. Mom walks over with the phone to actually take the pic. I turn towards her and she realizes two things: 1) my lip is so swollen that it can’t physically be moved to the show my lack of teeth without causing additional – and unnecessary – pain. 2) I evidently have a pretty good “No f’ing way” look that I shot at her.

Listen, I was doing a pretty good job of being a fairly good sport about this whole ordeal. But I’m not letting Mom take a pic so it can live forever on freaking social media. Even less than an hour after impact, I was pretty sure this episode was something that didn’t require any visual reminders.

Somehow, she still managed to get one pic:
Lambertteeth

Show Teeth Part 1: Impact

So remember how I was describing wonderfulness of picking up other people’s garbage in minor league baseball stadiums? Yeah, so anyway, I was wondering if you had to choose – and I mean you had to or there’d be dire consequences…like you’d be forced to watch the Don’t Worry Be Happy video over and over – so would you rather do pick up other people’s garbage…or get hit in the face with a line drive?

Take your time. Picking up the garbage is pretty gross when it mostly consists of empty beer cans and stadium food. Oh, and bees. Bees evidently really like to hang out inside empty beer cans. And, truth be told, not too many people are going to have a reliable frame of reference for this particular choice. So you’re guessing. Which is the same thing Josh Scobee evidently does whenever he kicks the football.

Softball really has two seasons. Teams get picked in July, practice starts right after that and then they start playing tournaments in August and, if they want, can play all the way until November. This seems like overkill. People in the Midwest are already complaining about going to football games in November and we might still be playing softball. Thankfully, we usually play until the end of September. So Mom and I decided to take the girls out for some extra practice in August before school started and activities completely took over our lives. It was going really well. We convinced Kinz to adjust her batting stance and suddenly she really started hitting the ball. Hard. Line drives. Rod Freaking Carew. One Thursday afternoon, let’s say it was August 13th, I took her out to the fields. Mom was about 15 minutes behind us. We thought we’d do a little bit of hitting while Bails practiced and we waited for Kinz’ practice to start. I set up with the bucket of balls and tossed a few warm up pitches. Kinz stepped in and took a few cuts to settle in. Hit a couple weak grounders and fouled a couple off, then she got serious. Good contact. Line drives and one-hoppers toward shortstop. It was going pretty well.

For about 10 minutes.

We got out there about 6:15. And about 6:30 or so things changed.

Remember that shot Clue Haywood hit off Ricky Vaughn mid-season back in ’89. The one that he crushed towards South America and left nothing but a vapor trail. Kinz hit one of those except it was a line drive. At my face. Directly into the middle of top lip. Just below my nose. Absorbed completely by my two tooth front teeth.

Blood is warm. You really don’t realize how warm it actually is until it is filling your mouth and spilling out between your fingers as you instinctively – albeit pointlessly – hold your hand(s) over your mouth. Also, just to confirm, it is an odd feeling holding your two front teeth in bottom of your mouth. I’m not a dentist but I was pretty sure this was bad.

I start heading to the dugout to get my phone because I was also pretty sure we were going to need Mom ASAP. Kinz comes sprinting up to me.

“Dad! Oh my gosh, I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean to. Are you okay?”

This is one of those times that you really have to be completely in control of your emotions and have a high degree of control over the brain functions that control speech, word choice, voice tone and other things which convey things to your 13 year-old daughter. If I freak out, all the improvement and momentum she’s gained hitting the ball might evaporate overnight. And after listening to all the 13 year-old girl whining about not hitting the ball as well as she wants…that ain’t an option.

What my natural reaction was:

“MOTHER FU@#*&!!!!! YOU GOTTA BE FU@#^%@ KIDDING ME!!!!”

My actual reaction:

“Nice hit…but you knocked my teeth out.”

You know in movies when the actor gets injured and you’re all, “Dude just get your phone and call for help.” Yeah, so using a smartphone with a touch screen isn’t as simple as you’d hope when both of your hands are covered with blood, you’re holding your two front teeth in the bottom of your mouth, and…just in case you were wondering, it hurts like a MOTHER FU@#*&!!!!!

I quickly did the math and freaking out wasn’t going to stop the bleeding or permit me to travel back in time and complete the Jiu-Jitsu training necessary to improve my hand speed allowing me to bring my glove up in time to catch the ball. Or, worst case, change its trajectory and decrease its air speed. Also I figured out that I needed something to jam into the gaping space that used to hold my teeth. I gave my bloody phone to Kinz and we quickly walked to my truck. And, FYI, in addition to being warm, blood is slippery. I couldn’t get my damn door open because my damn bloody hand kept slipping off the damn handle. Kinz opens the door and then calls Mom. I stop myself from leaning too far into the driver’s side seat of my truck because I don’t want to bleed all over it. I was impressed with myself that I still cared about upholstery…or at least the cost of cleaning it. I manage to reach the roll of paper towels I keep in there.

What? I have three kids. There is always crap to clean up in my truck. Anyway, I shove a couple paper towels into my mouth. Kinz keeps calling Mom because, as is usually the case, she’s ignoring calls from my phone. Kinz tries calling her from her phone. Still no answer.

Thankfully one of the Moms we know from softball sees us struggling and asks if I’m ok. Through the paper towels, blood, fat lip and loose teeth I give a brief, but rough, explanation. She grabs some ice from her cooler. I wrap it up and hold the ice on my lip with the paper towels shoved into my mouth. At this point I’m frustrated that Mom hasn’t answered so I make the call to head to the emergency room ourselves. We just have to grab our stuff off the field before we leave. Just as I’m doing that one of the coaches for another team in our system, who is also a local cop and pretty big guy, comes over the outfield fence and runs over to us. And this is not a short fence. It’s like a 8 foot fence.

Weirdly somebody got video of it:

“Take a knee!” he orders. “What happened?”

“Kinz hit a line drive into my mouth, knocked out my teeth.”

“You black out?”

“What? No, I’m fine. Got my teeth knocked out.”

He takes a look at my mouth, gets a big smile and says, “Unfortunately for you, being the handsome man you are, you now look like a hockey player.”

Kinz is still kinda freaking out. “Dad I’m so, so sorry.”

In the calmest and most reassuring tone I can muster I answer, “Kinz, that’s the best hit you’ve had all fall.”

Cop smiles again, “That’s a good Dad right there. Daughter knocks out his teeth and he’s still encouraging her.”

Return From Hiatus

So sorry for the long hiatus. I have several excuses. First, work got the best of me. Or if you were to put it in plain language, it kicked my ass and sucked the life out of me. It was like watching Steel Magnolias and listening to Ed Sheeran over and over again while you are intermittently interrupted by that guy at work whose only contribution in every meeting is to point out what you’re doing wrong without offering any solutions of his own. And this is all happening right as you get out of your car in the work parking lot, in the rain, only to find out that your freaking kids have pilfered your umbrella. Oh and once you make it into the building there’s that other guy who asks, “Wow, raining out?” No, it’s not raining. I took one of those selfie sticks and put a watering can on the end and walked under it all the way into the office. Then, after putting your money in the pop machine, you realize there isn’t any freaking Diet Pepsi. That’s what it was like. For all of May and the first week in June.

Second, it turns out April, May and June are, in fact, the busiest months of the year in our family. Not only was work tough on me but softball cranks up, every freaking club the girls are in at school needs to have some sort of spring performance, Rye’s dance team was in what seemed like 427 competitions and Mom was busy. In April, she went to Tacoma for a week for for work, then to Orlando for four days with Rye’s dance team. In May, she was in Kansas City for a weekend with the dance team again and then in June she went to Chicago for four days with some friends from high school. To all you single parents out there, especially the ones with multiple kids…you guys are freaking rock stars. You are the Robocops of parents. I have an entirely different appreciation for my Mom and how she took care of my sister’s and I when my Dad was traveling to West Germany, England, Alaska, Iran, Japan, etc. Normally, if you were in my shoes, you’d just fight your way through the week doing your job and carting the kids around looking forward to the weekend. But the weekends weren’t a break. There are nine weekends between May 1 and today. We had softball tournaments on all of them including this weekend. Last weekend, we were down in Kansas City with Kinz’ team. We had a great time, they won the tournament and the parents exhibited the mental toughness to sit through five games and 100 degree heat on Saturday. Then on Sunday the girls won their first three games which put them in the championship game. A game which was scheduled to start at 6:30 p.m. Sunday evening. But a 17U game went long so we didn’t get on the field until a bit after that. Except while the girls are warming up we find out that the tournament director had rescheduled the 10U championship game to our field which pushed our game back to 8:30 or so. And remember, we all have a three hour drive home after the game. And we all are sweaty, covered with infield dust and dirt and, I’m just spitballin’ here, but I’m reasonably certain we all smell like a foot covered with goat cheese after it had been wrapped in a wet towel and left in the sun for two days. The aggravating part was that right behind our field were two other fields. Fields that weren’t being used and would take 15 minutes to get ready. And we had umpires available. Logic dictates that since the game was already scheduled to go at 6:30 both teams would be ready to go. The tournament director just needed to make the call to switch fields and tell both teams. We decided to expedite the process a little by expressing our approval of the field switch immediately to everyone within a 2 or 3 mile radius. The problem? The tournament director said he’d already told the other team that we wouldn’t start until 8:30 and they all had left to go get some dinner. Seemed reasonable until we noticed that they were actually about 300 feet from us sitting under a big oak tree doing nothing. Well, I mean except for a few of their parents who were out in the FREAKING PARKING LOT DRINKING BEERS. Not kidding. It seemed to us to be a reasonable thing to ask the tourney director to simply go over to the other team’s coach and say, “since you guys all seem to be here and you’ve found the time to booze, we’re going to go ahead and start the game in about 20 minutes and get going so everybody gets home before midnight.”

Their reaction? “Nope.”

Our reaction? “This is how parent-on-parent violence happens.”

So we had to sit around until about 9:00 before the game started. Finished about 10:15. Thankfully, Kinz’ coach and his family decided enough was enough and got themselves and us hotel rooms for Sunday night. I figured that was a better idea than getting home at 1:30 in the morning. And we got a shower. Which is better than smelling like the aforementioned foot all the way home.

Weathered the Storm?

I really thought that once we made it through that first weekend in March, things would get smoother. It was fool’s gold. Like 2007 Browns. Or Chumbawumba. Since school started in August we’ve been lucky enough to take Rye to 6 a.m. dance team practices on Mondays and Wednesdays. And Bails had choir Monday morning at 8:00 and orchestra Thursday morning at 8:00. You know what else starts at 8:00? Work. So I’m late to work twice a week. Then, in January, Kinz told us she was going to do mimes. Yes. Mimes. For two months. Three times a week at 6:30 in the morning. Plus she decided that she thought joining show choir, which is twice a week after school and requires Mom to leave early from work on Tuesdays and me on Fridays, was also an excellent idea. And don’t forget the normal after school stuff. Dance for Rye on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday with added practices on Wednesdays when a competition gets close. Then Kinz and Bails worked with a softball hitting coach once a week during the softball off-season. An off-season which included once a week practices on Sundays for Bails and twice a week practices on Sundays and Tuesdays for Kinz. Plus we have church on Wednesdays.

The significance of the first week in March was that all of the morning bullsh…I mean activities were completed. Except for Thursday morning orchestra. But so what, the last couple weeks have been awesome. It’s a like short morning vacation where you get to open the present of extra time 4 days a week. You know what you never have when you have three girls involved in activities – none of whom have a driver’s license – and all of whom seem to relish the morning battle over the bathroom? Time. Extra time. We never have this. At this point in our lives, extra time is like a good draft in Oakland. Or a bad Goldberg’s episode. And it is precious and should be savored. So that’s what we’ve been doing the last few weeks. Because as of today, we’re back in the sh*t. Rye’s dance practices continue and she has competitions coming up at the end of April and the beginning of May so they are ramping up the extra practices. Because, you know, adding things at the last minute to a schedule never creates unintended consequences. And Kinz and Bails both have softball hitting the gas pedal too. This past weekend was the start of multiple practices a week for both of them. They also are required to play in the local recreational softball league since they play on the tournament teams. And those teams are playing in April in May too. And then Bails decided that she wanted to try track. And considering her build and unlimited amounts of energy, we thought she might be able to compete a little longer in track than softball. So we signed her up. Signed her for three more practices every week through July. Yeah, anybody have a cloning device? Or at least something capable of producing a believable life-size hologram so we can at least fake it when it comes to being at all practices? Next Tuesday Bails has a rec league softball practice from 5:30-7 followed up by a tournament team practice from 7-8:30. This happens on top of her first track team practice from 5:45-7:15. Kinz has a tournament softball team practice from 6:00-7:00 while also having a show choir rehearsal from 5-7:45. Plus the regular 7:45-9:30 dance practice for Rye. Yeah, and by the way, April and sometimes May is my busiest time of year at work. Super excited for spring…

That’s a Dinger

We are now 3 and a-half weeks into summer vacation. Not gonna lie. It has been awesome. Mostly because there is no homework for the girls to do. Don’t feel guilty at all about saying that. Mom and I needed a break too. And a roughly 11 week break sounds about right.

Girls have been busy. Bails built this:

BunnyTrap

If you can’t tell from the sign that says “For Bunnies Only,” it’s a bunny trap. Here’s to hoping the literacy programs are better run than IT department at the IRS.

Bails won the Golden Bone award the last week of school. The award is given to all the 4th graders who correctly identify all the human bones on the skeleton test. In actuality it’s a dog bone painted gold. I told her good job. Her response?

“Dad, some people are good looking. Some people are awesome. I just happen to be both.”

“You don’t lack in confidence Bails.”

“That’s just the way I am man.”

The period of time between May 9 and July 6 encompasses nine weekends. We have softball tournaments on eight of them. Just two left however. Oh and Rye has dance three mornings a week and four evenings a week through the 4th of July. And we have softball practices in there a few times a week. And Bails was in this orchestra camp for the last two weeks. Scheduled right in the middle of the morning for the convenience of working parents. If you are searching for the word to describe this, its “stupid.”

Truth be told I’ve really started to enjoy the softball tournaments. Granted it’s a helluva lot easier when Bails hits a homer. Seriously. It was like a combination of Roy Hobbs and the 1978 version of Dave Parker. Except it didn’t clear the fence and there weren’t any sparks falling from the sky.

Gotta admit it was pretty sweet. Bails is not an imposing figure at the plate. The opposing coach never waves his outfielders back when she’s in the box instead a bunt warning is almost always issued. Yes, Bails is built like a pencil and no, she has not been blessed a great deal of height. But its not like she’s a stick figure walking up there. And most of these teams do not have extensive scouting reports. Notice I said “most” because after having spent some time around youth coaches, you realize that even though its 10U softball, some of them do have detailed scouting reports and advanced metrics.

Anyway, she hit the ball into the gap between two outfielders. The ground was pretty hard so when it landed and took a bounce it just took off and rolled to the fence. The complex we were at did a poor job of watering the fields so every time the wind kicked up, which was about every 14 seconds, it was like Maverick and Goose hitting the afterburners creating straight line winds in excess of 70 mph. At one point both the batter and catcher disappeared from view. Like Flight 19 back in 1945. But that meant we had some help from the wind too. As soon as I see the ball headed to the outfield, Mom and I are up yelling “Go 2! Go 2!” then we realize that she’s got a triple easy so we’re yelling “Go 3! Go 3!” She looked like she expected to be held at third but her coach sent her home. One time last fall she hit a liner past the shortstop and aided by a few fielding and throwing errors she came running into third at which point her coach gave her the hold up sign. But it was about 95 degrees that day and all we needed was one run to win the game. So she took it upon herself to just run home. Scored in a cloud of dust. Afterwards when I asked why she ran through the stop sign the coach, she told me “Dad, it’s really hot out here and coach said we could get ice cream if we won.” Good enough. This time she actually had permission to go home. And she didn’t even have to slide. Coolest thing was it wasn’t aided by a bunch of errors. She just beat the throw. Didn’t even realize she was safe until her team mobbed her on the way back to the dugout. Then the next time she’s up I notice something for the first time…the opposing coach telling his outfielders to back up. Damn right I was smiling.

One Year Replacement Warranty

Sometimes you make a decision based on all of your previously compiled Dad knowledge and think it’ll eventually pay off. Granted, this means you are actually compiling the knowledge you gain. Which isn’t a given. I mean TV execs keep giving George Lopez jobs. Unfortunately though, sometimes you don’t pay attention close enough to notice when all that knowledge pays off. Like while you’re watching the Cyclones win the Big 12 tournament and your kids successfully negotiate and settle a major skirmish involving territorial rights to the basement couch and claim jumping allegations regarding Doritos. All without your intervention. It’s really what should have happened instead of the Munich Agreement in 1938. If Chamberlain just lets the Czechs defend themselves, maybe things unfold differently for not only the Czechs but also the Poles. Then again there are other times when you not only notice that knowledge paying off but you nail it. Really, really nail it. Like how the Steelers nailed it when they took Rod Woodson with the 10th overall pick in the ’87 draft.

Case in point, Bails wears glasses now. Took her into the eye doctor last July and it turned out the squinting she was doing wasn’t just for fun. So in the last 8 months or so she sees things better but the glasses have taken a beating. But nothing that couldn’t be fixed with a focused application of needle nose pliers. Worst thing was when she took a ball in the melon during softball camp in February. Despite not being engineered to absorb the impact of an unguided softball, the glasses actually protected her eye. Ball hit the left arm of the glasses right between the hinge and the angle where the arm turns into the front part of the frame. Thankfully the hinge was fine but what was once a right angle was now nearly a straight line. Yeah, she got hit pretty hard. Nice bruise and scab for a few days. But the only thing she was worried about was her glasses. I honestly thought they were toast and was dreading the purchase of new frames. But I managed to MacGyver them back into shape with the aforementioned needle nose pliers. Naturally I assumed we’d dodged a bullet as far as glasses replacement goes.

But then a few weekends ago we’re on our way to the mall for some stuff. Bails, as she’s apt to do, was being obstinate. Or as my Mom used to say, she was being a nudge. She was doing everything in her power to move as slow as possible and infuriate everybody. She’s good at this. She may have inherited it from me. However, right next to that inherited gene sequence is the one that makes her act like a squirrel after consuming a Red Bull spiked with Jolt cola. So as she’s finally leaving the house she realizes she doesn’t have the sweatshirt on that she wanted to wear. And she’s very particular about which sweatshirt is worn for certain activities. So she whips around to get the correct sweatshirt and her glasses literally fly off her head onto the oak floor in the kitchen. Bails being Bails, she is unable to disengage from her now irreversible commitment to the Red Bull gene. So instead of hitting the brakes and doing what the rest of us would do which is of course stopping and picking up the glasses, she just kept going. Right onto the glasses resulting in not only newly bent frames but a totally stratched up right lens. It looked Egyptian hieroglyphics were etched onto the lens.

lightningIf Mom had harnessed the ability to control weather like Storm in the X-Men, Bails would have the felt the full weight and fury of a well-aimed lightning bolt. Then she would have went all Tom & Jerry and dropped an anvil on Bails. Both of which would have been fully justifiable.

So I’m looking at her glasses and thinking, “Crap, I’m about to pay for new frames and lenses.” Mostly because my first reaction to just about everything in regards to parenthood is “how much is this going to cost me?” The whole thing was even more infuriating because I was thinking about getting her some of those sweet new sports goggles so her regular glasses didn’t get damaged. I had rec-specs back in the day and its was pretty tough to look cool wearing those. But the models they have now are sweet. Not that it matters because she’s not getting them.

So the following Monday I get home from work, grab Bails and her glasses and head to Lenscrafters. We arrive and walk up to the counter.

“Hey, we definitely need a new lens and depending on the damage to the frames, we might need something new there too.”

“Did you remember if you bought the one year replacement warranty?”

It’s funny how your brain works. Up until this exact moment in time I had not thought of the one year replacement warranty at all. Not once. Not even when her glasses were smashed at softball camp. But now, I’m thinking, “oh man, please God let me not be a giant stupid moron who, despite knowing that my youngest daughter excels at breaking stuff she shouldn’t, failed to buy the one year replacement warranty.”

But this is what came out:

“Wait, what?”

“One year replacement warranty. Replaces lenses and/or frames within a year of purchase for just a $25 co-pay.”

Again, I’m rolling this around in my head, “Is it possible that I’m so stupid, and also cheap, that I declined to buy this warranty even though Bails is more likely to trash her glasses than Bigfoot is to avoid detection.”

But this is what came out:

“I’m going to need you to go ahead and check that for me.”

“Sure, just tell me her first name and when you purchased them?”

“Bailey. Last July.”

He saunters away to a computer to check. It took about 45 seconds. 45 long seconds.

“Looks like you did purchase the warranty.”

Just a reminder here that this is Lenscrafters on Monday evening in March. It’s a relatively placid atmosphere. Only about 4 or 5 other customers in the store. But they all heard this:

“Who was smart enough to buy the one year replacement warranty? THIS GUY! Yes! WOO!”

After having to replace Riley’s glasses about a month and a-half ago because 1) her prescription changed, and 2) she trashed her frames so much that taking the old lenses out would have resulted in the destruction of the original frames, I was keenly aware of the kick to the balls my wallet was about to take to replace Bailey’s glasses. Mostly because, I wasn’t smart enough to buy the warranty for Rye’s glasses…

But it turns out I was paying attention this time. I don’t really remember buying the warranty other having this hazy recollection of thinking to myself, “Dude it’s Bails, buy the damn warranty, it’s like $30.”

So now I’m just hoping she doesn’t bust her glasses after the warranty expires…