By Teddy Allen
Good thing I’m elderly because it is evident as of two weekends ago when I went to my first ever T-Ball tournament that I could not afford to have a child today.
Not an athletic one, anyway.
This was the Dixie Baseball Regional Tournament (I think) at Tinsley Park in Bossier. For T-Ball. An All-Star Tournament. We now have all-star tournaments for 6- and 7-year-olds even though the ball is hit off a tee and there are no pitchers. This has been going on a good while; I’d just never seen it.
I knew the doings were big when I parked and could not hear any baseball things. That’s how far away the parks were and everyone had gotten there a lot earlier than I had. I like to walk, so no complaint there; just trying to convey how many people were parked here on this Saturday evening. It was like the cast party for Gone With The Wind.
The first sign of trouble was a nice lady walking toward me. She handed me a wrist band. “Here, I’ll save you 10 bucks,” she said and handed me the band. “I was in there five minutes.”
Mister Teddy did not know it cost money to watch T-Ball.
And now I have an idea how much money it costs to play T-Ball, or at least be the guardian of a person who plays T-Ball.
It’s a lot.
Jerseys. Colors. Full uniforms with “Saline” or “Ruston” or “Bossier” across the front. Dozens of teams. “Olla” and … is there a team from “Greater Olla” here? Seems everyone else in Louisiana is.
The winners are traveling to the Dixie World Series in Center, Texas this weekend, and if you’re going to that, best leave now because traffic will not be a walk in the park. (If you’re interested in sponsoring, Hospitality Tents are only $200 a day and the Team Dinner/Opening Ceremonies are just $1,500. This is a big jump from 30 years ago when T-Ball was a YMCA T-shirt and a cap and your cleanest dirty shorts, and when the “regular season” was over, you met at Johnny’s Pizza.)
It took less than five minutes for me to figure out two things.
One, the gear required. Full uniforms. Battery-operated fans. (Could have used those back in the day.) Bat bags. And a clever invention—a wagon. Most everyone had these fold-up wagons, and in them were chairs for Mee Maw and Pee Paw, coolers, fans, bat bags, and sometimes a baby.
And two, most everyone I saw was sweating, but also smiling. It wasn’t my scene, but then again, none of these people wanted to be on the No. 7 tee box with me. They pay for a wagon, I pay for a pitching wedge. Different strokes … Same feeling of fun.
The little team I went to support came in 14th out of 16 teams, I think, but they all looked happy as little dudes on Christmas morning.
Things change. Used to, “travel ball” was one trip each summer out of town for a two-day tournament so my guys could experience a hotel and be together for a weekend. Then it was wiffle ball in the parking lot at night. Low overhead, high return. It was a different time, I guess.
Today, if they were grading, I’d make an F in T-Ball.
Things change, but still … when was the last time you saw boys and girls riding bikes with their baseball gloves hooked to the handlebars, or playing pickup baseball at a park or wiffle in the yard? Something in my old soul always thought that would be timeless. At least it’s still free.
Contact Teddy at firstname.lastname@example.org or Twitter @MamaLuvsManning