Work is never done for fathers of future major league players

SATURDAY'S HERO

April 24, 1993|By ROB KASPER

The sun was shining and ambitions ran high. This was the weekend I was going to fix the faucets, wash and wax the cars and heal the doorbell. Then dad duty called. And after the baseball, lacrosse and skateboard outings, my domestic agenda was "downsized."

Nonetheless, it was a good weekend.

Saturday was the beginning of Little League season. It was wet, muddy and wonderful. Standing in muck near the third base line with the other coaches, the parents and fidgeting warriors of the Roland Park Little League, I got the sense that all things were possible.

Brooks Robinson, looking like a bronze god of baseball, fired out the first ball. No lazy toss for this Hall of Famer. Somehow, when Brooks told the assembled hopefuls that one of them might make the journey from pint-size baseball to the "bigs," this age-old hope seemed as fresh as the April sunshine.

Later, after a few hours of baseball practice with a team of 7- and 8-year-olds, realism set in. Perhaps someday these kids will be big league stars, but for right now the team goal is to find left field. As the baseball practice got closer to noon, parents began checking their watches. Lacrosse commitments loomed on the horizon. This time of year in Baltimore many kids play both lacrosse and baseball. This means that parents spend a good portion of their weekend "leisure" shuttling kids from one soggy field to another.

Saturday I was in that situation. After driving the 8-year-old home from baseball practice and grabbing a sandwich, I turned around and chauffeured the 12-year-old to his lacrosse game played at the field in front of St. Mary's Seminary.

At the beginning of the contest, about all I knew about the game was that lacrosse sticks are expensive. And that every kid who plays lacrosse wants a new stick.

But by the end of the game, I was yelling advice. One of the great parts of attending your kid's sporting events is that you can scream in public and nobody gets upset. Not even your kid.

Lacrosse struck me as a spirited game in which a bunch of nimble, speedy players try to move the ball past a bunch of steady, substantially built defenders. For a long time all the helmeted players looked alike to me, but gradually I was able to distinguish the defense from the offense. And even though I had a very shaky understanding of the rules, that didn't keep me from complaining about the officiating. I liked the game.

I was worn out. But when we got home, the lacrosse player quickly showered, changed into his baggy clothes and announced that he and his buddies were going to ride their skateboards 15 blocks to the Inner Harbor. His mother and I objected.

We then had what the diplomats would call "a frank discussion." The kid saw the trip to the harbor as an adventure, a chance to skate on new surfaces, to "enjoy the freedom" of being a skater and being 12. His mother and I saw the venture as dangerous.

A compromise was struck. I drove the trio of skaters to the Inner Harbor. They were told they could skate back, if they stayed together and if they called us as soon as they started for home. It worked out, even though the kids took a questionable route home.

"There sure are a lot of boarded up buildings on Howard Street," the kid said when he arrived in the backyard. My wife and I looked at each other, envisioning these kids skating their way past urban blight. We sighed.

The next day, Sunday, the kid learned a new route downtown. He skated down to the Walters Art Gallery. His mother walked along with him. After checking his skateboard at the gallery coat room, the skater and his mom took in the exhibition of Alfred Sisley's paintings.

Meanwhile, the 8-year-old and I were out in a field playing baseball. I was pitching, he was hitting. The kid had gone to an Orioles game and carefully watched the mannerisms of major league batters. Mimicking the mighty, the 8-year-old took a few practice swings. Then before he settled in, he tapped imaginary mud off the bottom of his sneakers.

Somewhere along the way I was able to find time to fix our broken doorbell. I removed the button from the front door and found that one of the wires had pulled loose from its mooring. I reattached the wire, and the bell sounded the clarion call of victory on the home front. Somehow I got two cars washed.

But the leaky faucets will have to wait for another weekend. One that isn't as full, as this one was, of the pleasures of spring in Baltimore.

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