Seeking out a relief pitcher

April 20, 2000|By Kevin Cowherd

AS ANY PARENT of a Little League player knows, there's nothing more stressful in life than watching your kid pitch.

Here's an idea I have advocated for years: At every game, there should be a little bar set up on the sidelines expressly for the parents of the kid who's pitching.

As soon as your kid takes the mound, you'd be allowed to sit at the bar and order a drink.

And this drink would be on the house. Beer, wine, mixed drinks, blender drinks, whatever you want.

(Actually, I haven't worked out the details of how the money for all this booze would be raised.

(Maybe each league could hold a pre-season raffle: $1 per chance on winning, say, a big-screen TV, with all proceeds going into a fund called, I don't know, "Restorative for Parents.")

Anyway, under this plan, as long as your kid is on the mound, you get to sit at the bar and drink.

But as soon as they bring in a relief pitcher, that's it, you're gone. You have to leave the bar.

(Maybe we could even have a bouncer working a velvet rope escorting people in and out. Again, these kinds of details still have to be worked out.)

Then the parents of the new pitcher get to sit down and order drinks.

The point is, no parent should have to go through the stress of watching his or her kid pitch without something to calm the nerves.

If your kid is pitching well, watching him from the sidelines can almost be bearable.

But as soon as your kid starts walking batters or getting rocked by the other team, it's more painful than watching the Rick Rockwell-Darva Conger wedding.

(In fact, under my sidelines-bar plan, if your kid goes Hindenburg on the mound, you'd be encouraged to turn to the bartender and say: "How fast can you make a martini?")

Part of the problem is that the agony of a bad pitching perform- ance seems to go on forever.

Under the best of circum- stances, getting three outs in a Little League game can take, oh, weeks.

If the pitcher is wild or giving up a ton of hits, well, his team may not get three outs until next season.

Here's a typical scenario a parent may have to endure:

Your kid walks the first batter.

Then he walks the second batter.

Then he walks the third batter.

At this point, as the butterflies do strafing runs in your stomach, the coach makes the long trek out to the mound to "settle" your kid down.

And it works -- sort of.

He gets the next pitch over the plate. Only the batter hits a weak grounder to third, which promptly rolls between the fielder's legs.

So now a run has scored, the bases are loaded, there are no outs, and your kid has already been pitching for what seems like an hour and a half.

As my friend Brian says: It's death by paper cuts for a parent.

Because sitting there in the bleachers, there's nothing you can do to help the kid.

Oh, sure, you want to shout encouragement.

And yet, on the other hand, you don't want to sound ... panicked.

So you find yourself yelling -- with more than a hint of urgency in your voice -- the same stupid advice that parents have yelled for generations:

"Make him be a hitter now!"

"Just aim for the catcher's mitt!"

"Remember, you got a good defense behind you!"

And, of course, none of this helps your kid, who continues to be lit up like a refinery fire.

Now, think how much easier all this would be with a cocktail in front of you. And maybe a pu-pu platter, depending on what kind of a budget your league has.

Sure, the sound of the blender firing up might disturb the concentration of some of the players.

But aren't you worth it?

Look, you work hard every day.

You don't need this kind of stress at 6: 30 on a gorgeous spring evening.

My God, you're a parent.

Haven't you been through enough?

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