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By Erica Salmon, TeamSnap user, team mom, writer and guest author
This baseball season marks the seventh season my husband has been coaching through our town’s Little League. He started with my son, Luke, through Tee Ball, coach-pitch, modified coach-pitch, kid-pitch, minors and now majors. This year, the youngest of my three kids has shown an interest in playing ball, so my husband is back to coaching Tee Ball with our kindergartner, Holly, and I find myself back on the Tee Ball sidelines.
Only this time around, I am the “older mom” who is not doing Tee Ball for the first time. As a result, my perspective has changed!
Much of the Tee Ball experience is the same. There are a few kids that are really into it, while the majority are “grass pickers.” There is one kid out of 12 who can catch a fly ball and eight kids my husband has to constantly remind not to climb the dugout fence. There are parents who are screaming for their children as if they are playing in Game 7 of the World Series. There are a few older siblings who cannot help but get on the field and “help out.” When the kids come up to bat and my husband carefully places the ball on top of the tee, I pray the kids won’t swing before he moves his head out of the way. He has made it this far without getting clobbered by an overzealous batter. I hope his streak continues!
What has changed is the gear that the Tee Ball kids bring to the games….
When a little boy recently went up to the tee with a bright orange bat, my 11-year-old commented that the bat he was using is a $300 bat. I almost fell off of my bright pink chair.
Luke explained that the popular bats in his age group (11-13) are Easton MAKO bats, which can cost $300 or more. I have gotten over the sticker shock of bats in recent years, but $300 seemed awfully pricey for a bat for a TEE BALL PLAYER! The little boy standing at the tee was most definitely swinging a MAKO bat (dangerously close to my husband’s head!). Luke then pointed out the bat bags hanging in the dugout.
“Some of those bags are nicer than mine,” he commented. “Dad didn’t let me get a bag when I was in Tee Ball. He said he wouldn’t buy me a bag until I could carry it myself. He also said he wanted to see if I even liked playing before he bought me a bunch of stuff.”
When I looked at all of the “stuff” Luke was referring to, it took my breath away. Customized cleats, high-end gloves (that were waaaayyy too big for their little hands) and leather batting gloves were more prevalent than not. Considering most of these kids would not make it past Tee Ball (the number of kids who sign up for Little League drops dramatically each year as the kids get older), most of this gear would not see another season.
Or maybe I am wrong. Maybe kids really get into it when they have cool gear like bigger kids or like the pros. Maybe that’s a deciding factor. Maybe the kids climbing the dugout fence in their $100 cleats are just finding a new, creative way to spend the seventh-inning stretch! Time will tell!
Erica Salmon is a TeamSnap Mom, often seen on the sidelines of youth soccer, baseball, field hockey and basketball games as well as at dance recitals, concerts and art shows. Erica is a book author, former fashion analyst for NBC10 (Philadelphia) and the founder of several Websites and blogs including Fantasy Fashion League and Red Carpet Mom. Erica lives in Mullica Hill, NJ, with her husband, three children and their enormous dog Elvis.