Posted by: Mark Nielsen | April 3, 2008

Brainy Boy Plays Tee-Ball: A Tradition of Mediocrity Passed On


Tonight a momentous occasion, as my son joined his first ever athletic team, the Skokie Youth Tee-Ball Cardinals. Heck, the kids already had a chance to start a group chant at the information meeting! And when the league head discovered they had enough kids for four teams instead of three, the Cardinals –to a man–had already bonded so much that they refused to abandon their teammates to join the new team. Either that, or they just didn’t want to give up their cool red hats.

(Though later, in private, one mother helped out the league by switching her son to the new team. I overheard her tell the commish that all the older Cub fans in her household would be horrified to have a Cardinal, even a three-foot one, living under the same roof with them. We Cub fans are a weird lot.)

So practices start a week from today. And here’s an odd modern twist: his coach is one of the moms! Her name is Karen (she’s the one in the denim skirt above). It strikes me as a situation where she’s probably already had at least one kid go through the league, so she knows the drill. Other than that, I know nothing. But it should be fun, and I’m willing to help. Besides, the main role of the coach at this age (five or six) is just to keep the kids from sitting down in the dirt and making mudpies with their drool. (I kid, I kid. They’re a little more able than that. But not much.)

The other goofy but fun thing that I discovered tonight is that my son will be one of the only Goys on his 12-man team. (Goy =  a non-Jew, for all you WASP-y Goys out there who don’t live among the Chosen People.) Even though Graham has a drop or so of Jewish blood, about seven generations back, I don’t think that will count for much with his teamates Ezra, Benji, and Micah. Not that the kids really care. The parents probably don’t either. It was just odd to hear these children’s names read as they were put onto their respective teams: Amir, Sammy, another Micah, a few unpronouce-able Israeli names, and then “Graham”. I saw a couple of Latinos, a couple of black families, maybe one east Indian, 3-4 Miscellaneous like Graham, and a veritable sea of yarmulkes. Funny stuff, here in the new American melting pot.

The four teams in the league are the Cubs, the White Sox, the Cardinals, and, for some odd reason, the Marlins. Maybe so all those snowbird grannies and grandpas down in Florida will have a reason to root for the big league MLB Marlins, who can barely put 10,000 people in a stadium lately.

Best of all was that Graham finally got into the whole “team” thing, after at first whining about joining the league. He wasn’t even the only weepy, tentative kid there. He had gotten over it by the time we got there, whereas a few other boys were still clingy and needy. This is what raising a family is all about. You give your little cardinal bits of food till he’s old enough to fly, then you push him (or her) out of the nest. And he flew. Didn’t even want to leave when the meeting was over. Hopefully the games will hold his attention as well.

Stay tuned for the highlight reel, coming soon. It should be a real scream.



  1. Thanks for the enjoyable glimpse into your tee-ball world, which is a bit different from mine in time and place. I invite all to visit my blog for something about my coaching experience: “Looking Back At a Rocky Little League Start.”

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