From Chicken Soup for the Baseball Fan's Soul

A Guide to Little League Parenting

Kids should practice autographing baseballs. This is a skill that’s often overlooked in Little League.

Tug McGraw

Congratulations. You’ve just reached another Kodak moment in the great photo album of life. You’ve become a “Little League parent.”

What’s that? Hanging back a little because you’re new? Not quite sure what’s expected of a Little League parent? Well, fear not. I was a rookie not too long ago just like you. If you want to look seasoned here are some hints.

First, as a Little League parent, you’ll want to have been “quite a good little ballplayer yourself, back in your day.” This allows you to join the other parents in the pregame, advice-to-the-coaches and warm-up sessions. Your extraordinary experiences—before the trick knee developed, cutting your promising young career short— will be cherished by all.

Then there’s the jargon. You’ll use expressions that are not that common in everyday life. Like “good eye.” Good eye, of course, means letting a ball go by that was too fast to see anyway, but it turned out not to be a strike.

I suggest practicing these expressions during everyday life. Like when your accountant finds a little something in your favor. “Good eye, Bob,” you might say. “Way ta look ’em over.”

Another common expression is “Atta boy, got a piece of it.” This means your kid hit a foul ball. For some parents this is the most exciting it ever gets. At this point you are allowed to jump up and down and say clever things like “Okay now . . . hit ’em where they ain’t.” Some of you may even be tempted to leap over the fence to hug the little darling. Of course that’s strictly against the rules.

Oh? You didn’t know there were rules? Oh sure. They hand them out at the same time they hand out the concession-stand duty sign-up sheet.

Rule one: Parents are not allowed in the dugout or on the field—team cap or no team cap.

Rule two: Parents are not allowed to feed kids while they are playing ball. This includes trying to slip them something just before they bat, like a double-fudge sugar cookie and a caffeine-laden Jolt cola.

Rule three: Parents are not allowed to boo the other team’s parents.

Rule four: Parents are not allowed to curse the umpire. I did that in one game early on and guess what? Next week I was the umpire.

Rule five: Parents may not offer the coach free Amway products to just let their kid stay in until Grampa Earl figures out how to get the stupid batteries in the video camera.

Rule six: Parents must allow younger siblings to eat stuff like snow cones that will easily spill onto their clothing and Gummi Bears that stick to their teeth. This makes getting Little League sponsors like Community Cleaners and Valley Dental much easier.

Speaking of clothing, there are some dos and don’ts here also. For instance, ladies should refrain from wearing miniskirts in the stands. It distracts the other spectators, the coaches and some of the older Little Leaguers. Fat men with white legs should not wear shorts. The glare can blind the infielders and it causes hot dog sales to plummet. All parents should avoid wearing anything that does not look good with gum stuck on it.

Finally, we have the after-game etiquette. This means hand slapping for the kids. The two teams must line up in rows and march toward each other saying things like “good game” and “nice try.” Parents should approach the opposing bleachers in much the same manner, but are allowed to make excusatory comments about the wind, sun, playing conditions, poor coaching, bad calls, day of the week, recent illnesses and heavy scholastic load.

They are also allowed to make excuses for their kids’ performances.

Now that you know the rules, glad to see you out there. Little League needs all the athletic supporters it can get.

Ernie Witham

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