When I was a little kid my parents always signed me up for little league baseball. I started when I was in the first grade and kept going all the way until fourth or fifth. But I went to a Catholic school that didn’t have any sports teams, so it was always a bunch of public school kids, and me. That was terrifying, the first day of practice, my mom would just drop me off to my randomly assigned team where I’d encounter a bunch of boys my age who already knew each other from school.
The early years were easy enough, because from my own experiences as a I kid I feel that people don’t start acting inherently mean toward each other until like the third or fourth grade. After that it’s every person for themselves. There are cool kids, there are kids that are cool with the cool kids, and then there’s always like one or two kids that don’t fit, that take the brunt of everybody else’s pent up frustrations.
I’m not trying to paint a woe-is-me picture of my childhood. I definitely wasn’t the cool kid in grade school, but I wasn’t on the opposite end either. Except for when springtime came around and one or two times a week I’d get dropped off at baseball practice, fed to the lions of this whole little kid social structure that I wasn’t a part of.
My last season of baseball was definitely the worst. The fourth or fifth grade boys were outright hostile toward me. There were three especially, one of them was the coach’s son, all three of them were good at baseball. I had no relation to the coach, no real association with anybody, and I sucked at all sports.
Going through my memories, I picture the three boys always the same way, the cool kid in the middle flanked by his two lieutenants at either side. I don’t even remember specifically what they would say to tease and harass me, I just know that I hated it, that I dreaded going to practice. They would throw baseballs at me when I wasn’t looking, stupid little tricks here and there to torment me.
And I couldn’t even complain, ever. One, little kids all hate tattletales, and so if you ever tattle, it’ll get even worse. Two, this kid’s dad was the coach. He was coaching his son and all of his friends from public school. And me, the one random kid from a different school, the one who didn’t really know how to play baseball.
I made it through the season alive. It wasn’t that bad, probably because it was only once or twice a week. Although I can’t imagine having to deal with something like that every day. But the whole season, my whole relationship with these kids, my last real experience playing baseball, it all culminated at this end of the season lunch hosted by the little league.
It was every team in the league, every player and his dad, at some catering hall. There were trophies given out, some random MLB player to sign autographs. There were raffles, free t-shirts, stuff like that. I remember at some point during the festivities these three goons had me surrounded. Not wanting to deal with their bullshit, I had this moment of rage, of pure fury. I picked up a plastic knife, probably the flimsiest weapon imaginable, and I started chasing one of the kids around a picnic table. The place was packed, and we all lost each other pretty quickly amongst the crowd.
But then maybe ten minutes later, I’m sitting with my dad, and all of the sudden my coach comes out of nowhere with the three idiots by his side. He starts yelling at me, yelling toward my dad, claiming that I threatened his son with a knife. The coach was this big fat asshole, much older than my dad, and he’s over here spitting and yelling, like he had any idea what was really going on, just blindly taking his son’s side.
And what about these three kids, these three tough guys? They spend a whole season picking on me, and when I finally stand up for myself they go off running to the coach, crying, making up some ridiculous story about me being the problem? Come on.
What gets me is that even though it all happened so long ago, that none of it really mattered, like I have my life and none of that nonsense did anything to affect where I’m at right now, I’m going through all of these memories and I’m still getting pissed off, I’m still feeling, if not the anger, then I’m viscerally feeling, remembering exactly what the anger felt like. I was a little kid, I was backed into a corner, I reacted, and then next thing I know I have this coach yelling at me and my dad’s telling me to try and get along better with the other kids.