When Rafi was about seven, we lived in Los Angeles. His pal Matthew came over sporting a spiffy baseball uniform. Rafi wanted to play baseball too. We’d already gone through the ‘Pele’ stage and Rafi loved soccer.
Still, before you could say ‘Jackie Robinson’, Mama was in line registering Rafi for the baseball season. Rafi enjoyed the uniform. Still that ball flies at deadly speed and the bat seems flimsy when you’re seven. Rafi expressed a little doubt.
Mama understood. She’d been a terrible baseball player. At school, no one wanted her on their team. Still, she knew Rafi would see it through.
The coaches, cousins Mike and Larry, were terrific. They treated each child with respect and the team members followed their example. Mama offered to help in any way.
They asked if she would be the team scorekeeper. ‘But I’m Canadian. All I ever saw was Hockey. I don’t know anything about baseball.’ They didn’t believe her. Surely everyone knows SOMETHING about baseball, right?
Rafi gained confidence. Mama’s education began. She needed to learn ‘baseballese’, a language which has nothing to do with English. Words like ‘grounder’, ‘fly ball’, and ‘double play’. For no reason Mama could understand, in baseball a point is a ‘run’, the referee is an ‘umpire’, who, being chicken hides behind the ‘catcher’, who is really a goalie. The umpire makes unintelligible loud noises that all sound alike but mean different things like ‘ball’ or ‘strike’.
Each child had a position and a special job to do. Mama tried, but besides knowing nothing about baseball, she was far from eagle-eyed. Replays in slow-motion would have helped.
Fortunately, expert assistance was usually at hand. Any stray 10-year-old would willing help, which led to some interesting conversations and wonderful friendships.
The parents got a kick out of Mama’s mis-calls. They too began to call runs ‘points’ and the ump a ‘referee’. It was all obviously in good fun.
Rafi learned quickly. He could now be counted on for patient, simple explanations. He watched Mama’s struggle with interest and perhaps a little pride. Mama wanted him to know she was no quitter either.
The coaches appreciated Mama’s effort if not her performance. At the end of the season, they presented her with an Award, which still hangs on her office wall.
The next year, with spring in the air and baseball in their blood, the team reassembled. Rafi was to pitch his first game. Mama was prepared to count runs and disagree with the umpire.
One dad had made a brand-new bat rack for the team. He painted the name of each player on it, and right there was Mama’s name. Imagine her delight.
Mama made the baseball team!