Sunday, May 24, 2009

Put Me In, Coach

It's amazing how decisions made in the dark recesses of one's past come bubbling up to the surface in the present in such odd ways.

Both Tabitha and Lauren are signed up for Girl Scouts Softball teams this summer, which is going to be an interesting experience since they are not on the same team and all of the teams meet at the same time in different parts of the city. So every Tuesday and Thursday evening from now until mid-July, each girl will get one parent and the pair will scoot off to their respective park for either practice or games.

I made the mistake last month of saying I would be happy to volunteer to help out. I figured this would be along the lines of marshaling bodies for games, organizing snacks and so forth. I badly underestimated just how starved for volunteers they were, though. It turns out that volunteering qualified me to be the Assistant Coach of Lauren's team. For someone whose favorite actor has long been Walter Matthau this represents something of an odd and potentially disturbing position to find myself in, but I suppose inspiration comes from what sources we can find. Tabitha's team wanted me to be a coach as well, but Lauren's team called first and there were certain physical difficulties with trying to do both, given the lack of being in the same place and all.

And not only did the possession of a warm body with no criminal record attached to it make me ideal coaching material, but I was also asked to be the emergency medical responder for Lauren's team.

This is where the echoes of the past cause the headaches of the present.

Way back in the early 1980s, I joined the local volunteer fire company, where my dad had been a firefighter since the early 1970s. I spent five largely unheroic years there before I moved away - they also serve who stand and roll hose - and it remains one of the prouder achievements of my life. As my dad said to me when I was considering joining, "It takes a certain kind of person to run into a building when the cockroaches are running out." I'm not sure whether that was meant to make me think twice about joining or to encourage me to join, but either way it was certainly accurate. And the stockpile of stories from that part of my life still keeps me entertained during otherwise useless business meetings.

In order to become a volunteer for anything related to the Girl Scouts, you have to fill out a form which is modeled on the one used by Presidents to select Supreme Court justices. Great googly moogly, people, I've gotten paying jobs that required me to manage finances with less invasive screening than that. But such are the times we live in, especially regarding working with girls. So I dutifully filled in all the blanks - previous five known addresses, previous two unknown addresses (what am I, the Vice-President?), run-ins with the law down to the level of being yelled at by cops to move along at accident scenes, distinguishing features, non-distinguishing features, featured distinguishments, height, weight (and don't lie, because you know they'll check), credit score, fourteen character references, three professional references and a partridge in a pear tree - and when I got to the part requiring me to list every act of volunteerism ever performed, thought about or observed, I dutifully recorded my time with the volunteer fire company.

And thus the following dialogue took place:

"Why am I listed as an emergency medical responder?"

"You reported that you were an emergency services volunteer."

"Yes, but I was a firefighter, not an EMT."


"What do you mean, 'And?' ?"

"That makes you an emergency services volunteer."

"Well, if one of the girls should burst into flames, give me a call. But otherwise, you probably want someone else."


So I don't think I'm going to a medical responder for the team, but I'm packing bandaids just in case. That and whiskey are about the extent of my medical skills, and I'm not sure how much they would appreciate me giving a 9-year-old girl who has just caught a line drive with her forehead a shot of Maker's Mark and telling her to "shake it off." Not that it wouldn't be effective, just not appreciated.

At any rate, I have been working with Tabitha and Lauren to get them ready for all this softball.

I do have some real experience here, it turns out. The firehouse had a team when I was there, and we were actually pretty good - one year we won the championship, which was impressive considering we beat the police team to win it all. You have to be good to beat a team where even the backup shortstop is armed. I was the short-fielder (the fourth man in the outfield in these leagues) and the back-up pitcher, and we won even so.

So we went out last week in search of mitts for the girls. Do you know how hard it is to find a softball mitt, one week before Girl Scouts softball begins? Very hard, it turns out. Especially since Tabitha just wanted a plain brown leather mitt - almost impossible to find in her size amid the multicolored ones - and Lauren is left-handed. Eventually we found two black-and-pink "Jennie Finch" softball gloves in the proper sizes and hands, and a couple of softballs. And some neats-foot oil, which I am sure I will one day be able to pronounce without collapsing into gales of helpless laughter, though after four decades of trying I begin to wonder sometimes.

We've been playing catch out on the lawn for the last few days, and they're getting pretty good at it. Plus, Tabitha says she is no longer afraid of the ball, which is always a good step, and I haven't beaned Lauren in the face with the ball in over 24 hours. Progress is being made.

No comments: