On Tuesday, Mr. Big Third-Grader entered baseball’s big leagues, and we’ve been giggling about it all week.
By big leagues, I don’t mean he can suddenly hit a fastball, but rather he can now get hit by one, and emerge intact.
The boy is playing AAA Little League this year, and you can’t take the field at the AAA level unless you’re wearing the proper athletic protection, and by “proper athletic protection,” I mean a cup.
This bit of news Mrs. Joetopia learned about a half-hour before his first scrimmage, which prompted her to call me asking what she should do.
In a perfect world, I imagine this moment might be a bit like teaching a boy to shave, in which father passes to son the techniques of a particular male milestone.
Because I wasn’t there, however, mom and sister took on the task, with no lack of amusement but utter lack of bona fide commiseration, you can be sure.
First off, let me say, I played rec baseball for seven or eight years and never once needed a cup.
Back in those days, cups were for catchers, whose position was uniquely prone to errant balls hitting you in the … well, you know.
So a part of me is a bit dismayed that such equipment is now required for 8-year-olds.
I kind of think that up until a certain age, every kid should experience the risk of taking an unobstructed shot to the jock — or else, how will they know what it feels like?
It’s kind of a rite of passage, learning to protect the family jewels.
Best to get hit when the toss is light from another youngster so you know to get the heck out of the way when it’s legitimate heat from a high school pitcher.
But anyhow, back to the story.
So I get the emergency call at work, but the only advice I could provide over the phone was this: “Well, go to Big 5 and get one.”
With no help from Dad, off they ran, Mom with son and daughter in tow, in search of a piece of plastic the size of a small gravy boat and maybe some bungee cords to keep it in place, because what good is a cup if it slides down your leg?
After finding the equipment in question and a pair of shorts to hold it, they hurried out the door for a quick change in the car.
First came the question of which way’s up, followed by, gee, it’s kind of tough to zip up a pair of tight baseball pants with the equivalent of a baseball inside them.
Eventually, they got everything in place, and Little Miss Sixth-Grader did the honors of testing it out, offering a few quick raps along with “does this hurt?” — to which the boy confirmed with satisfaction, “nope, nope, nope.”
Later, she compared it to the equipment check they do in soccer: lift your foot to show your cleats, knock your lower leg to show your shin guards.
Obviously, this was a little different, and much snickering ensued.
At the field, the entertainment continued, because now it wasn’t one boy juggling with his shorts but a whole team, and just imagine what that looked like.
Finally, one of the male coaches was enlisted to provide the kind of expert guidance required all along, and wouldn’t you know it, the family had installed the thing upside down, which of course is not only extra uncomfortable but also makes it really difficult to leg out an infield single.
At one point in the game, the boy confirmed that an wayward bounce from one pitch did indeed find the cup, and lo and behold, it did its job.
Back at home that night, they shared the day’s adventures with much excitement, in addition to showing off the piece itself, and I can already tell we’re not even close to exhausting the humor potential.
Just this morning, the thing went suddenly missing, and the boy accused his sister of absconding with his gear.
Where did it turn up?
Under his pillow of all places, and picture that sight, an athletic cup tucked safely beneath his head as he slept, like some weird gift from the Tooth Fairy.
Yes, we are still laughing about that.
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