Archive for the ‘Things you should know about the Proprietor of The Small Ball Report’ Category

I was born with a penchant for stirring the pot. On the day of my birth, my Doctor was attending the Iowa Hawkeye homecoming game. A rabid fan, he had never missed a game in the previous six seasons. However, on that fall day of my 1970 arrival he was called away just before kickoff in Iowa City. The Hawkeyes beat Northwestern that day. Dr. Robert Alstater didn’t see it.

I don’t know for sure but they must have invented the beeper prior to 1970. Either that, or he was notified of my coming arrival by one of those pilots that carry the 100 yard long streamer signs behind them at football games, and instead of one saying “Come check out the deals at Jimmy Baldinger’s Plymouth Dodge Chrysler”, the sign that day must have said, “Dr. Alstater: Report to Muscatine General immediately, that little smart ass baby is about to be born!”

When I was in first grade, my mother went to a parent teacher conference. The teacher, we’ll call her Miss Beatle, was 95 years old and had once taught Laura Ingalls Wilder how to dip her ink pen so she had experience foiling children like me and Willy Olson.

She remarked to my Mom that, “Your son is doing very well in school, but he sometimes can be defiant and not follow instructions. He can be kind of a Smart Alec and likes to fool around in class!”

My Mom, made the mistake of appearing to be relieved by the news, and stated that, “Whew, at least he doesn’t need to be in Special Ed classes like his brother.” I inserted that line partly to see if my brother will read this someday and also partly because it is a true story.

In my current chronicles, The Small Ball Report, I like to call my form of societal observation a form of satire. It is why my profile story refers to an actual dream I had as a young person where the guest in my dream was the great satirist in American History, Mark Twain. Some kids my age had dreams with Elle Macphearson in them, I had Mark Twain.

Some may say, you’ve never even been published, and until such time, your Sarcasm doesn’t pass the Satire test. Since I have now finished six chapters in my forthcoming book, A Flame From Within, this criticism will soon cease. However, others who don’t like me and ignore me may say just being a Smartass doesn’t pass their Sarcasm test.

Either way, whatever you call my personality trait, it is not something that is new to me. It has been in my family for generations. My own father and grandfathers were known for their ornery streaks. Even if there ornery streaks weren’t exhibited in internet blogging prose.

My father once coached my Little League baseball team. One year there was a player who I would say was a prickly type of lad. He got upset about having to play Right Field again and quit the team one day. Since he went to my school, he handed me his team uniform in a paper bag. The bag happened to be wet and had the smell of piss…I’m guessing because he had just pissed on it. Hence, the prickly comment.

I managed to get the uniform home somehow without my 4th grade HazMat suit. By that time, the other player’s Dad had called my Dad and said that he wasn’t letting his son quit, he would be at the game that night. I will always remember fondly the smirk on my Dad’s face as he handed the small-ball hitting right fielder his uniform in the same paper bag he had returned it in.

People of satire/sarcasm/smartass consider themselves keen observers of others. We are by our nature people watchers. The most influential watcher of people I ever met, was my Father’s Father. For this story, I will protect his identity and refer to him as Ralph Hilbrant. Actually, that was his real name, but most of his friends are gone, so I’ll just run with it.

Ralph Hilbrant never met a bench at a park or shopping mall that he didn’t like. And while he was less conversational about his observances, if you sat next to him long enough and stared at his face you could imagine the thoughts that were going through his head,

On a couple of occasions when I was sitting on the bench next to him, he with his big billed blue denim (insert popular feed company, here) hat, me with my short coach’s shorts and knee high white socks, I either heard or imagined him to say:

“That big heffer’s chest is so enormous that her bra size is two parachutes.”


“Is that a mole on that guy’s neck? Or is that actually a mole living on that guys neck?”

And when my Grandfather really found someone to be interesting or provocative, like when a guy with a Mohawk hair cut or a hippie girl with a nose ring would walk by, just when they got out of earshot, he would at a very soft, faint, and barely audible decibel level, mutter “hummmmm”. Only his mouth never opened when he said it. Instead, there was just a smug smile on his face.

And so, that is the charter of this blog, to provide a commentary that will make the reader go “hummmmm” with a closed mouth, under their breath and out of earshot of the person next to them. Easier for me to do it this way than to pierce my nose and shave a Mohawk in my balding head.

I’m calling my commentary Satire in the tradition of two great American wisecracks, Mark Twain (Hannibal, Missouri) and Ralph Hilbrant (Trenton, Iowa).

I promised myself I would never be that kind of Little League Dad right up until the day I became that Little League Dad.

My son’s football team went 0-8 last fall. I haven’t spent any time in the film room, but I know that as the smallest tight end in the history of Naperville’s fifth grade, he did not bludgeon running lanes for his team’s, the Colts, swift footed running backs. But, once he learned how to snap his own chin strap, he had a blast.

Is there an NFL career in his future? No, and check.

A few years ago I coached his Y basketball team. We were much better than most of the teams because I designed a flex offense that focused on ball movement and attacking the defense with one extra pass on every possession. Of course the boys ignored my plays and once they passed the ball to the team big kid and proverbial ball hog they made the basket. That kid, you might have guessed wasn’t my son.

Is there an NBA career in his future? No, and check.

When my son was little, he loved hockey. So much that he converted our back yard basketball court into his own imaginary hockey rink with two goals. His slapshot was deadly accurate. The pucks, tennis balls and sister’s beanie babies always found the back of the net. And then we took him to a learning to skate hockey program and he loathed that one extra element, although an important element in the game of hockey, ice.

Is there an NHL career in his future? No, and check.

This is not to say that my son is not athletic. He is never the worst player on his team, but also never the best.

He is athletic. He happens to be an excellent swimmer and middle distance runner. I know this because as just a fifth grader he can beat me at both. Impressive yes, until you see that I don’t know how to do the butterfly.

Despite his athleticism, a couple years ago I made a discovery. I’m not a scout, but my son will not be a professional athlete someday. And, I’m OK with that.

What I’ve also discovered that you might not be OK reading, is your son – or daughter – won’t be one either. I’m statistically safe saying that to the first 22,000 parents who read this. By the way, you are not going to win the Power Ball next Wednesday either. Sorry to ruin these cliff hanger endings.

Once I made this discovery the games and practices became much more enjoyable. I stopped vicariously living my own unfulfilled sports dreams. Even if late at night I sometimes find myself in a Super Bowl huddle telling Santonio Holmes to run a slant route to the corner of the end zone. I still have an imagination.

I’m not the Dad that yells at his kid when he boots a grounder, misses a tackle, throws the ball out of bounds, or purposely taunts his sister by hiding her Polly Pocket doll. Check that, I do yell at him for that last one. A lot, actually!

Friday Night Lights is clearly the best show on network television, but no one watches it. The reason no one watches it is because people think the show is about football, and it’s really not.

This past season featured Joe McCoy as the proud father of the young strong armed stud freshman J.D. McCoy. As an aside, imaginary Texas high school quarterbacks, and many real life ones are always named McCoy. Joe McCoy is the dad that drives his kid to be perfect, the parent that hassles the coach after practice to get Junior more playing time. The dad that refuses to – insert your own gasp, here – let J.D. hang out with the red headed hottie because it would distract him from the grid iron. Off topic, I was hoping for the Doogie Howser hookup on that plot line. Maybe next season, if there is a next season.

His tactics are maybe slightly exaggerated, but you see a lot of Joe McCoys at little league and pee wee games in Anywhere America. They tend to hang on every pitch and mutter expletives under their breath when three overthrows turn a bunt into an inside the park homer. Joe McCoy and parents like him don’t see losing as a teaching moment.

They also yell at an umpire occasionally.

Now, I would never, ever, ever yell at an umpire. ….At least, not until last Saturday

My son plays for the Cubs. They are currently 4-0. He has really stepped up his game in the past year. He’s good in the field, occasionally drives a ball to the outfield, and can spit a perfect sunflower seed in the dugout.

Today’s Little League is not your Little League. They have someone counting the pitches so the young pups don’t wake up on Sunday with a sore elbow. When the real pitchers have thrown too many pitches they have to come out of the game. My son is what you would call an emergency pitcher.

And when do you call on the emergency pitcher? Most often, like last Saturday, when the game is on the line.

On Saturday, the umpire in our league – a high school kid who has shaved twice just to see what it was like – was not calling any strikes the whole game. A sniper on a neighboring rooftop couldn’t get a called strike from this kid. And while neither of the team’s coaches went out to kick dirt on his plate, there was ample muttering from both dugouts.

When Abner Doubleday invented the game he identified the strike zone as the width of the plate and from the batters shoulders to his knees. Pitchers were hitting that target the whole game, but were more likely to get a strike call if they hit the mascot on top of the dugout.

The Cubs were winning 9-4 and because of all the walks and high pitch counts they needed to call down to the bullpen (end of the bench) and thus, my son started to warm up.

He continued his warm-up on the mound and promptly walked the first three batters to load the bases with no outs. If you’ve ever been to a little league game, you know that the bases loaded and no outs and up by only five runs, can also be referred to as a tie game.

By now, coaches, parents, and small sibling kids playing in adjacent dirt piles are trying to find the panic button. And as a Dad, you don’t want your kid to be the kid that starts walking in kids like they are buying tickets to the carnival ferris wheel.

To this point my commentary has admitted that my son is more likely to be Cooper Manning than he is to be Peyton or Eli Manning. This gives me a license to say, from my vantage point, he threw at least four or five uncalled strikes to those first three batters.

During this sequence the audible output that witnesses may have heard me to say, transformed from:

“You can do it!”


“You’re real close!”


“That was a good pitch.”


“What was wrong with that pitch?”

To finally, and I’m not entirely proud of this one

“Come on ump! That was right over the damn plate!”

And then, a funny thing happened. Despite later Zapruder film evidence showing the next pitch bouncing into the catcher’s mitt, it was called a strike. This rattled the lad at the plate, so much he changed his “I’ll take a walk strategy” and promptly swung and missed at the next two pitches.

One out!

Seeing this change of events, the batters on deck and in the hole also went to the plate swinging. And whiffing. Two outs! Three outs!

So after walking the first three batters, my son struck out the side and improved his season stats to a tough as nails ERA of 0.0 with two saves in two appearances.

With stats like that, I’m thinking I need to get him an agent.

He should also stop eating junk food. And, he needs to stop riding his bike past that cute girl on the corner’s house.