Commentary: Covering youth baseball, softball ‘my pleasure’: here’s why

Published 12:00 am Monday, June 27, 2005

Sometimes when we’re thanked for something and respond with the phrase “My pleasure,” it’s my opinion that as often as not, we’re not being honest. The phrase just rolls off the tongue so easily, and has such wonderful over-the-top humility–“Oh, I am the one who should be thanking YOU for the incredible opportunity to help you out,” it says, all in two neat words–we can’t help it.

Here’s a quick guide to identifying if someone’s being honest or not when using that phrase:

Example A:

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Homeowner: “Hey, thanks for house-sitting. I know it’s only a 24-room mansion with a high-def plasma screen TV in every room, its own bowling lane and pool table, Jacuzzi, endless gallons of IBC Root Beer on tap, DVDs of every season of Seinfeld and the Simpsons, an underground go-kart track, and a French maid, but it means a lot to us.”

Homeowner’s Buddy: “It’s my pleasure.”

Verdict: Probably honest.

Example B:

Dad: “Thank you so much for babysitting on such short notice. I know you probably have things you’d rather be doing on July 4th, and I know the quadruplets can be handful, especially now that Reggie’s entered this climbing phase–you get down from that chandelier right now, young man!–and yeah, I know that Melinda’s screaming fits can get old after the first couple of hours. Oh, and I’m so sorry we’re late…I can’t believe it’s 1 a.m. already! Anyway, thanks again.”

Babysitter: “It’s my pleasure.”

Verdict: Probably NOT honest.

But I’ve had the chance to use the phrase myself a few times at the SportPlex recently, as a handful of parents (i.e., the ones with kids whose names I’ve actually managed to spell correctly) have thanked me for our coverage of youth baseball down there. And I’m writing this to tell them, when I say, “My pleasure,” it’s a heck of a lot closer to Example A than Example B. Covering these games really is my pleasure.

Why? For starters, with all due respect to the mayors and city clerks and councilmen out there I’ve met the last couple of months, sitting in the bleachers for a good baseball game is just the teensiest bit more exciting than sitting down for an hour-plus City Council meeting.

But there’s a lot more to it than that. Here’s five more reasons I *Heart* my job this summer:

1.Chatter. Is there anything more uniquely baseball, more uniquely American, than “Hey batta batta SWING batta”?

Nope. Can you imagine someone facing Roger Federer this week at Wimbledon, and as he tosses the ball into the air for his serve, going Hey Roger Roger SWING Roger! How about Phil Mickelson standing back from Tiger Woods going Hey Tiger C’mon Tiger hey Tiger Tiger SWING Tiger?

Even better are those coaches and parents who keep up a neverending game-long series of encouragement, pointers, and white noise in support of their players, God bless ’em. It takes a special kind of investment and dedication to keep Let’sgolet’sgonowc’monyoucandoitbuddykeepyoureyeonitwaitonyuorpitchlet’sgonowattawaytowatchgoodeyegoodeyeweneedyouherebuddygoodcutgoodcutnowyou’rereadylet’sgoyoucandoit going for a solid seven innings, but they’ve got it.

If the rest of us had that kind of dedication to the things we care about, well, let’s just say Highway 80 would be four lanes across the entire state already. It’s great to see.

2. Slush Puppies. Blue Raspberry, especially. For when your mouth’s too dry for Pixy Stix, but a chocolate bar just won’t have the instant-cavity level of sugar you need.

Plus, getting asked “What in God’s name have you been eating?” when someone sees your bright blue tongue is a wonderful way to start a conversation. And there’s tiny pieces of ice to crunch between your teeth. And no one pretends it’ll make you a better baseball player, like with Gatorade. And they’re only a dollar. And on a hot day, man, it’s like drinking up Antartica.

What’s not to love?

(And while we’re at the concession stand, go ahead and give me a cheeseburger, too. Why ballpark burgers taste so good, I’ll never know. I think watching baseball plays some sort of strange subliminal havoc with how your tongue and brain respond to food. Not that I’m complaining–I like having an $2.25 cheeseburger satisfy me more than a steak six times the price.)

3. Fresh Air. A lot of people around here probably take this for granted. A lot of people around here didn’t move here from Atlanta.

4. Night games. The ones where the sun’s gone down, the lights are up, the bugs are out, and everywhere else you can see is darkness.

But you and the fans and the game are in a kind of oasis of light, just sitting back and waiting for the “ping” of the bat, clapping for good plays, second-guessing the umps, sipping your Slush Puppy, and chatting up the next person over about how many runs off the scoreboard is tonight.

It’s very, very easy at times like that to forget about things like making car payments, doing the dirty dishes that are piling up in the sink, or when your next dentist’s appointment is. Those things will still be there when the game is over. But it’s nice to let them sit in the darkness for a while, let all that light come between them and me for a few innings.

5. The Players. I don’t remember the last time I was so happy I just had to jump up and down and holler like a kid who’d just found one of Willy Wonka’s Golden Tickets. (Maybe I should start dating Katie Holmes and go on Oprah?) But it happens, it seems like, at least once a week down at the SportPlex–a game comes down to the final out, one team makes a play, and the next thing you know kids are emptying out of the dugout, leaping across the first-base line and yelling and throwing their caps around…even if it’s just one of sixteen regular season games, even if it won’t make any difference in the standings, even if tomorrow what happened last night might not matter a bit.

And if you can’t get caught up in that kind of joy, if you don’t find yourself happy that these players still have something worth jumping up and down about, every week, I think Dr. Seuss might have a big green role for you in a book about stealing Christmas.