Take me out to the ball game…again and again and again.

The beginning of Summer break has consisted of baseball, softball, and more softball. We should be used to this chaos that lasts from Memorial Day through the first week of July since I’ve been coaching Ri’s team for the last three years and Mario’s been playing baseball during that time, but this year feels different. I think it’s because Mario’s games are more exciting due to him making great plays and big hits, and Ri’s games are exhilarating between the sliding and the third-dropped-strike rule. I am a nut job during Ri’s games trying to watch for the dropped strike, the runner stealing, the fake bunt…. 

Mario looks like a pro baseball player in an eight year old body. He is in position before every play and in the batter’s box swinging away before he gets up to bat. He loves baseball this year. One reason why: he’s the oldest on the team this year. He’s one of four second graders. The rest are first graders. And he is one of the best players on the team. Hence, super stardom at every game when he makes an out or gets a hit. And he’s been making them like mad. He got all three outs on numerous occasions. He’s hit quite a few doubles. And his face is priceless when he gets an out. He hears the cheers but he just keeps on his game face and stares straight ahead. Mr. Cool.


And holy cow, Maria! She has stepped it up to the nth degree this year. The first game, she caught two fly balls. Jon and I stood with mouths agape, so proud of her. And unlike Mario, she shows her enthusiasm. She smiles as wide as the outfield and does a little dance shuffle. It is so sweet. I keep wanting to get a picture but since I’m coaching, I have no ability to think about a snapshot. Strategize, strategize, strategize.

Jon and I are both so impressed with Ri. She has made nearly every catch thrown to her. I’m playing her at first base and she is covering it like a glove. She’s completely aware and ready during the games. She moves. It’s a beautiful thing that was not seen much by any of the girls last year. This year is a different ball game. 

I hit the jackpot with my team this year, too. All the girls root each other on and have a great time together. I have a sixth grader from another school who is a star pitcher and batter. She’s got a heckuva arm and hit one to the fence the other night. But she is the most humble and considerate girl. She cheers on the other pitchers who are struggling to make it over the plate. She gives tips to the girls up to bat. She never whines or gets mad when we lose a game. She’s been an awesome 6th grade leader. Ri has gotten close to her over the past few weeks and looks up to her. Ri has stepped up to lead the team as well. It helps that she has her mother’s lungs and so it’s easy to scream for the girl up to bat or pitching on the mound. 

Ri cranked it the other night as pitcher. She had not been happy with her pitching a couple of games back. She had gotten some walks and gotten hit on a few times. She looked at me several times and whispered “pull me.” Yea, I’m serious. The girl gets really frustrated, really quickly. We are trying to work with her to calm her emotions down and take deep breaths. It’s the only way she will be able to pitch well, much less have fun with the game. I’m so happy to have Jon near me doing the scorebook because he’s able to grab her when she’s upset and talk some sense into her (or give her a wet willy). 

I took her out to the front yard before our game this past Monday to throw with her. She started to get angrier and angrier with each minute because she was throwing balls and only a rare strike. After ten minutes, she threw her glove down and ran inside. She was hysterically crying and telling me she could not play. She didn’t want to lose. She didn’t want to mess up. She was hugging me and sobbing. I felt so badly for her and was worried because I had not seen her act like this before. After a few minutes, she settled down and laid her back against the kitchen wall. I rubbed her back and got her water. After some breathing exercises, we drove down to the game. She jumped out of the car – completely unphased by the past twenty minutes –  and chatted it up with her teammates while they watched the remainder of the game before us. 

I put her on first base the first inning and she made an out. When she came in for the bottom of the inning, she said she wanted to pitch. I told Jon if she started to flip out, I’d have to pull her. But what did she do? Threw strikes and caught a pop up ball to get out of the inning with no runs scored. She was so charged up. And the next inning, she hit a double! Oh, the intense feeling of joy you get when you see your daughter in her element and so happy. I was at once relieved and excited and proud. She had a heck of a night. I think melt-downs pre-game may need to occur in the future….


As hectic as June is with baseball and softball, Jon and I would not change a thing. It is a treasure to be able to watch our kids play hard and achieve new feats (as well as learn how to deal with the hardship of a missed play or loss). And I get the added boost of being able to coach a group of girls who love the game and want to learn and succeed. Couldn’t ask for a better start to the summer.

Season ´╗┐Opening

Grandview turns into Mayberry on the Saturday before Memorial Day. Folks line up lawn chairs and place tiny American flags on their lawns. 1st Avenue is lined with cheerful kids extending out their hands to catch candy thrown from cars and trucks. Parents sip on their beverages and wave at friends walking in the parade. 

Grandma Ionno came in town to ride with Jon in my dad’s truck. 


Jon was charged to be to drive Ri and her softball team in the truck. He was super protective of it for my dad’s sake. A boy threw a bouncey ball at it and Jon warned him not to throw things at the truck. Ri loves that story. Mario was in a separate truck with his teammates, and talk about pelting things at trucks…. I left it to his coaches to discipline Mario and his crew; I had enough on my hands keeping my team from throwing out all the candy in the first two blocks. 


Jon dropped the girls off at the field and we all lined up for the opening ceremony. We chuckled at Patty waltzing across the field with seven bottles of water for Mario and his teammates. She’s precious. We sang the anthem, Mrs. McCauley threw out the opening pitch, and the ketchup, mustard and relish guys raced down the field. Play ball!

hubby hits a home run

How do you keep 25+ kids from trouncing all over your house? Two words. 

Dunk tank.

Jon agreed to grill steaks for Mario’s baseball team if one of the boys got a triple play. Leave it to Owen to do it. Since we were having Mario’s team over, we decided to have Maria’s team over, also, to celebrate the softball season. I was busy trying to gather basketballs, soccer balls and corn hole sets while Jon was being more strategic and more aware of what the kids would really want to do. He was calling Ohio Bounce and ordering a dunk tank. And why not a bounce house, too?!

God love him. He knows how to throw a party.  Patty had been with us all week watching the kids while our sitter was out of town. Not only did she take the kids all over and play with them non-stop, but she kept the house clean, too. I really can’t get over her energy – and this coming from me – the energizer bunny! She was our savior and allowed for me and Jon to do all the other necessities: get the yard looking decent, buy groceries, prepare food. The kids scored big and got to head one block up to a friend’s block party from noon to 3 as we ran around getting ready for the onslaught of people (65 of them!). In addition to savior Patty, we nabbed savior Patrick who prepared all the hamburger patties, prepped the beans and made everything tasty. 

The dunk tank arrived at 3 and Mario couldn’t wait to get in it. He stood in the tank while the hose slowly filled it. 500 gallons of water later, the kids tried it out before the guests arrived. I had not changed out of my workout clothes so I let M&M dunk me, which thoroughly thrilled them. It was actually quite exhilarating. A bit frightening with the first dunk but then hilarious. 

And I think the kids would agree; they dunked one another for close to five hours straight! They would wait in line for 20 minutes to get a chance to be dunked and they watched intensely as one of them got in the tank and one of them threw the ball attempting to hit the bullseye.

   
            

There came a point when the kids’ arms started to tire. At that point, they would throw a lame pitch and then run up to the bullseye and push it with their hands. Totally unfair but they cracked up over it.  Except Mario. He did not find that fair so he stood by it and stopped kids as they ran up to hit it. 

The younger kids loved the bounce house. After most folks left, M&M and a couple of their friends went between the dunk tank and the bounce house. They basically created a homemade slip-n-slide because they were soaked when they jumped in the bounce house. How no one left without a broken arm is beyond me.

   
 

So, lesson learned. Let the hubby take charge of kid parties from now on because he knows how to rock it. Lots of good memories from that evening to last us. Definitely same time next year.

Take me out to the ballgame

We are in the thick of softball/baseball season. About two more weeks of regular season left. You’d think it was mid-July with the temperaturs soaring in the 90s. That makes for sticky, sweaty games with complaints of thirst and bugs and fatigue. It also makes moods a bit more irritable…. Ri lashed out at me during our game because I put her at shortstop (“why would you put me there when I never play it!” and then a dramatic stomp off out to short).

But I wouldn’t change it for anything. I love coaching Ri and the other girls. I love the thrill of the inning – waiting to see the girls hit the ball and run to base with a huge smile on their faces and watching them make plays in the field (85% of those plays don’t result in an out but they are getting better). I had a come to Jesus moment in one of my first games – I saw how competitive I can be and how unnecessary it was at this level of play. I have since toned down my anxiety and competition genes and just tried to enjoy the play. It has been a welcome change to my soul. I enjoy the girls more and the fun of the game (but I still get goosebumps when my girl strikes a batter out). 

  
It has also been a blast watching Mario play in coach-pitch baseball this year – so much better than tee-ball. Jon has been able to assist this year, which Mario loves. He is a complete daddy’s boy and has no issues telling me that again and again. He will choose Jon for anything. It is darling. The other night Jon acted as umpire because the ump failed to show to the game. After the game ended, Mario said “dad, I don’t want you to ump because I like you in the dugout close to me.” Mario’s a champ at bat – he’s got some good hits. We still need to work on the fielding, especially grounders. He gets so mad at himself when he misses one – after one of his games where he missed a couple, he asked Jon to stay so they could practice grounders for a while. My competitive gene got passed down to that boy, for sure. 

   
 

  
We had the Clippers game last night. All the Grandview teams got to walk the perimeter of the field and see themselves on the giant tv screen. My girls were hilarious as always – we have some real cards on the team this year. They performed cartwheels on the field and made faces when the camera landed on them. 

   
  

Meanwhile, I didn’t get to see Mario walk around the field since I was honing in my girls. It looks like he was having a good time from my girl friend’s picture. 

  

But then I walked up the stairs with my girls who were bouncing around and screaming, and found this sight before my eyes. Mr. Cool. 

  I could have eaten this kid up right in the stands but he would have killed me for embarrassing him. 

I don’t think the kids watched a lick of the actual game; rather, they played in the fountain, ate hot dogs, ran around the stadium, and got caricatures drawn of themselves. 

Who needs a game when you have all that?!

   
 

Play Ball!

The start of baseball/softball season has arrived with the Memrial Day weekend. Ri played on Friday night, which was strange since we have always played on Saturday after the parade. We are hurting for pitchers this year so I’ve been working with Ri on the mechanics of fast-pitch. She’s got the strong body to swing that ball over her head and swivel those hips and whip it over the plate. During practices, she just wasn’t consistent and didn’t have her groove. She also doesn’t have the desire to go out and practice for hours to improve. But the times I’d get her out with me, we’d continue to work on it. And then one day, I had her concentrate on turning her hips so they pointed to the side and then return them center towards the catcher. She did it and pitched it perfectly. And again. Something clicked in her. And so it was – she started our first game as pitcher. 

And she pitched awesome for her first time. She only walked one batter and struck out a few! I was so excited for her. And it made the game go so much faster watching her pitch two innings because she was the main attraction. It made Jon and I nervous as heck but it was cool. And it’s even more fun for me because I was a fast-pitch pitcher; so to see Ri going at it makes me smile. 

  
The girls lost the game but held their own throughout. They had one bad inning that doomed them but I was much happier about their play than I thought I’d be. They were bummed for three seconds about the loss but then quickly recovered when they found out they got a free treat from the concession stand .

  
Mario got to be in his first parade this year since he’s finally in baseball and not tee-ball. He was excited to be able to ride in a truck with his buddies. I made him promise over and over that he would not pelt anyone with candy. I should have made Ri promise it, too, because her and her teammates were winging candy at kids. 

   
   

By about half way down 1st Avenue, the girls started to get tired and thirsty. They began to peter out. Surprisingly, they still had candy (in years past 25 pounds was gone in three blocks). But Ri got them pepped up again by cheering “we’re number one not two not three not four….” We arrived at the field and participated in the Opening ceremony. Grandview feels like Mayberry on this day. Everyone is lined up for the parade and everyone comes to the field afterwards to watch the ceremony and running the bases. 

   
 

Mario played his game later in the day at 3:45. We went home after the parade and wrestled a while to get him ready (he is my child – he’d rather stay active than rest before a game). Ri got invited to the pool with Henley – her first pool trip of the year.

 
Mario looked like a bad mo’ fo’ out on the field with his shades and his snug baseball pants. 

  
He refused to go out on the field without his shades. He didn’t have a chance to catch a pop up fly but he did get a grounder hit to him… and he missed it. But he did decent hitting – went 2 for 3. Of course, he struck out once which really irked him. He stomped out of the box and whipped off his helmet. “My coach can’t pitch” he told Jon. He was accurate in his statement – his coach threw some horrible ones to him. But, he needed to brush it off. I’m sure he likes Jon being in the dugout with him even if he acts like he doesn’t. 

The game finished an hour and a half later. It was rather long but much better than tee-ball. I can’t wait to see him snag a pop-up next game; he gets a DQ gift card if he does! 

  

Take me out to the ball game!

It is baseball/softball season in the Ionno household. We are in full swing this month with Mario’s games on Friday nights and Ri’s games on Wednesdays and Saturdays. Mario is still in tee-ball even though he was not happy about that deal. He wanted coach-pitch this year (“babies hit off tees,” he said to me after I signed him up.) He does have a heck of a throw on him – he throws it back to the coach and nails it nearly every time. And he has some buddies on his team and on opposing teams so he has fun.
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They still all move in one big mass when the ball is hit in order to try to be the first to get the ball. It is no holds barred with elbows and kicks being used at any cost. And rarely does anyone cry about getting hurt – if this behavior happened in any other setting, it would be chaos but there is something about a ball field that makes it tolerable.
Mario got to play 1st base on Friday night. He needs to work on scooping up the ball but he was ready for it every time. I love watching him play. He hit some good balls, too. He loves to hit last so that he can run all the bases at one time like he got a home run. Very Mario-like!
After his game, he asked if I could coach his team next year like I coach Ri’s now. Warmed my heart that he’d ask me. I don’t know how I will swing both but I will find a way after that request.
He and his buddies partied it up after the game. They played keep-away and tackled each other to the ground. It took all our might to make him leave. But he had a sis that was dying to get to a swim party so she put down the gauntlet.
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Ri had a game on Saturday. Peepaw and Mama Meg came in to watch it. I get so anxious watching my girls play – I want them to play well and win so badly. They are all making great strides in their playing. The defense is making outs and we have a girl who could not hit to save her life getting hits! The girls are great about cheering each other on and patting each other on the back when they miss a ball or strike out. That was one of my goals – learning teamwork – so if all else fails, we accomplished that one.
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Ri had a great play at third on Saturday – she scooped up a grounder and tagged third for an out. She scared me because she was confused at first about whether to tag the girl or the bag and when she went running for the bag I was worried the girl would pass her (she’s strong as heck but not the quickest!). But she got an out and she was charged up because the girl she got out was the girl who had gotten her out the previous inning! Little did I know that she likes her some revenge!
But what she likes more are after-softball hot dogs and ice cream. Those girls run for the concession stand like bandits!
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And, of course, she loves having visitors cheer her on like Peepaw and Mama Meg (even if they are carting two mattresses in a flat bed truck to the game!).
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Long live baseball

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Both babes playing baseball: this fast-pitch softball player is loving life! Ri continues to craft her competitive spirit asking each game “who are we playing?” When I tell her the team – no matter which one – she has some curt response like “oh, they can’t hit” or “they aren’t that good.” This coming from my “I don’t like winners and losers” girl from six months ago.

Ri has really progressed with her batting. Her swing used to be rigid and awkward but now it is pretty smooth. She has been getting out there with David and me and working on it, to her credit. Her fielding needs some work – she’s got muscle – she just needs to move more quickly. It’s like she gets the ball and is so amazed it’s in her glove that she can’t move. A lot if the girls are like that though. And Ri just began playing this year so she will get the hang of it next year (hoping there is a next year – she gave up cheer leading after one year but, for that, I didn’t complain…).

Mario was completely upset that his baseball wasn’t coach pitch like Ri’s.

“I’m not a baby; I don’t need a tee!”

He was going to give it up but I told him he’d miss out on making friends and he decided to go for it. And he made friends – immediately. He walked up to everyone at the jungle gym and struck up a conversation. He began playing with two boys on the playground and acted like they were best friends in five minutes time.

His baseball game was hilarious. At first, he wanted to bat first. But then he saw that the last batter got to run all the way around the bases at one time since he was last at bat so he decided being last was better. He likes to look over in the stands while he’s on base to make sure people are watching him.

The field play could have just as well been soccer rather than baseball. As soon as the ball was hit, every single fielder – no matter the position – ran towards it. One glove would touch it but then another glove and body would land on it, then another and another. The poor soul who actually grabbed it would be smothered until the little tykes got up one by one.

Each time Mario returned to his position, he would look over at Jon and me and give us a wave or a thumbs up. Sweet boy. I’m pretty sure we only have about three years left of that before he’s too cool to acknowledge us.

Long live baseball and softball!

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