Three million players worldwide and nearly a million adult volunteers make up the Little League International, according to headquarters in Williamsport, Penn. Perhaps only a handful of the adults will have carried a needle and thread to the games. Go figure.
As a Little League parent, I learned this the hard way. Just as I learned that juice boxes are like dew on a blistering summer day: One second they’re there, the next — gone. Baseball season has arrived — so have these things handy:
Plastic surface for kids’ cleats. Preferably the washable Rubbermaid storage tote covers. Especially if you’re carting around half the team. Your carpeting will thank you. Conversely, if you have this in your car, you will also need:
Extra kids’ shoes/socks. Stinky, tired feet reek to high heaven. I know this because three senior leaguers (15- and 16-year-olds) divested themselves of their cleats in my car, and windows rolled down still did not dissipate the noxiousness.
That needle and thread. And it must be white thread. For what, you say? Those pesky Little League official patches that must be sewn on and without which your child may not play in an official game. Yes, I’ve seen this happen — and believe me, you do not want to witness the fallout. And I’m just talking about the father…
Blankets. Warm and fuzzy, thick and woolen, it does not matter as long as they are big. Of course regular comforters will not be appropriate unless sleeping in your car is an option, which, for some 8- and 9-year-old pitched games it just might be. Usually these are used as cover from the wind and cold and are laid upon legs of sitting spectators. However, it is not unusual to find them utilized as makeshift parkas, folded to be used as seat cushions, covering more than one shivering person, or as in the case of one of my friends, as a wrap skirt (don’t ask).
Fold-up camp chairs. Or anything portable that you can sit on for hours upon hours. Portable being the operative word, as you never know how far you have to lug them when visiting other fields. Again, more than one is recommended, otherwise games of impromptu musical chairs occur among siblings and friends without the benefit of music, camaraderie, or nonviolence.
Towels. These come in handy if for some reason you do not have enough portable chairs and you need to use the bleachers to sit on. One, they can dry the surface if it is raining; and two, they can cover the bird poop and unknown dried and sticky substances that inevitably mark the seats. But be careful, do not flaunt these needlessly, especially on a rainy day, or they will come back filthy because coaches will have used them to dry the baseballs. Depends upon how charitable you are though. Never mind. Give them to the coaches.
Bandages and ointment. No, not for the players. For their ubiquitous siblings who will find and play in areas around the ball fields where sharp branches and objects reside, not to mention each other.
Cell phone. For calling frustrated coaches who do not know where the away team field is either, and consequently to report your child’s lateness to the field for the same reason. Also comes in handy when someone can’t make it to the game and you need to report every play-by-play in excruciating detail. And that’s just for the umpire and coach fight.
Yes, I haven’t mentioned food or drinks. It is a well-known fact that people get hungry and thirsty so naturally these will be the very first items you will realize you need. What is not so well known is that the needle and thread had come in handy when someone’s baseball pants split; the towels can be used for muddy players to sit on in the car and to smack bees; and the blankets used to cradle a sprained ankle. I have begged for and borrowed these various items as well as lent them out.
Good luck this season. Oh, and leave those items in the car year-round. After all, soccer and football are coming up.
Mimi Jansen is a parent of three sons who are all in the Key Peninsula Little League on three different teams — you may find her either scorekeeping, jogging from field to field, or in the bathroom warming her hands with the hand dryer.