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CHRIS ERSKINE

Hey, Softball Fans, There's a Draft in Here

March 01, 2000|CHRIS ERSKINE

There's nothing like a little hot e-mail on a cold day. Something provocative. Something to get the blood racing.

Will you make the draft? Do I have to cover for you?

It's from my wife, this e-mail. A generous offer. The softball draft is in two hours, and she wants to know if I'll be home in time. If not, she'll go.

My wife has offered to go to the damp little community room and sit in a hard metal chair for two hours with a dozen other coaches to select a little-girl softball team.

I am grateful for this offer. It reveals a generous spirit and a competitive fire. No other woman has ever offered to go to a team draft for me. I remember now why I married her.

So I e-mail her back.

I may be a little late for the draft.

It's a coach's worst nightmare. Late to the team draft. Of all the things a coach can't screw up, it's the draft. The draft is where great teams are born. It can make or break your year.

How late?

Don't worry. It's really easy. An idiot could do it. But I'm tied up at work.

Who do you want me to pick?

All we really need is a shortstop, a center fielder and a couple of pitchers.

That sounds pretty easy.

We also need a left-hander at first base and a catcher who can make the throw down to second.

Draft young, mostly third-graders, and if you can't decide, then pick the kid with the parent who will be most helpful. Don't discriminate against the really attractive moms. Remember, it's not their fault.

Be sure to draft someone with a big house for the team party, preferably someone who hasn't painted the interior recently and won't mind if 12 screaming kids tear through the house like monkeys on mopeds.

See if you can get Mr. Ulf, because he tells the best jokes and his kids hit like King Kong. Mr. Rhymer would be good too because he always brings Bazooka bubble gum.

Don't draft any whiners or anybody with the last name of Strawberry. Or a first name of Strawberry. Don't draft any Strawberrys or anybody who ever played for the Chicago Cubs.

For carpool purposes, be sure the parents all drive Suburbans or Humvees or big vegetable trucks.

I think Susan might agree to be Team Mom, so see if you can get her daughter Kaitlin in the early rounds. Don't wait on Susan. I mean Kaitlin. She could go early.

Pick mostly for athletic talent, but a good attitude is important too. If the kid has parents who appreciate a postgame margarita late on a warm spring day, that's a big plus. Maybe a priority. We didn't ask about margaritas during tryouts. My mistake. Do what you can.

Many of the girls you wouldn't recognize. They are getting really big now. Some are as tall as bar stools. They'll go in the early rounds.

But don't draft just for size. Speed is important. Aggression is important. And remember: No nose pickers.

If things go badly, see if you can work out a trade with Craig. He's an attorney and a really tough bargainer, but if you include enough players, he gets confused by all the math and you can usually sneak one or two players past him. Plus, you're pretty cute. In fact, you're really cute. You should get the best of any negotiations. Wear the blue sweater. The one you got for Christmas.

If Craig won't trade, try Dennis. He gets sleepy around 9:30. If he nods off, just reach over and grab the medical releases of any players you want. It may seem unfair. Don't worry. Coaches do this all the time.

If a trade doesn't work, collapse on the table and break into tears and complain that the other coaches are conspiring to stack their teams and playing petty political games that threaten to ruin our season and destroy our community's sports programs, which we've helped build from nothing in 20 years to where they are now, which is pretty much still nothing.

But don't tell them that. Be positive. Just cry a lot and be positive. Tell them you're from the PTA. Don't threaten them with it. Just bring it up casually. "By the way, did I mention I'm with the PTA?" Like that.

Try to get there early. If you're careful, you can sneak extra softballs out of the other teams' equipment bags and replace them with lemons and oranges from the little trees outside the front door. This will give us a psychological edge early in the season.

If someone catches you, explain that lemons and oranges are great for batting practice because no one ever has to chase them and they make really refreshing treats. Several of the newer coaches will believe you and help you fill the bags with lemons and oranges. Just smile and thank them for their help.

So, that's what we need in the draft. Do your best. Be honorable, fair and decent with the other coaches. In return, you will get nothing. That's how you'll know you're in the right place.

Good luck.

I hit the send key. I wait a minute. Then another minute. I fear she's backing out. Then it arrives.

That sounds pretty easy.

It is, I write. It's not too tough.

You want me to draft a quarterback too?

I'll be right home, I say.

*

Chris Erskine's column is published on Wednesdays. His e-mail address is chris.erskine@latimes.com.

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