No word if this kid from Panama wants to play on Todd Reynolds' team. (Matt Slocum / Associated…)
I'm always looking to make new friends, which is the way I approach a youth baseball draft — new coaches, new buddies. Twenty guys in a community room of the local church, in creaky chairs the preschoolers usually use. Someone jokes, "Who brought the beer?" but there is no alcohol here, just good dads with good intentions. What a pile of sweethearts these guys turn out to be.
I ask one of these poker-faced idiots his opinion of one 9-year-old prospect, and he blurts, "HEY, I WAS GOING TO TAKE HIM!" which in the double-speak of draft night means, "The kid has a peg leg, a hyena for a mom and a hitch in his swing that even Earl Weaver couldn't fix. So go ahead, you putz, take him."
This in a nutshell, is what draft night is like in your local suburb. Lots of nuts, shells everywhere.
"My son wants to play on Todd Reynolds' team," I announce to the other coaches at the outset, since apparently everyone wants to play on Todd Reynolds' team, even the other coaches' sons.
Turns out there's some sort of league rule against trading your own kid. Oops, there goes my draft strategy.
Another setback comes when a league official announces a no-drinking policy at games, which goes against so many baseball traditions that I don't even know where to start. Several of the coaches begin to visibly tremble.
As I told my assistant, Matt, we can't even get parents to show up when we serve free tacos and margaritas.
But as Matt pointed out, maybe having parents at the games isn't always the best thing.
Ideally, you'd have no adults at games at all. Just give the kids bats and baseballs and turn them loose on the ball field. In two hours, return to pick them up.
This, of course, will never happen. You need moms and dads there to make sure they are safe and play fair and bend the rules a little at every opportunity.
So, for at least one more season, we are stuck with these youth baseball leagues. It's the coldest part of the year now in L.A., so let the games begin.
I finally realized that Southern California's climate is backward. We have toasty baseball weather in the fall and chilly football weather in the spring, which is what was happening the last few weeks — bees in the bats, mothers wrapped in wool — before the weather turned.
Speaking of moms, they are in their usual spring tizzy, one group already handicapping the season before the first pitch has been thrown, picking out the teams they think will be the contenders, clucking about the coaches like ESPN analysts.
There was also much buzz about the fact that our team's parents had already gathered for a preseason party, the thinking being, "Why wait all season to decide if you like the other parents, why not get it out of the way upfront?" Then you could wall yourself off early against the chatterboxes and the merely boorish, a win-win-win for everyone.
To me, that's just enlightened thinking, but many of the parents on opposing teams — particularly the subset known as Chardonnay Moms — see it as a bit of grandstanding on our part. If clumps of people are going to be drinking white wine, went their thinking, everybody should be drinking white wine.
By the way, the other day I suggested that our highly motivated, constantly cash-strapped little suburb start its own vineyard, then raffle off the bottles at school functions and such, or at the very least drop a case off on my porch for careful review.
That struck some as self-aggrandizing, though of all the desperate fundraising options considered through the years, I think it is the most promising. As in "Argo," the best bad idea we got.
Besides, if the whole vineyard thing crashes, we could always blame Vin Scully. Like Mike Piazza, that's what I've been doing a lot lately, blaming Scully for everything that's gone wrong in my life.
So far, he's on the hook for global warming, the breakup of Simon and Garfunkel and the $3,000 I just overpaid for a used Honda.
Obviously, Scully's an excellent scapegoat. Nobody ever much liked him here.
When it comes to real character, Mike, we prefer to think of you.