Each year, thousands of ill-prepared grownups add “baseball parent” or “softball parent” to their resumes. Some of us (like me) never made it past elementary school kickball and feel like outsiders when we attend our kids’ games. We sit next to seasoned sports moms and dads who hold master’s degrees in the language of bleacher coaching. At first, it seems like everyone knows this language but us.
To make matters worse, common phrases, like “good cut!” aren’t all that self explanatory, (unless you’re a butcher). And you’d rather die than ask another parent what the advice they’re yelling to their kid means.
That’s why I’ve created a glossary of the most commonly used bleacher coaching phrases and their definitions, sort of like Spark Notes for sports parents. I use male prefixes throughout, not because I’m sexist, just lazy.
See the first two volumes in this series.
NOTE: Some players don’t like their parents to coach them from the stands. Ask your kid if he’s okay with you yelling out pieces of advice. Also, if you have a particularly loud, grating voice, you might want to sit far away from everyone else, like in another state.
Today we’re focusing on fielding.
1.”Glove on the ground!” – This means your kid should crouch and keep his glove as close to the ground as possible when scooping up ground balls. Otherwise there’s an excellent chance that it’ll sneak right under his glove and keep heading toward the outfield. And this will lead to extra bases for the runner and a dangerous spike in the coach’s blood pressure. It’s important to note, however, that this phrase could be awkwardly confusing for those who take things too literally. If your player has this tendency, then you’ll want to clarify “Glove on the ground! But keep your hand inside it!”
2.”Call it!” – Regardless of what the DMV says, more head-on collisions occur every year because of fielders not “calling it” than any other reason. (In baseball and softball, anyway). When a fly ball is soaring into ambiguous territory where it could reasonably be caught by, say, the shortstop, left fielder and center fielder, one of them MUST claim the catch for himself by yelling “I Got It!” or “It’s Mine!” or waving his hands frantically as if he’s signalling a plane overhead. If he doesn’t, they’ll all run toward the descending ball and collide with each other like in the Three Stooges.
3.”Baseball ready!”– It may sound shocking, but many young ball players have the attention span of an amoeba without its Ritalin. At any given time, they’re wrestling in the dugout, picking their noses, analyzing cloud shapes, spitting seeds at each other, etc. This can lead to costly errors and cause the coach to reach for his flask. Therefore the phrase “baseball ready” is often delivered at the start of a new inning or whenever it’s necessary to remind players that there’s a game going on.
4. “Follow your throw!” – I had to ask my son about this one and I still don’t get it.
ME: What does “follow your throw” mean?
ANDREW: Keep running in the direction of your throw.
ME: After you’ve released the ball? Why?
ANDREW: It makes the throw better.
ME: What? But how can it? You don’t have the ball anymore.
ANDREW: It just does.
So there’s your answer. It makes the throw better because it just does.
5.”Two hands!” – Translation: after making a catch, cover your glove with your other hand so the ball doesn’t slip out because the fielder’s in too much of a hurry. If you’ve ever seen a kid reach into his glove to throw a ball that has magically disappeared…well, it’s kind of funny.
6. “Get down!”– This is alternative phrasing for “glove on the ground.” It’s much easier to scoop a ground ball if you’re creeping low rather than standing tall. Again, if your kid is too literal minded, he might take “get down” as permission to show off his latest dance moves. If he’s skittish or has served in the military during wartime, “get down” might cause him to dive face first into the turf. Neither of these actions is recommended in most defensive strategies.
7. “Stay in front of the ball!” – Speaking of skittishness, yell this phrase if your fielder views balls coming toward him as if they’re live grenades, intent on blowing him to smithereens. It’s like saying “that’s your ball to field, so you’d better catch the darn thing and throw it, no matter how much you want to run for your life.
8. “Look it in!”– According to my friend Rachel’s husband, Victor, who has coached more players than Bobby Cox, “Look it in” means to watch the ball as it lands in your glove…..Because if you get in a hurry, you might move slightly just as the ball is descending into your glove, which will cause it to land right next to you instead. And that’s more embarrassing than not “calling it” and colliding with your teammate.
9. “First step back!”– When tracking a fly ball, outfielders should first take a step backward because it’s always easier to run forward to catch the ball than awkwardly try to run backward. (That can quickly escalate into a backward fall. And it’s hard to be “baseball ready” when you’re lying on your back. But not impossible.)
10. “Back him up!”– You’ll hear this one a lot! Wise parents and coaches know that no matter how dependable a fielder is, there’s still a chance that he’ll drop the ball, miss the catch, trip and fall, do a split, have a seizure or be attacked by a rabid possum that escaped from the visitors’ dugout. Therefore fielders should always back each other up and be ready to take over. Because, Lord knows, it’s bad enough to have your shortstop suffer a possum attack in the fifth inning. But to allow a run to score while it’s happening! Well, that would be an epic tragedy.