Quick. When someone says baseball game, what do you think of? A breezy July day? The smell of hot dogs? A kid with a glove bigger than his head hopping from foot to foot as he eagerly awaits the first foul ball to come in his direction?
The way Atlanta Braves Pitching Coach Roger McDowell sees it, that kid has no business being in a ballpark. In a rant riddled with curse words and gay slurs in the San Francisco Giants ballpark over the weekend, McDowell told a dad in the stands -- who was concerned about his twin 9-year-olds hearing the foul language -- "Kids don't [blanking] belong at the baseball park."
Wait? Really? So all that talk about America's game and a great family pastime is what? Just a way to entice Moms and Dads to buy expensive logo-laced crap for their kids -- and pay McDowell's salary by the way -- only to leave them home when push comes to shove?
Hey, I'm a parent, but I understand there are some places kids just shouldn't go. I wrote a rather controversial rant about parents who took their toddler to a Dave Matthews Band concert once, plopping her down in pavilion seating where she couldn't move around and looked completely miserable. I am not a parent who would do that. Nor is my 5-year-old being invited to the bar for girls' night with my friends and me any time soon. I'm no fan of the overly permissive parent who thinks their kids are mini-adults and doors should be magically thrust open at the sound of their raucous mewling.
But a chi chi spa and a ballpark are not the same thing, my friends. A ballpark is, in fact, the very place I see being appropriate for kids. Big, open, loud, full of sights and sounds and smells -- everything you need to mask the sound of a crying babe or a poopy diaper. You have to keep a hawk eye on them in a place teeming with people, sure, but you tell me how my kid can make a bigger mess than the guy dropping his peanut shells and spilling his beer while he screams at the ump? Didn't think so.
This is the very opposite of a "pushy parent" thing. It's how sports indoctrination works. A kid is born. A kid has a team cap smushed on her head and her chubby legs shoved through a team onesie. By 2, she's got a ball in hand or at her feet. By 4 or maybe 5, she's out on a diamond, a field, or a court. This is how future players are made -- by teaching kids that sports are a key to a lifetime of enjoyment (not to mention the only way we'll finally kick this childhood obesity thing to the curb).
Since birth, we have groomed our daughter for Yankees fanship, and I'm crossing my fingers that this will be the summer when we can finally make the trek to the Bronx as a family. But Roger McDowell just made it easier to pick a weekend -- we won't be going when the Braves are in town.
Are ballparks appropriate for kids? Would you take your kids?
Image via toberboy/Flickr