Local family catches Little League fever

April 2, 2014 at 8:05 p.m.
Updated April 1, 2014 at 11:02 p.m.

Deigo Balboa, 7, receives a high-five from his coach after hitting  a home run in the Buesing Insurance Pirates' game against the Son Valley Ranch Rangers on Monday night.

Deigo Balboa, 7, receives a high-five from his coach after hitting a home run in the Buesing Insurance Pirates' game against the Son Valley Ranch Rangers on Monday night.   Tess Freeman for The Victoria Advocate

In Texas, two sports reign supreme: Friday night football and Little League.

It's not basketball, not soccer, not volleyball, not tennis. I'm not even talking about football and baseball here - nope, that just doesn't cut it. Here, it's high school football and youth baseball/softball, and obsession with these two kings of the sports world run rampant during the fall and early spring in every town across Texas.

I caught a glimpse into Friday night lights when my sister was a cheerleader during her senior year of high school. At that time, my husband and I didn't have kids, so we were able to go to most of her football games.

We drank in the excitement of the players, the enthusiasm of the parents and the rush of making the playoffs.

But you could hardly call us obsessed.

We didn't purchase every piece of mascot-laden, name-touting or picture-sporting article of clothing.

We didn't decorate our vehicle with shoe polish or colored window chalk. And we definitely didn't participate in the many heated discussions often heard in the stands, in the parking lot, at work the next Monday or at church Sunday.

After that year, our Friday night lights experience faded into oblivion.

Now, almost 10 years later, we are about to enter the realm of the other king of Texas sports: Little League.

When our daughter turned 5, we let her decide whether she wanted to play T-ball or not. We both breathed a sigh of relief when she showed no interest. We had escaped Little League for a while - but not nearly as long as we thought we would.

Apparently, kids talk at school. They find time to do so on the playground, in the cafeteria and while waiting in line to go home. Someone was nice enough to share with my daughter that T-ball is fun.

They told her, "I wish you played. You could be on my team."

Cue obsession.

She asked for a glove, a bat, a tee and T-balls six months before registration even started. This ensured that by the time the season actually rolled around, the tee would be broken, the balls would be missing, and the glove would be too small.

After a shopping trip to replace all of the aforementioned supplies and adding in a pair of cleats, my wallet was very grateful that we could at least still use the bat.

It was after registration that the constant questions began: "When do we start practicing?" "Who's going to be on my team?" "When do we start practicing?" "Where will I play games?" "When do we start practicing?" "Who's going to be my coach?" And . yep, you guessed it, "When do we start practicing?"

We registered in early January, and exactly 37 days later, the email from our newly assigned coach arrived in my inbox. I guarantee that you have never seen someone so excited. I jumped for joy. I did a little dance. I finally had the information I needed to make the questions stop.

Sweet silence would be mine.

Finally, we got to the day of our first practice. Now, it was my daughter's turn to be excited. And, yes, just like her momma, she jumped for joy and did a little dance. She actually did a whole lot more jumping and dancing, but that's a whole other story.

It was a perfect day - warm and sunny. The coach welcomed the girls with enthusiasm and quickly started a name game to introduce them to one another. Then, the girls were divided into groups, and they rotated between stations manned by parents to learn different skills. I was surprised at how much I enjoyed watching the girls - they were all excited and having such a good time.

After the first practice, my daughter's first question was (you don't even have to guess this time, do you?) "When's our next practice?" A few days later, a cousin asked my daughter to go to a birthday party with her. "There'll be cake and trampolines, and we'll have so much fun." My daughter responded, indignantly, I might add, "What? We have T-ball practice that day. You can't skip T-ball practice."

Giving up a birthday party for practice?

It's official - she's hooked.

I called the coach that day and ordered team T-shirts for my husband and me. I think I might have our last name and her team number printed on the back.

I can drop it off on my way to buy shoe polish.

Shelly Schulz is a senior at UHV and mother of one.



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