Stop and smell the corn dogs!

Alabama Living Magazine
Illustration by Dennis Auth

I drove by our local ballpark the other day and saw that little league practice was under way.  It’s hard to believe that the baseball season is already upon us. Soon it will be Opening Day when parents and grandparents will crowd around the fields to encourage their future major league players.  

I believe that all community ballparks have one thing in common: The bigger the field is, the more serious the game becomes. That’s why one of my favorite games is the one with the smallest field – tee ball. 

It’s so entertaining because most kids don’t know the rules, nor do they care. It’s wonderful, organized chaos with colorful uniforms and imitation leather gloves. The coaches try their best to coach, but the parents, most of whom never played baseball in their lives, are screaming instructions at their kids like they’re managing the Yankees in the World Series. 

“Run, Jacob, run!”

“No, no!  Go back, Jacob!”

“Keep your foot on the base.”

“Touch him with the ball!”

You don’t hear comments like that in the Major Leagues. And you certainly won’t hear: 

“Pull up your pants!”

“Quit throwing rocks!”

“Do you have to potty?”

I’ve seen an umpire stop a game because players from both teams had to go to the bathroom. Forget tee ball. That was pee ball. 

When you watch a tee ball game, you’ll quickly notice that there are only a couple kids on each team who understand what’s going on. The rest of them would probably rather be home watching cartoons, especially if they’re playing in the outfield. 

My three boys began their tee ball careers in right field. The old saying, “He was out in left field,” should really be, “He was out in right field.”  You see, right field is tee ball purgatory. Kids play right field because balls are rarely hit in their direction, making it the perfect place for players who are too young, or just uninterested in the game. But playing right field is as boring as a lecture on micro economics. So, you’ll see kids entertaining themselves by looking for bugs, throwing dirt, and in extreme cases, lying on the ground with their glove over their faces. My youngest son Brad had a habit of trying to count all the people in the bleachers, which was quite a feat because he could only count to ten. 

On the rare occasion when a ball is hit into right field, the right fielder never makes the play alone.  He will get help from the first baseman, second baseman, center fielder, and possibly the catcher. They usually end up fighting over the ball like dogs over hamburger meat. When one of them finally comes up with it, the runner is rounding third. 

It’s amazing how uninterested my son was. The only reason he was “playing” was because his friends were out there. Brad undoubtedly got more enjoyment running around the ballpark than he did standing in right purgatory. So when he was in the game, he brought his outfield shenanigans to the infield, sometimes bringing play to a complete halt.  He particularly enjoyed harassing his first and second base teammates. He would duck walk between the bases, turn his hat backwards, and get right in their faces until the coaches physically put him back in his proper spot.  

A lot of parents would have been embarrassed by their child’s behavior, but not me. That’s because Brad was my third son to play tee ball. I’m a slow learner, but after two kids, I finally came to a realization about my boys being baseball stars. It wasn’t gonna happen. Now I see tee ball for what it’s supposed to be – a way for kids to have fun, and for parents to judge their children’s interest in the sport going forward. 

Hopefully, other parents can learn this lesson faster than I did. It’s just a game. Treat it that way. Take time to enjoy the moments that will vanish all too fast. It’s tee ball, a rite of childhood passage.  Take time to stop and smell the corn dogs.

Joe Hobby is a standup comedian, a syndicated columnist, and a long-time writer for Jay Leno. He’s a member of Cullman Electric Cooperative and is very happy now that he can use Sprout from his little place on Smith Lake. Contact him at


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