The post is adapted from Little Victories: Perfect Rules for Imperfect Living, by arrangement with Doubleday, an imprint of The Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC.
Congratulations, motivated, ambivalent or perhaps conscripted young baseball participant! You (and hopefully not your impossible nightmareparents) are invited to join the planet's least selective, low-expectation and most emotionally balanced youth sports team: The Zen Cubs.
You may be wondering how we picked you to join an outfit like this. We didn't! We simply took a bunch of names off the wall and threw together a roster. Whoever wasn't wanted, we wanted -- and wanted might be calling it a stretch! There were no trades, no draft maneuvers, no rigging the system so we could land an All-Star caliber shortstop. We have absolutely no idea what we have. Could be good; could make the Bad News Bears look like the 1927 Yankees! Who cares. The mystery is part of the fun.
Now a few important words on life with the Zen Cubs:
Goals: The Zen Cubs will have no team goals other than exercise and occasional amusement and trying not to break the windows on coach's car, although we can all agree the latter will be briefly hilarious. If you have a specific goal for the season -- hitting for the cycle, throwing an inning of shutout relief, or proving to your parents that you really hate playing sports and would prefer instead to go to canoe camp -- you are thoroughly encouraged to chase it. If you simply want to sit on the bench and paint your toenails black and read Neil Gaiman books, that's OK. (You will probably wind up being the person who winds up becoming general manager of the Dodgers.)
Practice: Practices will be held once a week, for fifteen minutes, and they're optional. You might ask: Wow, that's not a lot of practice time. And you are right. Coach and your parents have errands to do, they're tired, and let's not all get carried away with perfection. You guys are 11-years-old.
Extra Practice: What? No.
Score: We will ignore.
Wins/losses/standings: Also ignore.
Statistics: Are you kidding? Chill.
Long bus trips: Absolutely not.
Game strategy: We will show up wearing pants.
Enthusiasm: Zen Cubs will stick up for Zen Cubs. Always. We will cheer, we will clap, we will chuckle mildly -- that's chuckle with, not at -- when one of us runs up the baseline to third base instead of first on a ground ball, but we will also pick each other up whenever one catches a pop fly with his or her nose (and we will do that lots of times). We will scream when one of us hits a long fly ball to deep left field that looks like it's... okay that's my car. Ugh.
Uniforms: Remember your pants. You can pretty much get away with forgetting everything, as long as you bring your pants.
Dogs allowed on field: Don't be ridiculous. Of course dogs are allowed on the field. Bring all the dogs. And the cat. Though the cat may be bored.
Turtle: Fine. The turtle, too.
Daydreaming: The Zen Cubs have a very pro-daydreaming policy. Do not worry if your mind wanders while you're standing out there in right field. If a line drive sails your way, and you miss it completely because you're thinking about what it would be like to eat a pizza ice cream sandwich, or if you're worried you didn't put Sprinkles the guinea pig back into the cage in Ms. Ferly's classroom earlier in the afternoon (you didn't, by the way), do not panic. (We will send the guinea pig to fetch the baseball. Tell Sprinkles to look out for the dogs and the cat.)
Substitution: All players, dogs and the cat will play a minimum of one game at every position rotating around the field. (The turtle will just play first base because he's a turtle.)
"Hitting the cutoff man": Not sure what this "cutoff man" is. Googling that right now. Oh, no. We're not going to be able to do that.
Travel team: Shhhhhhh. Don't say it out loud; freaks your parents out, makes them clammy and worried about how much time they'll be spending shuttling you around in the car this summer. Alright, I'll just tell you the truth: mom and dad aren't totally jazzed about the travel team idea. Sorry.
Parents: Parental participation is welcomed, but by no means encouraged! You are asked to deliver your child to the games in a punctual fashion; you may bring water, and orange slices, and perhaps a Maker's Mark for the coach, but please do not live vicariously through the ups and downs of the Zen Cubs. The Zen Cubs do not play for your personal amusement, to settle petty inter-parental feuds, or to realize your unrealized sports dream. Do not ask if your child deserves more playing time, or if your child could benefit from a two-week All-Star Camp in Tallahassee, or if your child "has what it takes." (We have no idea "what it takes.") Do not climb a chain-link fence to threaten an umpire; do not tackle and roll around in the parking lot with another parent over a disputed stolen base. Parents who cannot adhere to these basic and very reasonable requests will be BANNED from Zen Cubs activities and also forced to adopt Sprinkles the guinea pig.
That's it. We're going to re-think the way we think about sports. Test positive for seriousness, and you will be suspended.
See you at the ball park. 9:30-ish but don't hold me to it.
And don't step on the turtle.
Your Friends at The Zen Cubs
Adapted from Jason Gay's Little Victories: Perfect Rules for Imperfect Living (Doubleday), available at bookstores now. Find out more at: jason-gay.com.
LITTLE VICTORIES by Jason Gay
Copyright © 2015 by Jason Gay
Published by arrangement with Doubleday, an imprint of The Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House LLC