Safe at Home

I never thought I’d be the kind of dad who’d spend thousands of dollars so that his eleven- year-old daughter could suffer a sore arm, practice in freezing weather, and spend every other weekend on the road playing cutthroat softball. But that was before Maisie wanted to.

HI MY NAME IS SAM. I am a Softball Dad, and these are my transgressions. I took my perfectly contented daughter, Maisie, out of her cozy, relaxed little neighborhood fast-pitch softball league and propelled her into the hyperaccelerated, hypercompetitive, brutally expensive, and, to many people, absurdly professionalized world of youth tournament sports. You know, “select” teams.

Yes, I am one of those parents. I can’t help myself. I am the sort of person who will spend $150 on a bat and later wonder if I have spent enough. Unless I miss my guess, we are headed very quickly and very irrevocably in the direction of a $225-plus Miken carbon-shell bat. One of my daughter’s teammates got one, and we all agree that it is a very fine bat. Very fine indeed. We spend $80 for Ringor baseball cleats, which happen to be purple (matching the team’s primary color), as are my daughter’s wind suit, helmet, and other pricey paraphernalia, all of which also bear her name and number. Though I have not yet shelled out upward of $1,000 for a backyard pitching machine, I confess it has crossed my mind. More than once. We spend $110 a month for hitting lessons and $100 a month for pitching lessons. We send Maisie to softball camps. We spend two weekends a month (December excepted) in glamorous places like Seguin, Willis, San Marcos, Katy, Richmond, Harlingen, and Killeen, watching tournaments in which the girls play as many as eight games, often ending at midnight or later. We practice long hours in the blistering summer heat and in the icy northers of January. If I sound like one of those middle-aged, testosterone-crazed, frustrated former athletes who are playing out all their pathetic dreams of glory in the lives of their children, well, I would like to point out that I have plenty of company. There are millions out there like

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