Baseball and Softball are in full swing! You can spend a lot of money on food, drinks, clothes and equipment. Here are some tips and tricks I have learned over the last fourteen years of having kids playing ball.
- Bring it from home. Pack several snack bags with non-perishable snacks. Raw veggies, fruit, pretzels, crackers and nuts make good healthy snacks. Kids like cookies and hard candies. If you pack perishable items use a cooler and have plenty of ice. Keep the cooler closed and in the shade.
- Sunflower Seeds. I buy a large package and put one-half a cup into snack size baggies. I think he could do with one-fourth a cup, but my husband wanted me to use one-half a cup. (He probably gets into them too!)
- Bubblegum. Another “must have item”. Buy the large bag at a discount store and just take what you need in snack size bags for the game.
- Just the Entrée. Pack your own drinks and chips and purchase just a hot dog or hamburger. This is a good alternative when you are at a tournament all day long.
- Plan to Eat Out. Or eat a picnic lunch and plan to stop at a local restaurant after the tournament. It will give you a good meal and a place to cool off.
- Water. I fill bottles with water run through a Brita or “Pur” pitcher. I freeze a couple of bottles when my son is scheduled to play at a tournament.
- Gatorade. You can buy canisters of powdered Gatorade and mix it up yourself. It is much cheaper than purchasing bottles at the store and exponentially cheaper than buying it at the concession stand. It also freezes well for a tournament.
- Coffee. It is not always hot at games. Sometimes it is freezing! Bring a thermos of coffee, or hot chocolate for the kids, and cups.
Special Note – Umpires are sometimes given a bottle or two of water or Gatorade. Some ball parks will even give them food. If you know the rules of the game and are willing to spend the day or part of the day at the ball field you will be kept busy. It is best if you umpire games your child is not playing in, at least behind the plate. You will need to start with the younger kids and work your way up.
Concessions Stands – Sales from the concessions stand helps keep the cost down for the individual teams. Many stands will have a bucket or pass a bucket for donations. I prefer to bring my own food and make a donation when I see the bucket.
- Pants – My son wears 32″ x 34″ pants. When his uniform was given to him the pants were too short. I let the hem down and sewed black elastic strips to the bottom of each leg. The elastic can go over his socks or over his shoes. It keeps the pants down to a respectable length. If the pants are too long you can roll the legs up inside them a couple of times. The elastic will hold them in place. If the waist is too big you can either tighten the belt or sew two darts in the back to make the waist smaller. If the waist is too small, ask for another pair. The legs would be too tight and would restrict movement.
- Socks – At the end of the season, baseball socks will go on clearance. I used to buy one of each color in his size for the next year. If your child is selected to play on the all-star team, you never know what color they will choose.
- Shoes – Do not buy used shoes. They are broken in to conform to the first wearers feet. I start looking for baseball shoes between Christmas and Easter. The shoe stores are trying to get rid of last years models before this years models arrive. We have used final-score.com (a division of eastbay.com) and baseballsavings.com.
- Unisex clothing – Baseball pants are the same as softball pants. Baseball socks are the same as softball socks. Under-armor for the cold games are the same. (They do wear different types of sliding shorts.) Save the unisex clothing for your other children.
- “Play It Again Sports,” playitagainsports.com, is my favorite because not only can you buy equipment, you can sell the equipment your child has outgrown.
- Garage Sales and “Resale” shops are another place to find used ball equipment.
- Gifts – Ball equipment makes great birthday or Christmas presents.
- Budget – When your child is old enough to earn their own money you can give them an amount to buy, say a glove, and if they want a more expensive model have them pay the difference. They seem to take better care of their equipment when some of their hard-earned cash went into the purchase.
- Storage – Clean the dirt and sweat off of bats, balls, catchers equipment and allow them to air dry. Wash gloves with saddle soap, wipe off excess, put a baseball or softball inside it and place a rubber band around it.
Park Proactively – You don’t want to park too close to the field. Many a foul ball has cracked a windshield.
Gas for the “Away” Games –
- Gaspricewatch.com. You can zoom in on the map to any city and it will show you the gas prices at the stations there. You can compare them with the stations at your destination and the towns in between. You may save if you wait to fill up at your destination.
- Take the team – give kids a ride and ask their parents to chip in a buck or two for gas. Make sure at least one other parent rides with you for crowd control. It will make the trip more pleasant and you will be able to concentrate on your driving.
- Leave early – you don’t want to make up time on the road by speeding.
- Combine errands – If you have an older child that has to ride the bus to and from the game you can use this tip. We do not have an Aldis grocery store in our town. When our son is playing in a town with an Aldis we go an hour early and stock up on non-perishable items. The money we save can cover the gas. (I don’t recommend this if you have a van full of ten-year olds!)
Umpires – It’s a part-time job!
- Umpires for the Babe Ruth Leagues are paid – You need to go to baberuthleagues.org for details.
- Money and Time – You will need to take a class, take a test, pay yearly dues and purchase special clothes and equipment.
- Physical condition – This is for the serious athletic dad or mom. You will need to be able to squat for hours at a time and take cold, high heat and humidity.
- Strong Marriage – Your spouse will be alone for most of May and June.
- Wisdom of Solomon – Every play is viewed through the lens of how it affects their team. You will have to know the book of rules to back your call.
- Be a Diplomat – You will be tempted and tried to the nth degree of your patience by parents, fans and sometimes coaches or players. You have to be able to keep your cool while retaining your authority.
- Need a Bookkeeper – The money paid for umpiring must be reported on your income tax. You can deduct dues, mileage, equipment and clothes you buy for yourself. You must keep good records and have receipts to support all of your deductions.
- High Pain Tolerance – You will get hit by the ball. You will get bruised and run into from time to time by players. Avoid the bat at all costs!
- Allergies? Forget it. – Part of your job is to sweep home plate to keep it visible to the pitcher. It will be hot, humid, and windy most of the time.
- 20/20 Vision and Thick Skin. – You will be accused of blindness at least once a game. If you do not have 20/20 vision then you will need to see the eye doctor every year. Having an accurate glasses prescription is a must.
- Love Kids – Baseball and softball are for the kids. Parents, coaches, and fans forget that sometimes in their quest to win games. Part of your job is to make sure the kids play safely. Their shoes need to stay tied, shirts tucked in, no jewelry and they need to slide correctly to prevent injury. You also have to watch for behavior that would injure another player.
- Understand the Weather – The umpire calls the game when storms threaten. If someone sees lightning, the game is called to protect the kids. You don’t want kids playing when it is too cold to control the ball. You need to watch for heat stroke and heat exhaustion during hot weather…especially the catcher who is wearing all of that protective gear.
- Make it Fun – You will need a sense of humor. Enjoy your time on the field. If you don’t, you shouldn’t be there. Remember these kids will only be here for a couple of years.
My kids are grown; but I couldn’t resist posting a picture of college boy when his team won the championship for the 10-12 Year Olds.