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T-Ball Journal: Snack Attack

I didn't want to disappoint my eight-year-old son, especially in the afterglow of a hard-fought sporting endeavor. But I decided I had to draw the line: "Noah, I think mini-Oreos on top of mini-Chips Ahoy after a bag of Cheetoh's would be a bit excessive." OK, perhaps my exact quote wasn't quite that droll. It was more along the lines of, "Take it easy on the snacks would you? We're having dinner after this."

Of course, at that point he was already well past the point of no nibbling return. And when he didn't exactly chow down on the delicious dinner his mother prepared for him about an hour later, the standard "Next time don't spoil your appetite with so much junk" speech was right there for me.

But I took a pass. Someday he'll grow up and go off to college, after all, and I'll regret it if I clutter up our precious time together with too many recriminations and remonstrations, right? Isn't that what the empty nesters always say? Next time, though . . . next time I'll really lay down the law: no sweets until after dinner young man - no ifs, ands or buts.

We know it's been said many times, many ways that the youth sports post-game snack is more important than the game. I'm confident that isn't true for at least some of the older kids on Noah's junior division T-Ball/coach-pitch squad. Then again I haven't exactly done a survey. And if I did do one, the results would depend almost entirely on the timing, i.e. if I did it in the midst of a sugary feast or, say, just after the announcement that a given day's treat would be (gasp) "healthy."

As for the rest of the Dodgers . . . let's just say that with the right bag of treats in one hand and the right flavor of juice in the other, the disappointment of a tough loss disappears instantaneously, if not sooner.

In fact, I've seen several instances already this season where contented kids simply erased critical details - like, say, whether we won or lost - from their memories in the game's immediate aftermath. When a couple have asked "Did we win?" I've been tempted to answer in the affirmative even if we didn't. But a few of their teammates - the ones who so delightfully and insistently request updates on the score every, oh, at-bat or so - always jump right in with the ugly details.

Serving up a popular snack in a way that doesn't leave you feeling at least slightly queasy is not easy. One of the primary challenges is purchasing the right amount of food. One anticipates that all the kids will scarf down a couple snacks and a couple drinks but they never do. Then again the biggest fear is that this will be the day that they all do that and that if you don't buy out the snack section you might have to say "we're all out" to one of them

A few will eat even more than that if their parents let them (earlier this season my son said to me "Dad, guess how many donut holes I had. . . . Seven." When I expressed a bit off disapproval, he said "But Johnny had twelve."

On the other hand, a significant number will also turn up their noses at the food no matter what. And don't think to yourself "Well, if some of the kids don't like this one snack, we better have plenty of another." Then you'll just have too much of two different kinds of foods.

Then there is the allergy element. Until a couple years ago I had no idea how scary the phrase "Dad, my tongue feels funny" could be. My daughter Alana is allergic to tree nuts and raw eggs (no chocolate mouse or cookie dough for her), and while we've tried to stay on top of it, there have been several situations in the past year where we were lucky (and Alana was vigilant). At those times she was offered cake or a cookie without our knowledge and she was smart enough to ask about the presence of nuts.

Alana's favorite post-game snack is probably the dastardly fruit roll-up. At our kids' last teeth cleaning, their dentist didn't just say she wanted us to limit their consumption of the sticky, 'just about 100 percent artificial' treat; she wanted them to never have another one again. But hey, doc, at least they definitely don't have nuts.

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It was a big week for Alana's T-Ball team, the Red Sox. After a tough Rookie League loss the day before, the squad finally pulled out an official victory Sunday. Unfortunately, Noah's and my Sunday game was at exactly the same time as that contest and we didn't get to share in the triumph. Apparently the T-Ball was great and the socializing with an opposing team, the Angels, featured many players who go to school with my older daughter. "Dad, when I was playing second base I couldn't believe it. Everyone on the other team who got there, I knew. I was talking to everyone."

As for T-Ball/coach-pitch with Noah, one of the highlights was that before both games only one player didn't show up whose parents hadn't told me he or she wouldn't be there. My carefully calibrated defensive chart (outlining which of 16 players play which of 12 positions - the usual nine plus right-center, left-center and short-centerfielders - with everyone taking a one- or two-inning break, shifting positions every couple innings and getting at least two frames in the infield) can be adjusted to make up for the absence of one child. Any more than that and it starts to get ugly.

On Sunday we pulled out a very fortunate 10-9 victory (despite scoring only two T-Ball runs - usually you need at least a half dozen to have any kind of a chance). The day before we had suffered a very disappointing 19-17 defeat. But then it was snack time and - surprise! - one of the moms had brought hot dogs for everyone. They were fan-tastic.

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Jim Coffman's daughter is in her first season of T-Ball. Her older brother is in his last year in the Junior Division. Coffman is chronicling his travails as coach of his son's team and observer of his daughter's initial foray into this slice of Americana.

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