Back to 1974, East Tacoma Washington, it is game day, almost 10am. As Players and Parents cross the parking lot, silver haired seniors begin to gather at the fringe of the field. For them between the talking and their pace, it will still be 10 more minutes or so before they reach the bleachers.
For the seniors there are no pressures to finish a blog on Myspace. No handheld HD camcorders to capture those perfect moments to upload onto Youtube. Any talk about stocks is what Grandmother is brewing on the stove from last nights left dinner.
Loud speech and jibes about how deaf each other has become is usually followed by the pleasantries of passing around the swisher sweets with the solemn oath that Grandma will not find out.
All in all, it is just like watching little boys as they gather at the base of their favorite tree to swap candies before dinner outside of Moms watchful eye.
What ever conversation is being discussed is promptly dropped when the umpire makes his presence known. That is the moment all glasses focus on him with a unified effort to remind the umpire of what a strike zone is. Foul verses fair ball. And what ever bleacher umpire coaching they can assist with or invent.
For Grandparents, their heroes are warming up. Under five feet tall and awkward, these are seasoned players ready for action. With chewing gum being formed into bubbles, they eye the opponents for weakness. These Players rarely make the papers and are prone to tummy aches after the consolation ice cream Sunday following a tough loss or energetic win.
So what has really changed in the last 32 years? Have Grandparents lost the luster for their favorite players? Is their interest in baseball so far from their busy lives managing their portfolios on E*TRADE or keeping up with their posts on Myspace or Youtube?
Communication breakdown between distanced Grandparents and Grandchildren is the likely culprit. In 1974, most kids could take a modest bicycle ride to visit with their Grandparents. Weekly dinners or stops on the to or from shopping kept Grandparents aware of what was happening.
To days Grandparents are separated from their Grand Children by distance, difficulty in traversing any safe route and the demands of the Parents by their jobs, schools and activities. Not wanting to interfere or become a burden on the challenges their own children face in this modern world, Grandparents site peacefully by keeping themselves occupied as best they can.
Many leagues expect Parent participation in the preparation of fields, helping hands at the fundraisers and financial support of the year end finale. Some leagues go as far as to mandate how much time Parents must volunteer in order for their children to participate.
How much nicer would the fields be if there were a team dedicated to their preservation. This same team could have the donation table in front of the local grocery store manned for days on end without missing a beat. Accountants, Lawyers, Engineers, Master Carpenters, Master Electricians and Salesmen; this team is highly skilled and backed by years of solid experience.
Grandparents quietly sitting and tending to their own affairs are the most under utilized resource available to any league. In years past, bake sales were the sole territory of the blue hair brigade. Slow, methodical women that make cookies and cakes to die for.
Let us take a look at the numbers. Say your league has 10 teams, each team has 12 players; the most Grandparents available is 480. Putting it into reality, there are probably only 30% of those in the area and lets say only 50% have the ability to physically participate. Now you only have 72 people to work out the details of field maintenance, help with fundraising, figure out the IRS forms and manage the league checkbook. When if even can you find 72 people just waiting to be asked to come out and play.
How wonderful would it be to be able to organize 72 willing, motivated, trained and experienced people for your volunteer efforts? With that many people the entire facility could get a once over every week. Needed repairs assigned to the proper folks. Compensation for these folks lies in the participation of something meaningful and the love they have for their heroes.
The process of developing your own blue hair brigade is quite easy. At the beginning of the season have a meeting with all the Grandparents and see what commitments you get. Should you find the numbers lacking, visit the local senior center. An offer of something as meaningful to do will clear out that hall faster than a skunk in a sorority house.