Where are all the batboys? What happened to them? And when did they disappear?
In this context, I’m referring to the little kids (usually but not always boys) who ran out from the dugout to retrieve the bat when necessary. There was a time when every team had a youngster between the ages of five and 10 serving in that role. Thinking back on the previous season, I don’t remember a single kid matching that description.
The batboys were usually the offspring of the coach. Maybe all those kids have grown up and are playing now. There has been some turnover in coaches among the teams in my area, and the replacements are usually but not always younger than the coach they’ve replaced. So you’d think with a young crop of coaches would come youngsters.
I have a couple favorite batboy stories. One involves the kid who had a comment for me every time he came out to grab the bat. “Your zone’s too high,” he told me once. “Be sure our pitcher gets that pitch, too,” he said on another occasion. Either he was the most grizzled adolescent in history or he repeated what he’d heard in the dugout.
The other is actually the experience of a fellow umpire. He was working an independent pro league when the batter laced a hit. The runner from second was steaming for home and the throw was on the way. There was going to be a play at the plate and it was going to be close. Suddenly my compadre saw the team’s batboy grabbing the bat, which was lying just to the side of the plate and at ground zero for the impending play. Instinctively, he grabbed the kid by the shirt collar and pulled. So with one hand he signaled the out while the batboy dangled from his other.
The manager was a former major leaguer and the batboy was his son. The manager came out of the dugout and the umpire was sure he was going to either holler about his kid being manhandled or to argue the call. Instead the manager collected his kid, mumbled “Thanks” and left the field.
Several years ago, a similar incident occurred in a major league game. Dusty Baker was managing the San Francisco Giants and his three-year-old son Darren was serving as batboy. Like the other youngster, his exuberance was nearly his downfall. In young Baker’s case, the Giants’ J.T. Snow did the rescuing as he crossed the plate with a run.
Perhaps that memory is what’s inspiring coaches to have their kids sit in the stands instead of being batboys.
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