Wednesday, October 17, 2012

A Bad Call at First Base

A few years back, when I was coaching Son Number One’s T-ball team, we had an incident with a phone. We were in the middle of practice, and the kids were goofing off just a little too much, so we sent them on a run to the fence and back to dissipate some of the excess energy. One of the boys fell way behind the group, due to the fact that he was “running” at a pace that barely qualified as a brisk walk. I jogged up to him and said, “Let’s go, dude. Pick up the pace!”

The six-year-old stopped and looked me in the eye and announced, “I can’t go any faster than this, because my phone is really heavy and it’s banging around when I run.”

“Your what?”

He reached into the front pocket of his windbreaker and produced a BlackBerry smartphone. With a big wide grin, he declared, “It has BrickBreaker on it!”

Since he was not my own son, I was forced to resist my natural urge to snatch the phone from his hand and hurl it as far as I could. Instead, I simply told him to put the phone away and move his little patooty, or he would be running to the fence and back for the rest of the school year. He picked up the pace to a moderate jog.

I left the conversation dumbfounded. Why would his parents have given him their old phone? And more to the point, why would he be allowed to bring it to practice? And what the heck is BrickBreaker?

About ten minutes later, we were running a hitting and fielding drill, and the aforementioned T-baller was playing first base. When the batter hit the ball, the infielders were supposed to scoop it up and throw him out at first. Simple. Except for the fact that on the third or fourth batter, the shortstop fielded the ball and rifled it right over the head of our young BlackBerry owner. He had lost interest in the drill and was standing with both feet on first base, his glove on the ground at his feet, his head down, and you guessed it… playing with his phone.

When we saw the ball heading toward him and realized he wasn’t looking, three coaches and ten parents all shouted, “HEYOOW HEY AHHH LOOK OOOUT!” at the same time. He never even looked up. Complete oblivion.

Needless to say, he was removed from first base, and the phone was removed from his possession, at least for the time being. One of the moms later joked that he was probably updating his Facebook status. “Playing first base.” “Coaches seem mad.” “What’s up with these guys?”

Fast forward to today, and I am once again dumbfounded. This time by my own actions. I just gave Son Number One and Two our old BlackBerry phones.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. Wait a second, Smidge, you’re the guy who said your kids couldn’t have a phone until they were 35. I know I said that, but allow me to explain. I am just trying to save money.

This all started when my wife mentioned that she wanted to get MP3 players for the boys. For those of you over 60 years old, an MP3 player is the modern equivalent of a Walkman. For those of you over 80 years old, a Walkman is a portable music player with headphones. (And a BlackBerry is a mobile telephone, or “cell phone.”)

Anyway, she mentioned that she would like to get them MP3 players, which, with my wife means she had been shopping for MP3 players for about three weeks and was minutes away from buying them. I had to act fast. My initial response of, “I don’t think the kids need those,” only held her off for a day, then she was right back at it, listing all the reasons why music was important and why I was wrong and stubborn and wrong.

I could almost hear the Visa card being swiped at a Best Buy checkout stand, so I had to react quickly. “Why don’t you just give them our old phones?” I said, not believing the words had come from my mouth, even as I uttered them.

“Really?” she asked. “That would work?”

“Yes. They would be able to play music, plus they could take pictures and video.” Who is talking right now? This can’t be me saying this. “They could even record voice notes and type messages.” What am I doing? I’m breaking my own “no technology for kids” rules.

Or am I?

Yes, I am, but here’s how I can sleep at night: There is no cell service for the phones, and I disabled the Wi-Fi, so they have no connectivity to the internet, which is my main concern about children and technology. Also, I saved a bunch of money on MP3 players. (I know, I know. That’s weak. I don’t want to hear it.)

After going this long owning nothing more advanced than an Etch A Sketch, the boys are beyond thrilled. They actually like the voice recorder and the ring tones more than the music, but the camera is their favorite part. All in all, it is working out well, but here are two handy tips if you decide to follow my lead and recycle your phones to your kids:

Tip # 1: They still dial 911, so be careful! All cell phones, no matter if they are active or not, can still call 911. I know this because the nice 911 operator that I ended up talking to on my old BlackBerry told me so.

Tip # 2: Perform what is called a “security wipe” before you hand them over. This function removes all your contacts and email accounts from the phone’s memory. This ensures that even if your kid does figure out the Wi-Fi password, they can’t send an email to your best client or your pastor calling them a butt munch.

Other than those two things, there’s not much trouble they can get into with them, so I’m OK with it. But I swear, if one of those phones ever shows up at baseball practice, the next thing that comes in contact with the bat is not going to be a ball.

I will personally be seeing how much of an old BlackBerry I can hit over the fence.

See you soon,


Copyright © 2012 Marc Schmatjen

Have kids? Have grandkids? Need a great gift?
Go to today and get your copy of My Giraffe Makes Me Laugh, Marc’s exciting new children’s book. Get ready for a wild rhyming adventure!


  1. Important follow-up Tip # 3: Before you go to bed, make sure that your child has not set the alarm on the BlackBerry, so you are not up in the middle of the night trying to locate and disable the ridiculously loud chime-y alarm that was set for 1:57 A.M.

  2. hahaha! this is great! AND informational--- I didn't know about 911 either. :)

  3. My pleasure. Always here to help. The way the 911 operator casually informed me of the issue, I'll bet old cell phones and kids are half their calls these days.