Hey batter, batter

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, March 23, 2004

There are certain things that just go hand in hand with baseball.

Sunflower seeds, for example, are chewed by millions on fields across the nation each year.

It’s a wonder that big yellow flowers don’t pop up in infields and on-deck circles each spring. I guess the salt and turf treatments keep them from germinating.

One of the quirkiest elements of the game is the signal.

Evolving over a span of more than 100 years, coaches have developed a means of communicating with their players through a series of hand signals, belly-pats, arm swipes, ear tugs and tips of the hat.

This is not to be confused with the routine gestures of the ballplayer.

Spit. Scratch. Touch the hat.

Spit some more. Scratch again. Adjust the hat.

There must be something in the dust of infield dirt that excites the salivary glands. And I suppose the fabric used to make baseball uniforms is just naturally itchy.

One of my all-time favorite nuances to come from the diamond is chatter.

From the Let’s-Go-Nows and Whatcha-Says of baseball to the orchestrated sing-song chants of softball, nothing says spring more than a dugout full of T-ballers doing their best Woody-Woodpecker at the top of their lungs.

You know the sound. You may have mistaken it for cicadas, the insects that produce the high-decibel hum at certain times of the year.

Hey batter, batter …

Dugout talk is more than just bored ballplayers breaking up a slow paced game.

As annoying as it may sometimes be, it’s not a waste of breath. It serves a purpose.

This fact made itself clear to me again as I covered the Panther Classic softball tournament in Pelham over the weekend.

With camera in hand, I found a spot to settle in for some action shots just in front of the Thompson dugout during one of the Lady Warriors’ games.

&uot;You might not want to stand there,&uot; one of the players told me.

I shrugged her off, thinking she was talking about foul balls that might come screaming my way and I was confident in my ability to move quickly enough to avoid being hit.

A few moments later I was knocked down. Not by a foul ball but by a wall of wailing sounds coming from the Thompson dugout.

As I looked over my shoulder all I could see was row of fingers latched to the chain-link fence. Just behind them, faces as red as the Thompson jersey belted out chant after chant to fire up their teammates.

Although it wasn’t particulary enjoyable from inches away, the screams of the Lady Warriors created excitement when things started to drag.

The team seemed unified when they got together to chant, and it carried over onto the field. So, too, did the fun they were having.

And softball, like any other sport, is more about fun than anything else.

I’ve been to a lot of ballgames and after Saturday I can tell you the Lady Warriors are something else when it comes to chatter.

Next time I’ll take my earplugs.

Ashley Vansant is the sports editor at the Shelby County Reporter. He can be reached at mailto:ashley.vansant@shelbycountyreporter.com