[In the voice of the great Harry Caray] “Rays win! Rays win!"

I had one of those “parent-only experiences” this weekend. Every once in a while we moms and dads have what I call “parent-only experiences,” which are little interludes no one encounters unless they have kids. I’m not talking about the obvious and cliché POE’s, such as reading Goodnight Moon seven times in a row, or dragging through a week on less than two hours of sleep a night, or even trying to rationalize with a red-faced toddler who’s screaming at the top of his lungs in the middle of the grocery store because you won’t buy him a box of Pepperidge Farm Milano cookies.

The “parent-only experiences” I’m talking about take you by complete surprise. There’s no parenting book written by any Ph.D. for these. No episode of “Oprah” will clue you in on how to handle them. You have to just wing it. Like when your son decides to strip down to his bareness and strut around the house wearing his toilet-training seat on his head. No amount of expert advice can prepare you for that image. Or when your daughter decides to hide cans of diced tomatoes in the shower. I don’t remember reading a chapter in Dr. Spock that addressed that. How about when your daughter dresses her little brother in a frilly dress, complete with full makeup and nail polish, and then proudly displays him to the neighborhood — and he likes it? Ah, the POE. There’s nothing like it.

As I said, I had one this weekend. It was a dandy. My 5-year-old daughter, Anna, is on a softball team. It’s her first year playing, and she’s probably the youngest one on the team. She’s certainly the smallest. Some might even say she’s the cutest. (Sorry, I’ll try to stay focused.)

Before this past weekend, her team, the Devil Rays, had lost their first three games. That’s OK though. At this age, the winner of a softball game isn’t so much determined by athleticism and coaching but rather by which team has the most players who aren’t trying to write their names in the infield dirt during the game. Sometimes just getting players not to wear their gloves as hats is the best gameplan.

In those first three games, the girls didn’t mind losing. At that age, they’re simply having fun. The score doesn’t mean very much — just more numbers in a world full of numbers. After the losses they were smiling, cheering and laughing. Perhaps more adults should take a lesson from young kids, but that’s another column for another day.

The Rays came to play this weekend. Even though they weren’t terribly upset about losing their first three games, they were tired of playing the role of that “agony of defeat” ski jumper. They wanted to taste the “thrill of victory” that Jim McKay made sound so tantalizing back in the day.

Taking the field in the last inning with a six-run lead, the young Rays sensed victory was within their grasp. They were three outs away from that elusive first W. The problem with softball at this age is that outs are much more rare than runs. Girls this age aren’t the sharpest throwers, and most outs come only when the bags are full, the hitter hits a little dribbler back to the mound, and an infielder picks up the ball and runs to home plate. In the big leagues, they say a double play is the pitcher’s best friend. In the 5- to 7-year-old girls-only softball league, it’s the home plate force out.

But the Rays focused on the task at hand, got their three outs, and charged off the field yelling, screaming and jumping like they had broken the Curse of the Bambino.

For me and probably for all the mom and dad Rays, it was one of those “parent-only experiences.” I was surprised at how happy I was for my daughter and her teammates. I all but gushed. I knew they couldn’t possibly lose all of their games, but I was shocked at how thrilled I was and they were when they finally got that first win. It was a magic moment.

It got even better. A rainout the previous week meant another game followed immediately. A few dribblers later, the Rays had their second win of the season. Magic moment, part deux.

It was a POE that made the sleepless nights, toilet seat crowns, and 40-minute searches for cans of diced tomatoes all worth it. Harry Caray was a dad. I’ll bet he enjoyed his kids’ first wins, too.

David Spates is a Knoxville resident and Crossville Chronicle contributor whose column is published each Tuesday. He can be reached at davespates@tds.net.

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