THE BOY OF SUMMER: “HENRY RULES” BASEBALL
That was one of the games Bill Watterson’s comic strip character Calvin played with his stuffed tiger Hobbes. The mail rule to Calvinball was, basically, that there are no rules. Lately, with nice weather returning to the Midwest, my boy has been wanting to play outside more and more. Specifically, he wants to play “baseball”. His version of baseball, though, is not your mother’s national pastime. Or yours.
I’m no jock. Never played little league. But I know the basics of baseball and I can throw a ball halfway decently. I’ve tried teaching H the basics of the game. He’s got no time for that, though. I’ve learned that when H says he wants to play “baseball”, I should just strap in and hold on tight. It’s gonna get bumpy. Also, I lose a lot of games, being strapped in like that.
Anyway, I’ve tried to decipher just what exactly are the rules of what H calls: “HENRY RULES BASEBALL”. Since your kid maybe plays, or would like to play something similar, I’m setting them down here for you to study. Not that that will do any good. if your kid is like mine, he or she will have no time for listening to you.
Anyway, for the records: Here are the rules, such as they are…
Henry Rules Baseball is a study in minimalist athletics. No aluminum bats. no baseballs. No gloves. No batting helmets. All you need is a small plastic wiffle bat and a grapefruit-sized spiky, rubber pink ball. In a pinch, a semi-deflated grapefruit-sized basketball will do…but it’s just not the same. And don’t even think of suggesting using an actual wiffle ball with the wiffle bat. If you do, well, clearly you don’t understand the concept of Henry Rules Baseball.
BATTING: In Henry Rules Baseball, if you choose to bat the whole game, compelling your opponent to remain as pitcher and outfield the whole time, go right ahead. The concepts of strike, ball, and foul play a part in Henry Rules Baseball, but the concepts are…fluid. Getting a “hit” doesn’t necessarily require that the bat make contact with the ball. And not hitting the ball as it approaches the plate doesn’t necessarily constitute a “strike”. Unless it does. The “strike zone” is nonexistent. You want to throw a ball at the batter, go ahead. Don’t like it? Then quit. Unless Henry won’t let you. Then you can’t.
FIELDING: Since “strike” is, um, loosely defined, three strikes doesn’t necessarily mean the batter is out. Tagging someone out can be by throwing the ball at the runner and hitting him with it. Unless it requires you to make personal contact. Also, if you try to tag by throwing the ball and miss, then the runner is free to grab the ball himself and tag you out. Being “safe” on base means the runner stopped wherever he decided the base was. Henry Rules Baseball has no time or inclination to use actual bases. If you want actual bases, go play old people baseball, you boring adult. An automatic home run occurs whenever the batter decides he feels like running the bases unfettered. Home runs can be earned the hard way too, though it doesn’t really matter since no one’s really keeping score.
And that last thing might be m favorite part about Henry Rules Baseball. I’m all for competition and games and all that. But sometimes, I just want to play with my kid and have fun. We live in a world dominated by a lot of rules nd even more people telling us what they think the rules should be. For all its peculiarities, on its own terms, Henry Rules Baseball is just fun.
Thank you for that, Henry. Play ball!