Discover more from Rereading My Childhood by Amy A. Cowan
The Baby-Sitters Club #20: Kristy and the Walking Disaster by Ann M. Martin
In which Kristy kritiques the performance of a four-year-old, I gloss over long passages about sports, and mediocre boys continue to disappoint.
I do not come from a sports family. I had no interest and actively hated (and still hate) physical activity. My mother climbed our cherry trees to get the best fruits, but that’s about it. My father, the stereotypical member of the family to love sports, had even less interest than myself. My sister was the closest to a sports fan. And by sports, I mean sports entertainment. She even wanted to be a wrestler when she grew up. She’s a stand-up comedian, so she just made a lateral move. Luckily for me, because my family doesn’t care much for sports or forcing children into activities, I never joined a Little League team. My parents never made my sister or me join anything, and for that, I am grateful.
Kristy starts a Little League team in Kristy and the Walking Disaster, and this book dives into a world I never experienced. It also affirms why I don’t like sports, so this book is both an exploration and an affirmation! It’s like a self-help book for people who don’t like sports, but like Scholastic Book Fairs.
The book starts with a BSC meeting and the usual description of each and every BSC member. Kristy even tells the reader, “I am the president and I must look like I mean business.” After four years of the indignity of the Tr*mp Crime Family, I don’t think that’s true anymore.
We get our lengthy explanation on club procedures, Kid-Kits, and the BSC notebook. All standard opening chapter stuff. Finally, the BSC starts their meeting and they get a call from the Radowsky family. Kristy takes the job while calling Jackie a “walking disaster.” Honestly, it’s a bit harsh, and even if the kid is accident-prone, he’s still one of the more interesting kids in Stoneybrook.
That Saturday, Kristy is watching a few of the neighborhood kids play softball.
Hannie really couldn’t hit. She never connected with the ball. Max dropped or missed every ball he tried to catch. David Michael was simply a klutz. He tripped over his feet, the bat, even the ball, and no matter how he concentrated, he somehow never did anything right, except pitch. Karen wasn’t a bad hitter. And Andrew might have been a good catcher if he weren’t so little, but he’s only four, so balls went sailing over him right and left, even when he stretched for him. Amanda and Linnie were no better than the others.
Yeah, how dare these kids play softball if they’re so terrible! Who cares if they’re four, when Joe DiMaggio was four, he had two World Series wins and had married and divorced Marilyn Monroe!
She gathers up the kids and gives them some pointers because these kids will never get to Koshien if they don’t get their shit together. Some of the kids express an interest in joining a team and David Michael informs Kristy of a kid in the neighborhood named Bart Taylor who coaches Bart’s Bashers. For those of you familiar with the BSC, that name should ring a bell.
Anyway, Kristy goes to talk to Bart Taylor and she freaks.
Why did I feel so nervous? I’ve talked to boys before. I’ve been to dances with boys. I’ve been to parties with boys. But none of them looked at me the way Bart was looking at me just then — as if standing on the sidewalk was a glamorous movie star instead of plain old me, Kristy Thomas. And, to be honest, none of them had been quite as cute as Bart. They didn’t have his crooked smile or his deep, deep brown eyes, or his even, straight perfect nose, or his hair that looked like it might have been styled at one of those hair places for guys — or not. I think it’s a good sign if you can’t tell.
Do you mean a “barbershop,” Kristy? Since this is the eighth grade, I’m assuming she means “Fantastic Sams.”
Anyway, she tries to get six kids on Bart’s team, but he won’t because he can’t handle that many kids. It will become apparent that he can’t even handle the kids he currently has, but for right now, Kristy walks away having made two decisions — she’s going to start a softball team and she has a crush on Bart Taylor.
So Mary Anne babysits for the Perkins’s and Jamie Newton and Nina Marshall show up. Gabbers sells Jamie four-hundred-dollar water. They also end up playing softball outside, because the kids in Stoneybrook are psychically linked, and Myriah knows a lot about playing. Mary Anne tells her about Kristy’s softball team, making Myriah the first competent player on the team.
Kristy sits for the Radowskys. Jackie drops pink lemonade while they are preparing a birthday party for the dog. Jackie’s older brothers are in Little League and that prompts them to play softball. His older brothers chastise Jackie for not playing perfectly. Even Kristy thinks about how Jackie is a worse player than David Michael. However, even though she’s awfully judgmental about a seven-year-old’s sports capabilities, Kristy still invites him to join her softball team, because otherwise, we wouldn’t have a title.
Later that night, Kristy receives a bunch of phone calls about her team, mostly kids asking to join. Kristy ends with a list of twenty kids, their ages, and their problems, which range from “Gabbie Perkins — 2½ — doesn’t understand the game yet” to “Myriah Perkins — 5 — ?(probably just needs work)” and “David Michael Thomas — 7 — a klutz.” There are even a few kids Kristy hasn’t met yet — the Kuhns. That’s the suburbs for you — just kids and softball teams sprouting like Spirit Halloween Stores in abandoned Circuit Citys in October.
Watson and Kristy determine that the team is meant “to coach kids who wanted to improve their playing skills, but more importantly, just to have fun.” Kristy also wonders if Bart thinks she’s cute. In fact, she writes it down on her list of considerations for the team.
On the first day of practice, all twenty kids show up. Kristy is going to coach them for a while and then they’ll play a short game. She also reminds everyone that Matt Braddock is a fantastic player but he’s deaf so the kids can’t just yell stuff at him.
Before they finally play a game, Mallory, who is there with Dawn and some other parents for moral support, suggests they come up with a name, and Jackie yells, “How about Kristy’s Crushers?”
“And we could spell ‘Crushers’ with a ‘K’,” added Margo Pike. “You know, to go with Kristy. Kristy’s Krushers.”
“No!” cried Karen. “That’s wrong. That’s not how you spell ‘crushers.’ You spell ‘crushers’ with a ‘C’!” (Karen takes her spelling very seriously.)
But she was voted down. Every other kid liked “Kristy’s Krushers-with-a ’K.’”
Dammit, Karen, lighten up. It’s a softball team not a United Nations Treaty. As long as it’s not “Kristy’s Kool Krushers,” I’m sure it will be fine.
Also, Google thinks it should be “Kristy’s Krushers” also.
At the end of their first game, Linny calls Kristy, “Coach,” giving Kristy a confidence boost, and she declares the practice a complete success.
While Claudia and Mallory are sitting for the Pikes, the triplets, who are in Little League, propose a game between the Little Leaguers and the Krushers. Matt Braddock is also there, so he is on the Krusher’s side. Matt is very good, as expected, and Nicky has a surprisingly sweet moment with his little sister wherein he encourages her like a proper teammate. In the end, the triplets win, of course, but the Krushers never give up and the triplets congratulate them on the game graciously.
At the next practice, there’s a bunch of baseball stuff. Claire sings “I’m a Little Teapot.” Jackie trips over his feet. David Michael signs “monkey” to Matt, and he is confused.
Finally, Buddy Barrett pitches to Jackie and the ball goes right into Jackie’s mouth. Claudia pulls out a tooth and Jackie exclaims, “I just love losing teeth.” Kristy calls for the end of practice.
After dinner, Kristy goes to walk Shannon (the dog, not the sitter) and finds Bart and his rottweiler. They walk their dogs together and we have our main conflict of the book.
“Hey,” said Bart. “I’ve got an idea. Just to show you that I think your team is as good as mine, even if the kids are younger, how about a game? Bart’s Bashers challenge Kristy’s Krushers.”
A game? A real game? Against Bart’s team? I didn’t know if the Krushers were ready for something like that, but I wasn’t about to say no. I couldn’t let Bart think I was afraid of his team. Besides, if we set up a game, I’d be sure to see him again — soon.
“Sure,” I replied. “How about two weeks from Saturday? Is that enough time for the Bashers to get ready?”
“Of course! But what about the Krushers?”
“Oh, they’ll be ready.”
I grinned at Bart and he grinned back.
How do these teams always find time to challenge other random teams? I never want to hear another parent say their kid is too busy with sports again. If they have enough time to challenge five-year-olds to games, they have enough time to finish their one-page report on Taft.
At the next practice, the team shows up in “Kristy’s Krushers” jerseys. Everyone except Karen, of course, who is the wettest of wet blankets and her jersey says, “Kristy’s Crushers.” We get it, Karen, you’re not fun.
The team gets excited when Kristy tells them about the impending game with the Bashers. Haley and Vanessa volunteer for cheerleading duty (with Charlotte coordinating), and the team plans to sell refreshments at the game. But before they play the game, they have to practice. This time, Kristy keeps the kids in one position, instead of having them switch around.
The practice is going pretty good until Jackie hits a ball through Stoneybrook Elementary School’s window. The practice is over and the Radowsky’s have to pay for a new window.
Bart and a few of the Bashers show up to their next practice to scope out the competition. The Bashers make fun of the Krushers. The little jerks fat-shame Jake Kuhn, call Gabbie a baby, and call Jackie “Pig-Pen from Peanuts.” The absolute worst thing they do is call Matt dumb because he’s deaf. Kristy says she doesn’t think Bart can hear his team’s derogatory comments.
What the hell, Bart? Get control of your team. What kind of environment are you cultivating wherein your team thinks it’s acceptable to say these toxic things? I don’t care if Bart couldn’t hear them, David Michael wouldn’t make fun of a kid in a wheelchair even if Kristy couldn’t hear him.
Luckily, even if Bart wasn’t there to get control, Haley is not putting up with bullshit.
Haley charged over to the Basher who had just insulted her brother. She stood inside the catcher’s cage, nose-to-nose with the boy on the other side of the wire fence.
“That ‘dummy,’” she said with clenched teeth, “is my brother, and if you call him a dummy one more time, I will personally rearrange your face.”
The kid just stared at Haley, but she stared back until she had stared him down.
Well, I’m glad someone has some sense of decency.
On the day of the big game, Kristy runs into a snag. Their best player and pitcher, Nicky, is sick and can’t play. David Michael will be taking over pitching duties.
The game is pretty chaotic. Matt hits a homerun. The Bashers cheerleaders chant “Strikeout!” as Margo Pike steps up. Vanessa and Haley cheer louder for Margo, and in a surprise move, the Pike triplets, who showed up dressed in their Little League uniforms, join Vanessa and Haley to drown out the Basher cheerleaders. Jackie accidentally throws his bat, “twists” his ankle, and Kristy calls a time-out.
“Jackie,” I said, “I’m putting you back in the game.”
Jackie snapped to attention. “But-but I can’t play, Coach!” he exclaimed. “I hurt my ankle.” He began rubbing his right ankle.
“When you fell, you hurt your other ankle,” I pointed out.
“Jackie, I know you’re embarrassed. I also know you’re a good player. And right now, we need you at first base. It’s either you or Jamie Newton, and you know what’ll happen if a ball comes toward Jamie.”
Whoa, slam on Jamie — a four-year-old.
Jackie gets back in the game. Matt hits a home run. Charlotte Johanssen cheers even though she is incredibly shy. Hannie Papadakis hits a home run. Everyone is taking off their hats under the blistering sun.
In the end, the Bashers win, because they’re eleven-year-olds playing against four-year-olds, but the score is 16–11, which seems like a high-scoring game.
We still have one more side-plot to resolve — Bart and Kristy. Does he apologize for his team’s behavior? No. He does not. It does pull Kristy out of the way of a zooming car, so that’s something. And for reasons I don’t understand, Kristy asks for a rematch.
This is the introduction of Bart as Kristy’s primary love interest in the series, and just like Logan, I was thoroughly disappointed. Bart is passive while his team demeans younger children, and he doesn’t apologize for their behavior after the game. But I guess Kristy is only twelve — she hasn’t experienced how trash dudes can be.
While this book did show me (in interminable detail) a few play-by-plays of several softball practices and one game, I still lack interest in sports and its appeal is still inconceivable to me. The extreme competition and hostility for no reason paired with the pep talks and time commitment have just reiterated why I have no interest in sports or group activities. My sister is correct when it comes to sport: at least professional wrestling has storylines and plot twists.