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The game was over. Now the real work began. The long walk from Normal Community High School’s baseball diamond to the parking lot was underway.

Typically, when you cross county lines and change area codes you’re behind a wheel. Not at NCHS, where the athletic complex is a mix of function and fitness.

Early in the journey, a uniformed player put his cellphone to his ear and said, “Hey Mom. I was just wondering what the plan is.”

We count on moms for that, particularly sports moms. They provide the blueprint for busy sporting families. They know the plan because almost always we — players, husbands, fathers … that is, males — leave it to them to devise it.

No way is that fair, but it’s who we are. We’re not proud of it. Thankfully, moms rescue us from ourselves time and again, one season to the next.

Local sports as we know them — youth, junior high, high school, even college — would be largely adrift if not for moms. They are the team within any team, organizing carpools, concession stand schedules, sack lunches for bus trips, end-of the-year banquets.

They set all the behind-the-scenes tasks in motion, make them run smoothly so players can play, coaches can coach and dads can pace and stew over a lost at-bat or dropped pop fly.

Most remarkable are the sports moms who also coach the team. They run practices, plot strategy, fill out lineup cards, make game-day decisions and somehow still see to it that the family — their family — holds up its end of the off the field/court responsibilities. They point us, the males, in the right direction.

We would be lost without them.

We don’t tell them that enough, so let this serve as an overdue “shout out” to moms here and elsewhere who play such a vital role in the games people play.

Much of what they do is tangible … rides to and from, freshly washed uniforms, the turkey sandwich with just the right splash of mayo, mustard or whatever. Yet, a good chunk of their contribution is emotional, psychological.

They set up shop in our imaginary “corner” and never leave. Win or lose, diving catch or costly error, they have the power to celebrate and/or soothe. Sometimes it’s with words, but often it’s a pat on the back, a hearty hug or a look in the eye.

There were games on all four diamonds Friday afternoon at NCHS: varsity and JV contests in baseball and softball. It was a carnival of strikeouts, stolen bases, RBI hits and, yes, foul balls.

“Heads up!”

Music blaring on one diamond bled to the next, blurring the lines between games, sports. At each, moms were in lawn chairs or on bleachers or in the concession stand trailer, doing what they do.

As reporters we are paid to see and hear things. Seeing them there often is taken for granted, and was on this day until hearing, “Hey Mom. I was just wondering what the plan is.”

It brought back memories of being in uniform all those years ago, relying on a mom for unconditional support and guidance. It triggered thoughts of being a husband and dad who watched your daughters’ mom run a remarkably smooth ship while working full-time and, later, coaching.

She always had a plan or was aware of the plan. She encouraged them to do their best, stood by them when that day’s best was not what they hoped. She treated their teammates like they were her own. You see that a lot in sports moms, building bonds that endure long after there are no games to play.

Timing is big in any sport, and what better time than Mother’s Day to let sports moms know how much they mean? Tell them you love them, admire them and count on them in so many ways. Give them something they never seek but need to hear: “Thank you.”

Make a plan. See it through.

Be like Mom.

Contact Randy Kindred at (309) 820-3402. Follow him on Twitter: @pg_kindred

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Sports Editor

Sports editor for Lee Enterprises Central Illinois.

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