At Little League baseball fields around the area, youngsters wearing oversized gloves snatch fly balls one-handed. Batters tap soil off their tennis shoes at home plate and base runners become lost in the dust of their headfirst slides.
For many Little Leaguers, these habits are learned from favorite major league players. Although the threat of a major league players strike Tuesday won't affect some, many are concerned.
Butch Smith, a husky 10-year-old who was at Dogwood Park in Rockville playing with the Bowie all-stars against other teams from Maryland, was chomping on bubble gum with such emphasis that he could have put Pete Rose to shame.
He and his teammate, a bright-eyed, 10-year-old named Charlie Dougherty, felt the same way about the possibility of a strike, and the chance that they might not see their hero, Cal Ripken of the Baltimore Orioles, for an indefinite period.
"I don't like it," Charlie said. "I really don't understand why they're going on strike." He added, shrugging his shoulders, "I guess I won't watch much baseball."
Billy Menke of the Rockville all-stars had his hat on backward, his shirttail hanging down to his thighs. Tossing a baseball against the concession stand wall, Billy was wondering if his favorite player, Rose, still would have enough games to surpass Ty Cobb's career hits record this season.
"It's going to be pretty bad because I'm worried about Pete Rose beating Ty Cobb," he said. "I like him. He's a good manager."
Joe Carroll of Fort Meade wandered toward the water fountain, gulping down water before the game with Bowie. "Little kids have heroes and they'll feel bad about it," he said.
Joe's teammate, Brian Rolocut, like the other boys, doesn't attend many major league games, but he watches on television.
"You cheer 'em and give 'em support, and then they go off TV," Brian said. "That's where I learn most of my baseball."
"I'll feel left out," said Tommy Mastao, 12, of Alexandria, who is on the Woodlawn team in the Virginia State Little League tournament. "If they stop playing, I won't have anybody to look up to."
At Chillcott Field in Fairfax, where Mastao is playing, players get a taste of big-time baseball. The teams have dugouts, fans pack the stands and advertisements paint the outfield fence. There's a press box behind home plate.
Walking out of the dugout, Elton Strawderman of Woodlawn seemed to have other things on his mind besides major league baseball. He was happy about his team's first victory Tuesday in the tournament.
"I really won't miss it because I'm busy with all-stars," he said.
Then there's the college and professional football seasons beginning soon. Roosevelt Richardson, a 9-year-old baseball player from Washington, D.C., hanging out Tuesday near Banneker Field in Northwest, said, "If they should go on strike, I can watch football."
But for Billy Menke, who turns on the television every Monday night in hopes of catching Rose and the Cincinnati Reds, there is no substitute for baseball. "The whole point of baseball is just having fun," he said. "I guess I'll just have to play baseball instead of watch it."