With this Little League squad, it's a mom-and-pop-up operation

Three Monrovia women will celebrate Mother's Day with a different sort of diamond than might be expected— as coaches of a machine-pitch team called the Dodgers.

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The manager was rushing directly to practice from work, so she jogged onto the infield carrying a plastic bucket of baseballs while wearing a skirt.

'"You can't play baseball in a dress!'' shrieked one of her players.

"Just watch me,'' Claudia Chiovare said.

One of the coaches was once challenged by a player who didn't want to wear his required protective cup.

"How are you going to know if we have it on?'' he taunted.

"You've got to knock on it, and we've got to hear it,'' Tracy Chiovare said.

The other coach was confronted by her own son, who openly wondered why he wasn't playing for Dad.

"Do you know anything about baseball?'' he asked.

"I was on a state championship softball team,'' Jen Maljian gently informed him. "Your father never even played.''

Just watch them, indeed, three Monrovia women who will celebrate Mother's Day while twirling around with a different sort of diamond.

In a sunflower-seed-littered example of motherhood's increasing reach, Coaches Claudia, Tracy and Jen direct a Santa Anita Little League machine-pitch team of kids ages 5 to 8. They have seven children and three jobs between them, yet they've still found time this season to coach 10 boys, one girl and a whole bunch of adults about the power of Mom.

"It's very interesting to hear a woman tell my son, 'There's no crying in baseball,''' said Tim Scheidler, whose son Micaiah plays for them.

This winter, Claudia Chiovare, a former softball player, was recruited to manage a team just two weeks before opening day. No woman had run a team in this league at this level before, but officials were running out of options. Because she thought it would be good role modeling for her players — especially daughter Sofia, who is the team's only girl — she recruited her sister-in-law Tracy Chiovare and friend Jen Maljian to bring their two eligible boys and join her as full-time coaches. She then finally agreed to manage — under one condition.

"They had to let our team be named the Dodgers,'' Claudia said. "There was no way I was going through all this work to be something like the Mariners.''

She made the initial introductory calls, and through the phone she could hear the nervous sighs. Some dads just didn't understand.

"Quietly, parents were nervous,'' said Scott Powers, whose son Sutton plays for the team. "We really weren't sure how this was going to go.''

How could it work? How could it not work? Mothers have always been their children's 24-hour coaches. These days, more mothers are taking that job literally, guiding their children in backyards and playgrounds and wherever somebody can toss or kick or shoot a ball. Ask today's young professional athletes, and chances are many of them first learned to play sports with their moms.

"Our son didn't think twice about that old stereotype,'' said Rafi Maljian of Micah. "It never even crossed his mind that his mother could not be his baseball coach.''

So a different sort of Dodgers was born, and, unlike their namesakes across town, these Dodgers are actually fun.

The coaches, whose ages range from 35 to 41, took the field at Arcadia's Eisenhower Park for Saturday's regular-season finale wearing T-shirts with "Dodgers'' glittering in rhinestones across the front. On their dugout bench, scattered among the Gatorade bottles and dusty gloves, were huge designer purses and lipstick-stained Starbucks cups.

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