Little League

MrGrunty wanted to play baseball this spring. We knew nothing about the league. We were thinking, hey, let’s get some of his friends on same team, we parents can carpool, it’ll be fun. He went to tryouts. He freaked out. He didn’t want to do tryouts for some reason. And then he said he would NOT play if they used a hard baseball. I coaxed him into the tryouts.

The Little League’s philosophy is to have kids placed with appropriate skill level, so the teams are balanced, so every kid has a chance to shine. That’s cool. However, as we found out, you might not know anyone on your team (MrG had played YMCA basketball with one kid one season), and you can’t pick when practices are.

We didn’t know what we are in for. Baseball is time intensive. Three games a week, games are about two hours. And then a practice before the games. MyBetterHalf spent a lot of time at the ballpark. (She did a lot of exercise during practices.) I missed the beginning of most games. We learned rain doesn’t stop a game. (Srsly…there was one game, it really rained. Home plate was mud. Bunts were effective that game, because the catcher would have to dig the ball out of the mud.) I thought they had so many games due to potential rain-outs. But I learned that you learn a lot of baseball during games, because so many different scenarios happen so rarely.

I am very happy MrG played baseball.

Previously, I thought baseball was bad for kids, because there is a lot of just standing around. MrG does alright with that, he can pay attention, he likes to watch sports. And at his level, the kids were pretty focused.

I learned how baseball can help a kid grow. Baseball gives you many chances to fail, with everyone watching you, and then you have to wait for another chance to “redeem” yourself. You’re at bat, you strike out, as you normally do, everyone saw, and now you go to the dugout to wait. You mess up on a defensive play, you many not get another chance during the game. Baseball is a game of publicly living with failure.

His coaches were great. They were positive. I’m amused by the encouragement they gave the batter, “good eye” for a ball, “good cut” when a kid swings and misses, “make him work for it” when batter had a foul ball, “I need quick hands” when batter was slow, “now you’ve seen it” when didn’t swing at a strike….also common, “I just need contact” or “you’re a hitter”.

It’s funny, I just smile when I hear Mr John  Fogerty’s “Centerfield” played at the ballpark.

Baseball is intense. MrG went up to bat, the third base coach was talking to him, “turn your shoulder and take it right here”. MrG, with his game face, nodded yes. OMG, he was about to get hit by a pitch!

At the beginning of season, mostly he would get walks to get on base. And then he was quick and observant enough to steal to second or third. By the end of the season, he was swinging more, and the pitchers were getting better, so was getting more hits. I also know he improved because last Winter, we were at a batting cage, he went into a “slow” cage, an it freaked him out. A couple weeks ago, we went again, and he was making contact with 90% of the “slow” pitches.

MrG’s biggest error. It was a playoff game, MrG hit a single and got on first. The next kid, hit a double. MrG over-ran third-base, and got tagged out when he tried to go back. Tears were in his eyes when he walked back to the dugout.

The coolest thing I saw him do: He was playing third-base, a grounder hit right at him, he grabbed the ball, and fired to first base for the out. An assistant coach said, “that might have been a game saver.”

After games I tried to just say I had fun watching him play. I didn’t bring up specifics, (OK that cool play above I just couldn’t stop talking about), or the game. Sometimes he would talk specifics, “I wish the ball had stayed in” and we would chat. Sometimes I would ask him about plays, “I don’t know, you need to teach me about baseball”.

It was a growing experience for him. I liked how he was not a team leader, he was a rookie on a pretty good team, (this year in soccer he’s one of the leaders on a terrible team, in basketball he was a starter on a great team). The coach mentioned that yesterday at our celebration, that MrG was one of the youngest on the team, and didn’t know anyone, but came out with great attitude and improved and had a couple good defensive plays.  At the beginning of the season, he seemed a half-step slow on defense, like he wasn’t exactly sure what to do. But by end of season, was more assertive.

Speaking of celebration, the coach put rules to live by, on a baseball for each kid. “I try to do these in baseball, and in life.”

  1. be kind
  2. be helpful
  3. persevere

My proudest moment. It was the last inning. We were down by one, there were two outs, a guy on first and MrG was up to bat. “Oh no,” a parent said, “his shoe is untied.”  I said no problem, he plays soccer like that all the time. Two strikes. The third base coach called time, and chatted with MrG. Strike three, game over. MrG started to cry as he walked back to the dugout, but I am proud that he joined his team, and went to shake hands with the victors.

I hope he plays again next Spring.

MrCuddles wants to play. I want to teach MsS to hit, catch and throw, because it’s a good life skill for a very social sport, she doesn’t want to play on a team, and that’s alright, but if she can get a few skills to help her out during a random softball game that will come up in her life, that will be good.

 

 

 

 

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