Friday, November 03, 2006

INTIMIDATED

Kellen, this, your first season of kid-pitch baseball, is over. And you? Did not enjoy it that much. Which makes me sad.

Like many parents, I have been operating under (and perfectly happy to do so, I might add) the belief that MY son is a talented athlete. This belief came about because you have been a standout player on each of your previous baseball teams; so naturally, I like to think it’s because you’re so athletically gifted. Not that MY genes had anything to do with it, because everyone knows that bending over to pick up a nickle is about as sporty and coordinated as I get.

But, if we’re being honest …………. Being a “star” athlete on a t-ball team really isn’t a big deal. I mean, there were kids on your team who hit the ball and ran directly to third base, and kids who lay down in the outfield and cried rather than chase a ball. Standing out on a team like that, at that age, isn’t hard to do, assuming you can pay attention to the ball for half a minute. Plus, you have always been tall for your age, and fast (I’ll give you that, you *are* pretty speedy) and that’s about all you needed to shine amongst the daisy-pickers and butterfly-chasers of the t-ball world.

Then came two years of coach pitch and once again, you did really well. Taller than the other kids? Check. Faster than the other kids? Check. Able to hit pretty much every ball gently lobbed across the plate, in the perfect position, by the coach? Check. And naturally, I assumed that once you got into kid-pitch, you would continue to wow us with your abilities and talent.

But a funny thing happened on the way to the new baseball league you played in this fall. The birthday cut-off changed. Different league, different rules. And suddenly, not only was this your first year in kid-pitch ball, but you were the youngest 8-yr old on the team. Playing against boys, MOST of whom were 9 and 10 years old. MANY of whom stood taller than you, and SEVERAL who out-weighed you by at least fifty pounds. You looked like a Cambodian out there, next to these guys. And from day one, you were intimidated.

It didn’t help that the very first pitch, of the very first game, the batter got beaned in the back. Obviously, control is still a work in progress for most 10 yr old pitchers. “Take your base” the coach said …. And you looked over at me in the stands, wide-eyed, as if to say, “Oh, no …. No base is worth THAT!” And thus began the downward spiral.

The first five games of the season, this is all I remember seeing through my viewfinder:



You, standing in the dugout, waiting your turn to bat, nervously watching the other team’s pitcher, stressing, and getting more and more discouraged because you never got a hit. You played your defensive positions just fine, and did well in practice, but that was small consolation. You wanted to get on base, like your older, bigger team-mates had managed. And you psyched yourself out every time you went up to bat.



Every parent wants their child to succeed at the things they try, or to at least enjoy trying. Instead, by half-way through the season, you had started saying, “Why should I go to the game? I’m just going to strike out.” in a dejected voice which broke my heart ….. mainly because I knew with that attitude, it might very well be a self-fulfilling prophecy. But we had the second half of the season to go and I still had high hopes for you.



Then, we went out of town for game #6. The other team forfeited game #7, game #8 was cancelled due to weather, and you had a stomach bug for game #9. Suddenly, without warning, it was time for the final game, and you were thiiiiiiiiiiiiiiis close to not getting a hit the entire season.




Kid-pitch baseball in the fall, at least where we live, is considered “instructional”, so the games move pretty slow, as they allow any kid who expresses an interest to attempt pitching, and they stop often to explain things to the players. Most games, each player only got one, or two at the most, attempts at bat. Because of your late position in the line-up for this final game, Kellen, I knew you would only get one chance and as you came up to the plate, I sat in the stands, crossing my fingers in my pockets, muttering under my breath, “Please let him get on base, please let him get on base … I don’t care how, just please let him get on base.” Then, remembering that first pitch of the season, and the tears of the struck batter, I amended it to “Well, maybe not by getting hit with the ball …. But a hit, or even a walk, would be great, thanks in advance!”

Strike one.

Strike two.

{Oh, shit. He’s going to strike out and he’ll never play baseball again and Blaine is going to be CRUSHED I tell you, crushed, but that’s nothing compared to the damage we are doing to his self-esteem by forcing him to play in this league oh shit he’s going to strike out}

Ball One.

Ball Two.

Ball Three.

{Oh, no, don’t swing at a bad pitch. Only swing at a good pitch … please don’t let him throw a strike. If you swing, hit it. Don’t swing … swing ….. don’t swing!!!}

Ball Four -- take your base!

I'm telling you, I couldn’t have been any more relieved or proud if it had been a grand slam in the bottom of the ninth inning of the World Series with a tie game and bases loaded and a million dollar bonus on the line. I felt bad for their pitcher, who at this point just wanted to go home, but for Kellen to avoid the bone-crushing disappointment of a hitless season ….. Whew!! Thank heavens!! Then, the pitcher walked the next three batters (No kidding, he REALLY wanted to go home) and so Kellen made it all the way around and scored a run for his team.

Ok, so technically, it was *still* a hitless season for Kellen. But he got on base and scored a run, and his faith in the great American pastime of baseball is restored. If nothing else, he figured out how NOT to swing at every ball that came near him, which has to count for something.

Now all we have to do is take him religiously to the batting cages and hope he gains fifty pounds in time for Spring Ball. Because quite frankly, *I* can’t take the stress, and would prefer to go back to thinking my son is the next Babe Ruth. Even if it's not true. Just humor me, people.

1 comment:

jadine said...

Oh, how I feel for Kellen...and my 9 year old son. My oldest has been playing against 12 year olds this season. It's Fall-ball, so it's off-season and there are fewer players than there are during the regular season...so they made all the kid-pitch teams play together. Did you know that there is a HUGE difference between 9 and 12 year olds? Luckily, the boys are all pretty nice, so even when we were thoroughly spanked by an older team, they were nice about it. But good lord, Kristie, the kid-pitch games are LONG! My son, by the way, has taken 3 pitches to his little body this season so far (head, back, ankle), and the season ain't done yet. Oh, and I can't even count the injuries sustained during his dramatic and graceless flinging-of-himself in attempts to evade potential blows. You know, I thought I'd have to be restrained if anyone ever pegged my baby with a baseball (going 60 mph, btw...man, these 12 year olds can throw!) but I handled it. So did my kid. My other kid's in football, so between the two of them, I foresee pharmaceutical intervention in my near future. Yays to Kellen for bringing in a run! :)