It's the third weekend in January and for the men in my house...it's time to sign up to play little league baseball. My boys are headed to a school somewhere south of here to see the fella's that have been in hiding from last season. I mentioned earlier in the week that it was registration day on Saturday but when I mentioned "you know you can sign up online" my husband replied, "We gotta go and visit with the fella's...see who is playing and what's going on." I knew he would say that. After that, they will make the yearly pilgrimage down to the sporting goods store for a new glove for the oldest, new "spikes" for both of them (size 13 feet) and other things that they just need to make them better ballplayers. And my husband will turn into a yes man..."do you really need these?" and they will look him in the eye (as they are just about his height when he is not wearing his cowboy boots with heels) and he will say "OK." It happens every year at this time.
From here on out, we talk about nothing else. We talk about who's coaching, what kids are playing, who's gotten taller, who said hello and shook his hand, what kids he wants to draft and what a great season it is going to be. He will sign up online for coaching tips and think about nothing but baseball and his "guys" as he call the team.
The boys have been playing baseball since they were 6. They played coach pitch, player pitch, minors, majors, juniors and high school. Sometimes they were on different teams and sometimes the same team. When the youngest played coach pitch, we decided that he had what it took to be in the major leagues. He was crazy good for a 6 year old, we would say, did you see him hit the ball to the fence? The fact of the matter was, no one on the other team was paying attention...they were talking to their little buddies, picking the grass or dancing around trying not to wet their pants. But we saw a major league player in our son.
Then came minors...he was on the path to greatness or so we thought. Where should he play? Who should he play for? He needs just the right coach and just the right league and we got a Tulowitski on our hands. We turned into nut jobs really. He was 7 and when he had a good game, life was good and when he made an error, I could hardly watch. THE DUDE WAS 7!!!
Then it happened, he had a regular year and he struggled to hit the ball. He made errors here and there and he was not enjoying the game as he should. He was one of the kids that always got to play...but the major league thing was not so important now. My husband and I were humbled and realized this was about teamwork and the kids having fun...NOT ABOUT US AS PARENTS AT ALL!
While the youngest was having good years looking at being the "prodigy" as my older son calls him, my older son was struggling in little league. He was a solid player but he was small and for some reason always played a level up for his age. (The "for some reason" was his crazy parents) He could hit the ball but it stayed in the infield and he was more than a decent fielder but couldn't make the big throws. So he sat...on the bench, on the bucket...he "rode the pine" as they call it. He was the 6 outs, 2 at bats guy for alot of years. He would go to practice and try to work harder than anyone else for more playing time but...there were bigger and better guys than him...and he knew it. When he was in grade school, he would be upset, he would think he stunk and he would say he was not playing anymore. I have to be honest, with my competitve nature, it was easier to not sign him up than watch him sit... But, every third week of January, he, his brother and father would head to registration and he would want to be signed up. I decided this was a "life lesson" thing for him and backed off.
When he was in 9th grade, he tried out for high school. He dragged his catcher gear to practice and told the coaches he was a catcher. He caught at practice and made JV. He was very happy. I just knew this was going to be a hard season and true to form, I had trouble keeping my mouth shut. When I sat in the bleachers game after game and watched my son sit, jack around and ultimately become the score keeper, I would have to walk out to the right field parking lot and talk to myself. My son, though, held his head high and thought alot about what was going on. At the end of the season, he decided baseball was not for him and he was done.
As much as I loved to have them in sports, I saw how my older son felt about the whole thing. "It's up to you what you do" and I meant it. Then, registration day came and my husband decided to coach a teenage team. "You could play for Dad" I said to my oldest son, to which he replied ,"I'll think about it." My husband convinced him to play. Now, I complain about my husband alot. He is not terribly organized and he is frequently late to everything and it drives me nuts. He is the smartest guy I know but I can remember thinking when the kids were in car seats, "I hope he doesn't leave one on the roof of the car and drive." That's him. But, he is also the kindest man I know. This may be just what the doctor ordered, I thought. Anyway, my oldest decided to play for his dad and I had all three boys in one place 4 days a week. It was amazing. No yelling, just strategy, ideas and ways to make all the boys on the team better players. My oldest was falling in love with the game again. He ended up having the best time of his life. He was a little bigger, could hit the ball out of the infield at times and could "throw down" to second base to get the kid stealing. It was a transformation of sorts.
The team ended up being at 500...losing as many games as they won. But they were a team, and everyone played and anyone who wanted to pitch did and they were on the fence cheering each other on and they left the field after the game with big smiles. They were 13,14 and 15 year olds that were having a good time together. In life, what is better than that?