Monday, April 19, 2010

The crack of the bat, the smell of the grass, it's opening day!

Spring brings new life, warm weather, and baseball. I remember as a child, sleeping with a baseball and my mit at night. I can remember faithfully praying through the threat of rain in hopes of avoiding a raining-out of my games. I loved baseball. However, I didn’t want to be one of those dad’s who pushes his longing for his own glory days onto his son. But one day recently, my son said, “Daddy, I want to play baseball.” So we signed him up.

Last week was opening day. I was excited, especially since my son ended up being drafted by the Braves, my favorite team. When I say “drafted”, what I mean is he was placed on the team named the Braves, nonetheless, I felt it was fortuitous.

Well, the Braves batted first and my son was placed third in the batting order. The third spot in the order is normally reserved for the best hitter on the team. Considering this was tee-ball, and the attention span of a bunch of 4 year olds was 5 minutes ago, my guess is he was the third closest child to the coach when she made out the order. His turn at bat quickly came about, and even though I was recruited to serve as the third base coach, there was only one thing on my mind, my son’s first at bat. To his credit, he hit the ball on the very first swing and he hit it hard, it actually crept into the outfield. As I watched the ball and cheered with our family and friends, my son was doing the same, watching the ball and still standing at home plate.

As you might guess, in the world of 4 year old baseball, this scene is not uncommon, in fact, it is the norm. Nearly every at bat featured the same scene. The child (after knocking over the tee several times) would hit a slow dribbler onto the field only to send the defensive team into a mad scramble with every child launching at the ball resulting into a pile of 4 year olds nearly 3 feet deep. You have dads spread throughout the infield attempting to coach the children, but more realistically acting as a babysitter. Kids playing in the dirt, picking grass, picking noses, putting mits on their heads, and generally becoming distracted.

About halfway through the first inning we started seeing players peeling off. A little girl refused to swing because she was deep in tears (maybe she felt she would hurt the ball), another boy on our team refused to run, so mom picked him up and rounded the bases with him. Our son actually made it through one full inning (for those of you who are keeping score, one inning took 50 minutes), before I heard, “Daddy, I want to go home.” We convinced him to bat again and although the tee took a beating this time, he had another big hit (2 for 2, batting 1.000 for the season), but that was it. We couldn’t make it another inning. He was tired, hungry and just done with baseball.

Maybe baseball isn’t the best game for a 4 year old with a short attention span, but it is America’s past time (and if he never plays again, his career batting average is perfect).

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