Winter’s just about gone. You can practically smell the warming sunny springtime around the corner. Spring Training has started, and dads all over the country are sizing up their team’s chances for the 2008 season. Some dads are hardcore fans like Red Sox Dad and some are more casual observers, but regardless of their fervor for the game, millions of their kids will soon be grabbing a bat and glove and hitting the field.
Some dads are getting phone calls: “Wanna coach T-Ball?” It might be advisable to screen your phone calls for a while if you’re not the coaching type. Take a fun lesson from Coach Damon. Answer the phone, and you could find yourself coaching a t-ball team, which more often resembles an attempt to herd cats than a recognizable game of baseball. But it’s all good. Hopefully, if you can’t teach them the finer points of laying down a bunt or hitting the cut off man, you can still infuse them with the spirit of teamwork, good sportsmanship, and fun, plus possibly foster a love for America’s favorite past time.
Gus was always interested in baseball. But at 5 years old, it’s hard to hold a kid’s attention (especially during a long game of t-ball). He usually played in the outfield – there’s less chance that a ball will be hit that far in the air, so he couldn’t get hurt or make a lot of errors. Besides, the flowers and weeds were more plentiful out there. He led the league in acres picked. He once ran in at the end of the inning and presented my wife with a beautiful dandelion, “Here Mom!” In fact, he picked so many flowers and pulled out so many weeds and grass patches from the outfield that one coach said to me after a game, “Looks like you have a budding horticulturist in the family.” It’s a pastural game, what can I say?
One game is seared in my memory, though. Gus was up to bat. He had whiffed twice and had two strikes on him (how you whiff when the ball is sitting motionless on a tee is a wonderment in and of itself). His third swing was a thing of beauty. He made contact and the ball shot through the third base side of the infield. Yes I said THROUGH the infield, meaning it went into the outfield. “WOO-HOO!” we cheered. As the other team swarmed after the ball (nearly every opposing player on the field ran after that thing-I told you it was like herding cats). Gus turned toward first base (with a lot of encouragement from the coach, “Go, go, go…. go to first, go to first!”) and SKIPPED all the way to first base. No rush I guess, after all, first base was one of the few things on the field that wasn’t moving. I couldn’t help myself. I automatically jumped up and shouted “THERE’S NO SKIPPING IN BASEBALL!” Very Tom Hanks-like. I got carried away. Like skipping to first base at age 5 was going to hurt his chances of playing for the Phillies someday – yeah, right! Oh, in case you’re wondering, Gus skipped merrily (and safely) into first base. He may not grow up to sign a multi-million dollar contract to play professional baseball, but hopefully he learned a thing or two about the game, teamwork and sportsmanship during his little league experience.
Who knows, he may grow up to be a Master Gardener, or a….please tell me there’s no practical career path for skipping aficionados. We parents would probably do well to relax a little, sit back and just try to enjoy their moment in the sun, I think. It’s more fun that way. Play Ball!