Managing My Home Plate – Practice Number One

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It was the first practice for my son’s competitive baseball team last night and I’m already disgusted. The head coach and I are not on good terms.

Some background for you; we’ve had Coach Marv as a hockey coach in our first year of initiation. I was the team manager, so I worked closely with him as a mediator between him and the parents. MM coached with him. Coach Marv was not a favourite coach in the division for good reason. One of those reasons was because he is one of those guys who treated 5 year olds like they are 15 and now 9 year olds like they’re 19. He was tolerable back then because there were always 5 coaches on the ice and we, as parents, didn’t have to deal with him directly most of the time.

As well, our sons are friends. They’ve been friends since the first day in kindergarten and they remain friends to this day. That was almost 5 years ago. There have been numerous sleepovers and both boys have played at each other’s houses on a regular basis. Because the boys are friends, we’ve become friends with Coach Marv and his now ex-wife, Jenn. They’ve recently divorced, but we remain friends with both of them.

We are friends. On some kind of inexplicable level. But that would be an overstatement. Because I’ve had it with him. He’s an asshole. I’ve always known it, but I chose to ignore it or laugh it off. Until now.

When I found out he was head of the 9 year old baseball division this year, I was a little disappointed because he’s known to take on too much and do too little. But, because we knew that Coach Matt and Coach Wally were also coaching, we were relieved. I was hoping that Wally and Matt would take over most of the duties on the team because they’re capable, intelligent, and sports-oriented. I knew my son would learn a lot from them. My personal hope was that Coach Marv would fade to the background and we wouldn’t even notice him.

I was wrong.

Coach Wally was out of town last night so Marv actually had to do some coaching. He didn’t seem too impressed about it when he commented to me, “I spend way too much time at this damn diamond.” To which I half-jokingly replied, “yeah, but you wouldn’t be here if you didn’t love it!” He grunted and then walked away.

While Marv was writing some notes on his clipboard as the kids were warming up in the outfield, I told Marv that my son was playing at tryouts while he was sick and I didn’t realize it until afterwards. I explained that I kept my son home from school for two days afterwards and that he missed his basketball tournament on Saturday. “He must really wanna play ball,” I stated with a smile, proud of my son’s dedication to baseball.

Marv didn’t even look me in the eye when he muttered, “well, he better not miss any ball practices.”

I was stunned. How fucking rude! My jaw dropped, I stood up from my lawn chair, and I looked him in the eye. “Seriously?? That’s what you have to say to me?? We’re done here, Marv.”

And then I walked the fuck away.

Not a good start to the season.

This Is Baseball

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My son works very hard at everything he does. He was raised to always give 100% or more. He excels at school (the teacher won’t even send home tests for me to sign anymore because, as she explained, “it’s just another 100%”), and he’s very creative (he’s forever coming up with new ideas and trying to create something out of nothing). He’s a smart kid and he amazes me. 

But there are some things that he’s just not naturally good at. Hockey is one of those things. Because he’s so small and has no kind of aggression, he struggles against opponents who are bigger than me. I won’t let him try out for the tiered hockey team because I know he won’t make it and he’ll take it personally. Hockey around here is pretty intense, even at the minor hockey level. My fear is that he’ll hold a grudge against the sport and never step foot on the ice again. I just want him to love and enjoy the game at a fun level. So he plays house league hockey now and he probably always will. 

When it comes to having heart, I haven’t met a kid who can rival mine. He’s a great teammate, always cheering on his friends. He’s competitive, but usually only with himself. And he’s got more heart and team spirit than anyone I’ve ever met. 

When we decided to let him tryout this season for the tiered baseball team, I sat him down and had a talk. I didn’t want him holding a grudge against baseball like I know he would against hockey. I explained that, even if he didn’t make the team, it doesn’t mean he’s a terrible player. It means it wasn’t his year and he can tryout again next year when he’s a senior player in the division. He agreed with me and then added, “I want what’s best for the team, even if it means that I’m not on it.” I knew right then that he was ready to take on some competition. 

And so it began – four nights of baseball this week alone. 

Last night at tryouts, I noticed he was coughing and rubbing at his neck while playing shortstop. Dread crept through me as I realized he’s probabaly getting sick. But, because my kid has team spirit, he kept doing his best even though he made a few errors. He got frustrated with himself when he dropped the ball at first base and didn’t get the out. And he hustled to the dugout without a smile that is usually on his face. 

He did well on the bats and at pitching. He hit almost every ball right down the third baseline and they were all fair. And his pitching arm has improved a lot since last season. His aim is amazing. He makes me proud. And he did it all while being sick. Just imagine how well he will do when he’s feeling good. 

When we got in the truck after practice, he was visibly upset and said, “I couldn’t do my best tonight. I don’t know why I kept making errors and it makes me so mad.” 

To which I replied, “you’re sick, son. You’re allowed to have a bad night. But you still did great in spite of not feeling well. And I’m very proud of you.” 

A tear slid down his cheek as he mumbled, “I really don’t think I’ll make it because of tonight.” 

“Then we enjoy house league for another year because that’s how we roll.” 

He nodded, defeatedly. The rest of the ride home was silent. 

He took a quick shower, had a snack and drink, and then made his way to bed, where I sat with him for a few minutes. 

MM walked into the dark room and said, “Coach Wally just texted me. I have to go back to the diamond because son forgot his shoes.” 

While MM was gone, I let son cry on my shoulder about his disappointment that night. He was angry at himself for being so forgetful and for being too sick to play his best that night. 

For the record, I’m biased because I’m his mom but he did everything he possibly could at tryouts that night. I know my kids effort and he gave 110% in spite of being sick. I was so very proud of him regardless of whether or not he made the team. But he was disappointed in himself and that’s what mattered to me, so I let him cry. 

When MM returned, he came into the bedroom again and this time sat down with us. “Chin up, kiddo.”

“But dad, I’m so mad at myself.” 

“There’s no reason to be mad at yourself, son. I just talked to Coach Wally because all the coaches are still out at the diamond picking the team, and he said you did a great job during tryouts. He said he knew you weren’t feeling well tonight and he’s proud of you for doing your best.”

There was a slight pause while my son digested the information. “They picked the team already?” he asked hesitantly. 

And MM nodded, “Coach Wally told me that he’s been watching you during house league baseball since you’re lucky enough to have him as a house league coach again and he noticed a lot of improvement since last season.” A smile played across MM’s face. “And he said that your improvements over the past year are the reason why you made the tiered team.” 

My son’s eyes popped open at the realization of what MM said. “Coach Wally said I made the team??” When MM nodded, my son, sick as he was with a fever and a cough, started jumping up and down. “I MADE IT!!! I’m so happy, mom!” 

I legitimately started to tear up. My heart leaped into my throat. I was so happy for my son and so proud of him for playing so hard. I knew he deserved it, but I didn’t know if the coaches would see it. But they did. And, because of that, I’m forever grateful. 

This. Is. Baseball.