Rainy Baseball Days

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Let the good times roll!

The mound has been covered for days. It’s been raining all week and the practices haven’t been cancelled. It rained the first week of baseball as well, but the coaches were more inclined to cancel when the weather wasn’t warm (maybe because the kids weren’t used to it yet…?).

Some parents are bitching about the weather or the lack of play their kid is getting. Other parents are late to every practice and game. And everyone has an opinion on what everyone else is doing. I knew this was going to happen, but I still refuse to be part of it.

Instead, I’m focusing on something more important. I see a kid who found his true love in life at the age of nine. I see a kid who has practiced in the wind and rain and felt as though it was the “best practice ever!” I’ve seen a kid win games and shine or lose games and shake it off quickly. I see a kid who has fallen in love with the game of baseball like he’s never fallen before.

I’m so proud of my son. He hasn’t missed a practice or a game and he has cried – literally cried! – when there were two cancellations due to rain or scheduling conflicts. He’s told me he’s learned so much in only a few short weeks and I believe him. I believe him because I can see the changes in him on a weekly basis. For example, the other night, we got home and my son was literally jumping up and down when he explained that he finally knows how to pitch a ball properly. That’s all it took – for the coaches to show him how to hold a ball and pitch. His happiness seems so simple. And that makes me happy.

At the last practice, he stood on the mound for pitching practice and I noticed a strange look on his face, one of disappointment and sadness because he wasn’t pitching to the best of his ability. The coach walked over to my son, had a few words, tapped him encouragingly on the brim of his hat, and then walked back to the catchers position. It was like a lightbulb went on and suddenly my kid was throwing strikes. Strike after strike after strike, this kid was nailing it! I swelled with pride. I said a silent prayer of thanks to the coach.

And then it was off to the batting cages. Without much prompting, my kid nailed it again. Hit after hit, his new bat seemed to work perfectly well. He seems to have found his natural talent and he’s taking full advantage of it. At one point, as we sat having dinner one night, he mentioned that instead of hockey, he’d prefer to find a winter baseball league. In our small community, winter consists of hockey and curling…that’s it. He was seriously disappointed when realized he couldn’t play baseball all year long.

I remember the feeling of finding the thing you’re meant to do. I was 11 years old. My son found his at age 9. I remember the swelling in my chest as my heart beat a little faster with my successes. And I remember the bitter disappointment and the ambition to get better with my failures. It was like I knew what I was meant to do. And I see the same thing in my son. The realization and recognition is written all over his face. 

Maybe some day he’ll play in the MLB like he wants to or maybe he won’t. It doesn’t matter to me. But I know we have a lot of years of baseball ahead. As long as he’s happy, I’m here to support and encourage him through the sunshine and the rain. 

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.