Our youngest son is the athlete of the family. He’s been a sports fanatic from day one. I remember one day when he was maybe four months old(how old are you when you can sit up?), I sat him up on the couch with a pillow on either side to prop him up. I put the TV on and there was a game on, maybe soccer. He was transfixed by it. I soon discovered that no matter which sport was on TV, he wanted to watch it.
We had the usual sorts of toys for him to play with as a toddler but he always veered towards the sports toys. We were all amazed to discover that this little, two foot tall kid could swing a wiffle bat and hit the ball almost every time. He had amazing hand eye coordination as a toddler and it has served him well ever since.
He played other sports and enjoyed them all but once I signed him up for baseball, he found his passion in life. He fell in love with the game and soon left all other sports behind. We actually got to baseball a bit late. I believe that he was nine when he started so he missed the tee ball years. I signed him up for a house league and that’s where the real story begins.
We got lucky right from the start because he was assigned to a team with a coach that was well suited to dealing with little boys. He was patient, knowledgeable, and in it for the right reasons. The coach was just as much about teaching good sportsmanship as he was hitting.
It didn’t take long to find out what a crazy little world we had gotten ourselves into. During the very first game of house ball for nine year olds, the opposing coach got angry with a call and started arguing with the umpire. The coach became increasingly irate and ended up getting thrown out of the game. It’s worth noting that the umpires at this level are only kids themselves, maybe 13 or 14 years old. So to summarize, an adult coach got angry with a “bad call” by a young, teenage umpire, at a house ball game for nine year olds and was thrown out of the park.
Think back to your high school English class when you were taught about foreshadowing. Our very first game did indeed foreshadow our entire experience with youth baseball. Over the next seven years, we would see it all, from crazy coaches to crazy ex-MLB players to even crazier parents.
Our son took to baseball right away and his hand eye skills made him an excellent hitter and fielder almost right from the start, so it was great fun to watch him excel. Some kids started off more slowly and I think that created problems for some of their parents. Let’s face it, it’s hard to watch your child struggle at anything. A good parent can deal with it but if you’re insecure or overly competitive, this will lead to drama. We tried hard to stay out of the fray. We liked the coaches and I even helped them out from time to time, becoming an unofficial, assistant coach.
After a couple seasons of house ball, the boy was growing restless. He was pretty darn good and it was frustrating for him because the level of play was not progressing quickly enough for him. It was time to start thinking about travel ball.
Stay tuned for the next chapter in that story, coming soon.