Saturday morning, Little Man whined on my bed "I don't want to go to this game. We have two games this weekend. Why do I have to go to all the games? It's boring and I suck."
I took a deep breath, and reminded him that it was important for every player to show up, because if they didn't the team would forfeit the game and lose without even playing, and that he was a new player and still learning.
"Do you want to quit? If you do, you need to tell your coach that. The team is relying on you."
"No, no, I don't want to quit, I just don't want to go to all the games. Why are there so many? Why do I have to go? I just suck anyway." I reemphasized the importance of just showing up, and also said that each game is a practice, that each time he played he got better and better. He continued to whine and try to bargain with BigDaddyFish and I. We wouldn't budge. I finally told him that for every minute of baseball he played I'd give him a minute of computer game time, then walked away. I couldn't listen to him beat himself up anymore.
Little Man has never been a joining kind of kid. BDF and I both want our kids to make exercise a regular part of their lives, in hopes that they'd stave off the kind of spread each of us has earned with our unathletic lifestyles, as well as reaping the benefits that participating in teams will give them. I tried to get him to play soccer, basketball, football. He tried lacrosse briefly and didn't like it. We tried karate, thinking a more solitary sport would appeal to him - it didn't. So when he came home in January with a flyer for baseball and told me he wanted to play, I couldn't sign him up fast enough. Since April, we've had an average of two games and one practice per week, with a couple of fairly brutal three-game weeks thrown in for fun.
A few minutes later, Little Man came shlumping down the steps in his uniform and we all went to the game. I kept the girls and Nemo in the car watching a movie, because we've learned that they get bored pretty quickly and Nemo is prone to wanting to go out on the field to play. I watched the game through binoculars while BDF stood on the sidelines at the game, until the kids' movie was over.
We walked up as our team came up to bat in the bottom of the sixth inning. We were down by one and starting at the top of our batting order. Apparently this had been a contentious game from the start. The kids on the opposing team had been standing in the base lines and crowding the bases, and we had a couple of bad injuries a few games ago with kids running head-to-head at a base, so one of our coaches asked one of their coaches to talk to the kids about it. The opposing coach said "They are 8 years old, what are ya gonna do?" I don't know what transpired after that, but I know it wasn't good.
We worked through the batting order, scoring once to tie the game up. Then we had a runner going from second to third. The third baseman got the ball but it wasn't a force, so he had to tag the runner, and our runner deftly dodged around the boy and tagged up. The ump didn't make a strong call right away while our third base coach was yelling "He's safe!" while the other coach yelled "He's out!" The ump called the kid out, but he didn't make a hand signal, so it was very confusing. The coaches were yelling back and forth, and finally the little third baseman RAISED HIS HAND and said "She's right, I didn't tag him" and his coach yelled across the field "YOU SHUT UP BOBBY AT THIRD BASE!" Everyone got quiet except our third base coach who yelled "Way to reward this boy's honesty, Coach!" The coaches went back to arguing but another of our coaches stepped in and said "Look, the ump called him out, so he's out. We know the truth, but he's out." He didn't want us charged an out and/or being made to forfeit for arguing. Our poor base runner went to the bench near tears.
We worked through the batting order and had a runner on third when Little Man came up. He is still in his learning curve and bats close to the end of the batting order, if you know what I mean. The little boy that bats after him has about the same skill level, and his mother looked at me and said "It comes down to our kids. I don't think I can watch." I knew what she meant; I was already white-knuckling it at the fence.
Little Man had already had a career best day - three hits: two stranded on base and one ground out. He runs kinda slow, so we knew it had to be good for him to make it to base - this team was definitely capable of making strong defensive plays. He swung at a couple of pitches (they get six in coach-pitch games) and I had visions of crushing defeat, and given what we had been through before the game I was dreading it. I don't want him to give this up; he seems to like it when he isn't bored or getting focused on the negative, and he even had me sign him up for baseball camp for this summer. On the third pitch he smacked that ball hard to the sweet spot in between where the infielders and outfielders play, between first and second. There were kids there, but they didn't catch the ball and he ran his head off. He made it to first, the runner on third scored, and the place exploded.
I picked Little Man up and swung him around, his teammates kept smacking him on the helmet, the runner who scored thanked him, his coaches were over the moon, and he didn't stop grinning until the next day when they got clobbered in a makeup game.
He was the hero, right when he needed to be the hero, not just for his team, but for him.
Next up, Humility 101. Can't have everything.
note: all photos are from different games than this one, and I've changed names to protect the innocent third baseman and guilty coach.