Nothing puts a halt to your fears that your child is growing up too fast like watching him play an organized sport. And while there may be no crying in baseball, but there’s plenty in tee-ball.
I know, my son’s only 4, and besides, not everyone is good at sports. I myself was no star athlete (lettered in marching band — WHAT!) and I have no illusions about Detective Munch playing in the World Series or catching the clinching touchdown in the Super Bowl or getting to don the green jacket. But he’s going to play some sports, and he’s going to be as good as he can be, regardless of his physical limitations.
Not because I want him to buy me a house someday, but because playing sports is fun, and you can learn a lot of valuable lessons, and because I need him to start expending some of his limitless energy somewhere besides our house.
But holy shit, watching him play tee-ball is a straight-up farce.
Again, he’s not even 5 years old; his ability to do anything without falling down is still pretty limited. And it’s not like the rest of the team is tearing it up out there either.
During the 90-or-so minutes they’ve been gathering for their tee-ball “games” for the last eight or so Saturday mornings, the kids on “The Crickets” (they got the lamest name in the league; “The Scorpions” got the coolest!) turns the idea of sports into a comedy routine. Every single one of them is alternately distracted by something (their parents on the sidelines, a plane overhead, the fact that their hats can turn sideways); crying about something (their parents being on the sidelines and not next to them, not having a snack, the fact that their hats can turn sideways); or simply sitting down in the middle of the base paths (turning their hats sideways).
The best part is that over the course of the “season,” they’ve actually made progress! None of them can throw to first, or intentionally catch the ball in their glove, or understand the infield fly rule (that one’s tough for a lot of us), but they all seem to grasp what’s happening: that if they put on the glove, run in a straight line for a little while, and occasionally hit the ball, they’ll get to play at the neighboring playground when we’re done.
And yet, despite the almost complete absence of actual baseball, I can’t deny that tee-ball is pretty funny, and even fun. For me.
I enjoyed taking Detective Munch glove shopping, and playing catch together, and giving him high-fives and butt-pats. Plus, while I’m not a coach (I’m not much of a joiner), pretty much every parent – mostly dads, but some moms too – stands out in the field and lends a hand, if only to stop the ball from careening well past any reasonable outfield and making an already interminable two-inning game last even longer. So I’ve been able to teach him some fundamentals, like where first base is, and why you need a helmet, and that you can’t leave the field in the middle of an inning just to grab a handful of Goldfish. Basic stuff.
At this point, all we’re really doing is introducing the concept of baseball, and of sports and team play. It’s baby steps. No one expects the 2004 Red Sox out there, despite how idiotic they act.
The hope is that we’ll lay a foundation, and next year they’ll learn a little bit more, and eventually we’ll introduce the actual “winning and losing” aspect of sports. But honestly, my son looks so cute in his little uniform, I’m in no hurry to start getting on him for only going two for three. Let him have fun while it’s still just fun. Besides, now that he’s entering kindergarten in September, he’ll be getting evaluated more than enough.
That said, when this season is over, I’m getting more drunk than Kevin Millar. And I’m gonna stay drunk all throughout soccer in the fall.
A version of the first appeared on Dad and Buried.