It was so hot one day that a team waiting for the next game in the tournament removed their shirts and sat in a group in the shade of a pine tree. “Oh my God, they took of their shirts,” I said to one of the Moms who spun around but was quickly disappointed to see the scrawny chests of a group of 11-year old boys. “Ohhhhh” she said, laughing “I didn’t think you meant THEM.” Smile. I was cowering from the sun behind a tiny beach umbrella that I had fastened to my chair. My husband was leaning against the fence, melting. Someone noticed and called out “Do you need anything?” to which he replied “Yes. One more out.” A spectator was whipping around a soaked towel sending refreshing droplets of ice water all over the crowd.
“Come on EASY OUT here!” a parent yelled.”Just play catch with him. Throw it right there into his glove!” yelled another, stating the obvious. “Hey GET YER ELBOW UP BOY!” “Hey, you are COLLAPSING HERE!” “Just like in the batting cage! Come ON!” “This pitcher has nothing, you got this!”No EXCUSES.” “They do NOT RESPECT YOU out there!” “UN-believable.” Eye roll concealed behind sunglasses.
Suddenly, an errant fly ball seemed to seek out and find the most vulnerable target: the cheekbone of the seven-year old sister of one of the players who was practicing ballet pirouttes a bit too close to the foul line. Fortunately, she was OK, but her love of baseball seemed to wane after that.
That was just one day. There have been many days. Some have involved injuries with blood and purple bruises and red brush burns and concussion tests and ice packs and Band-aids.Some have involved parents screaming over the game, over the other team, over their kid, over the state of their marriage. Some days the balls flew off the bats and guys crossed the plate, kicking up a cloud of dust, one run, two runs, three runs in a row. Some days our boys hoisted shiny gold trophies and smiled for the cameras. Other days their team name was at the bottom. The tournament record 0-6 as we walked silently back to our cars. Some days were so cold that the field seemed to crack and the damp early Spring wind stabbed sharply through thick winter coats. Some were so hot that you could see the heat rise up from the infield in a clear zig-zag shimmer. Some days I was starving, thirsty, exhausted, frustrated, anxious and sunburned waiting to record that final out, only to hear “Ball four take your base.” Expletive under my breath.
As much as I love baseball, there were days that I thought “Why are we here?”
But then, I know why.
Not just to “win” (although I will admit, winning is a lot more fun than losing)
Not just to “have fun.”
But for my son to learn the invaluable life lessons offered through playing the game of baseball.
How to work with others on a team towards a common goal.
How to use a strong work ethic to improve one’s skills.
How focused effort can create concrete results.
How to handle high-pressure and stressful situations.
How to handle failure, disappointment and defeat.
How to be humble and gracious in victory.
How to tune out negative comments and negative people.
How to keep emotions in check.
How to tap the strength to push through challenges.
How others opinions do not define who you are.
How there really is an objective reality that is not subject to individual interpretation.
How you must make your own name, instead of only following in the footsteps of others.
How we don’t always get what we want or think we deserve.
How to respectfully disagree with others who may have a different point-of-view.
How to learn to plan and anticipate.
How to read people.
How to adjust to quickly-changing circumstances.
How to have patience.
How to match your behavior to rules of etiquette.
How to know when to take risks (and when not to).
How to persevere through frustration, injury or loss.
Mastering these skills is so much bigger than learning to hit, throw, catch and field. And best of all, they last a lifetime.
That’s why we are out here.