One step at a time
We were sitting in the dugout during the top of the third inning of his very first t-ball game; the same dugout that my oldest uses when he plays in the “majors.” The rest of his team was out on the field.
“Shhh! Honey, you can’t just quit. We’re in the middle of a game. I’m a coach. What’s stupid, anyway?”
“I’m never gonna get a home run!”
“You will when it’s your turn to bat cleanup.” In t-ball, each batter only takes one base, regardless of how well they’ve hit or what “errors” might occur on the field, except the last batter who clears the bases before the teams switch who’s batting. My son had been protesting this by walking from base to base.
“When’s that gonna be?”
“Actually, it will be your next at bat. You’ll be the last batter of the game.” But after that, it would only be once every 11 innings. The kids bat in numerical order, and after they bat first they go to the end of the line up. My son is wears #2.
“Well, it’s still stupid. Even if I make a play, it doesn’t matter.” In tee-ball, each batter takes that one base, whether they’re out or safe. This is why he was sitting on the bench – he had been standing on the field refusing to play the position he was asked and I told the head coach I thought he should sit out the inning. We had more than nine kids on the field anyway, plus a couple of adults to help the kids know where to make the play or what direction to run around the bases.
“It matters. You need to learn how to make the plays.”
“I’m not playing. I quit!” He threw his hat over the fence.
“You can’t quit. What am I gonna do, coach all your friends and not you? You’d still have to come to practice anyway.”
“I don’t care.” He started stripping off his uniform shirt.
“You won’t get your chance to hit the home run…”
“I! Don’t! CARE! ” He stalked out of the dugout and across the adjacent field, and I lost sight of him.
I couldn’t worry too much about him because a) he wasn’t going to get very far and b) by this time, the rest of his team was coming in off the field and I was supposed to manage the batting line up: who’s on deck, who has a helmet, don’t go out on the field til the play’s over (“The play is over when the ball’s back on the tee, honey.”), and keeping track of all the hats, since very few of the kids had written their names in them.
This will be the fifth year my youngest has attended baseball season, watching his older brothers’ games, but only the first year he can play. He’s played “family baseball” (where every position on both teams is covered by four people and augmented by any friends that happen to be around). He’s also been to a bunch of minor league games. So, it seems that he expected t-ball to be as fast paced and action packed as all of the other baseball he’s experienced.
When the game was over and we’d high fived the other team and put away all the equipment, I caught up with him: he had wandered back over to the field and was standing near the first base foul line. “You have to learn the basics before you can play real baseball, honey.”
“I already know the basics, Mom!”
“That may be so, but you still have to develop your skills. Your brothers both started out in t-ball, too, you know.
He looked at me with angry eyebrows and neither of us spoke.
“You have to learn to walk before you can run, honey.”
He raised his eyebrows, and was about to speak but I cut him off.
“And no, that doesn’t mean you should be walking around the bases! It means that you have to start at the beginning, and go forward a step at a time.”
The kids had cleared the dugouts and field, and the grounds crew had arrived to rake and redo the lines for the next game. I handed him his glove, which had his hat and shirt folded up inside it and we went to find his brothers.