Baseball practice has officially started in this house. My teenage son has been selected to the Pony League Tigers. My nine-year old son has been selected to the Minor League Reds. It will be a big adjustment for my younger son, who for the first time is playing in a league with kids a year older than he is.
They’ve been practicing for a while since the weather warmed up and even a little bit before. My younger son loves pitching and playing third base. He wanted to practice pitching so bad that I took him to field in 30-degree weather with off-an-on rain. We got about 40 pitches done before I couldn’t take the cold anymore. He’s looking forward to getting back on the mound.
However, practicing third base takes a different strategy.
For balls hit to third base at this age, getting someone out at first is a challenge. However, there’s something equally important: stopping kids at third base from running home. To work on this, we created a game. My son calls it RBI. (For those of you not into baseball, *RBI is an acronym that means "Runs Batted In." If you're the batter and your time at bat results in someone on your team scoring, the you are credited with an RBI.) We stand on the driveway about 60-70 feet apart. My older son stands next to my younger son. I throw the ball hard on the ground, mimicking a sharp grounder. My older son runs as fast as he can towards me. My younger son fields the ball and throws it to me so I can tag my older son.
It’s not an easy game. When trying to field, my Chipper Jones wannabe often misses the grounder or drops it when trying to transfer it from it from his glove to his hand. If my older son isn’t running and just counts out loud, then my younger son fields the ball easily and gets it to me. So there is something about having to throw his brother out and that really makes my nine-year old nervous.
Oddly, though, the game affects my older son, too. My older son isn’t the fastest of runners. (A problem of genetics. His dad is slow, too.) But, when he tries to beat out his younger brother’s throws, he finds a new gear that at least lets him shift into medium.
I’ve stressed to him that he needs to run like this on the field. He needs to run like he’s trying to beat out his brother. He needs to run like it matters to him.
I don’t know yet how successful I will be.
But if I can improve the game of both of them at the same time, I can at least be a successful Dad.
*For the purists among you, if you hit into a double play or reach base due to an error, then you do not get credit for an RBI.