Tuesday, April 10, 2012

First Hit

Both my sons are about halfway through their baseball seasons. Both of them are on teams with winning records, so both are doing better than the Braves so far. However, this blog post today isn’t about my kids.

Four years ago, though, it was about one of them.

On my younger son’s team, ages 9-10, is a kid in his first year of playing. On a team of this age group, there are usually a number of kids that have played for several years. Other kids may have played less but still have two or three seasons of experience. However, a kid of ten in his first year struggles to learn the basics. It’s hard.

Even harder is getting into the batter’s box and trying to hit.

Hitting a baseball has been described as the most difficult thing to do in sports. Essentially, the goal of hitting is to strike a small sphere squarely with a thin cylinder.

For a new kid, though, there’s an additional challenge. At some point in the season, he will get hit. It hurts when it happens. At younger ages, kids cry when they get hit. The kids pitching also cry because they don’t want to hit a batter. However, it’s part of the game. As a parent, your heart goes out for any kid who gets hit and you flinch when it happens.

So it was with a kid on my younger son’s team. In his first season, the kid got hit by a pitch in the second game. From there on, the coaches had trouble getting him out of the dugout when it was his turn to bat. On the one or two times he did leave the dugout, he stood as far away from the plate as he could, took his three swings, and sat down.

It continued until three games later when his teammates convinced him to dig in and try again. As a parent, you watch that kid come to the plate, pray that he will foul the ball or put it in play, at least to get himself a little confidence. You also know if he gets hit again, he may not leave the dugout for another three or four games.

Then there’s the crack of the bat.

When the ball flies over the first baseman’s head, you and every other parent jumps out of their seat. However, your screams are dwarfed by a chorus of high-pitched voices, the kid’s teammates. By the time that kid arrives at third, all of his teammates are chanting his name. When he scores on a ground ball by the next hitter, the screams grow louder.

From there on, the kid jogs to the plate every time it’s his turn, his teammates chanting his name as he takes his swings. He has joined the ranks of the hitters and everyone knows what he can do.

My older son, now 14, went through something similar. He played his first season of baseball when he was turning ten. He got hit several times. He walked a lot. I used to cross myself when he went to the plate. When he got that first hit, I went nuts. So did his teammates. However, for my older son, it took a season and a half.

Since that day several years ago, both my sons have played several seasons of spring and fall baseball. Each has had the thrill of playing on one championship team. It’s great feeling to watch your kids celebrate a championship.

However, listening to kids cheer on the teammates and sharing their joys, you understand that there are more important things than winning.

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