Brooks: Insight found on a baseball diamondIt’s amazing the insight one can gain with a single, crisp crack of a baseball bat – a lifetime of wisdom, really, all sewn up into a small white ball sailing toward centerfield.
By: Devlyn Brooks, INFORUM
It’s amazing the insight one can gain with a single, crisp crack of a baseball bat – a lifetime of wisdom, really, all sewn up into a small white ball sailing toward centerfield.
That insight-wielding bat happened to be swung by my son, the Bug, and I happened to be standing in the third base coaching box, watching him smash the ball into short centerfield and then seeing it fortuitously roll by the outfielder who turned and gave chase.
As any dad who is a coach does, I nervously glanced back to the bases in time to see the other coach of my son’s 9-year-old Babe Ruth baseball team wave him on to second base.
I then anxiously glanced left again and saw the outfielder hadn’t even yet caught up to the ball, which seemed destined to roll to the fence, and once again I looked back to Carter as he rounded second. Doing my job as third base coach, I urged him to head my way.
Head down, the Bug charged onward. He wasn’t taking any chances, this time. Just the night before in a game, Carter smacked a double but was thrown out on a good defensive play at third. A great hit and bad base running, which probably reflected more upon the third base coach at the time – me – than my son. Disappointing result, nonetheless. On this night, he was determined not to be robbed of his first career triple on two consecutive nights.
Another look to centerfield and I saw the outfielder launching the ball toward his cutoff man, who made a textbook catch and turned to fire the ball to third where Carter was headed. Soon the ball and Bug were arriving at the base at nearly the same time. But, thankfully, the throw was just off, pulling the third baseman off the bag and assuring the Bug his first-ever triple.
Our team’s dugout erupted. Carter’s teammates were high-fivin’, hooting and hollering and generally going bananas over one of our team’s longest hits of the season. And our fans, comprised mostly parents and other family members, were cheering him on along the fence lines.
As I do when any of our players reach third base, I stepped in to give him a high five, and he flashed me the biggest, toothiest, most sincere smile I’d ever seen on a 9-year-old’s face, one single smile that was the embodiment of joy.
“Dad – I hit a triple!” the Bug said in wonderment.
“Yes, you did, bud!” I answered. “Yes, you did.”
And that’s when the epiphany hit me: Baseball is supposed to be fun.
However, I’m afraid that for a few weeks I hadn’t been making baseball fun for my son. And, that’s often the unspoken terrible downside to coaching your own child. You inevitably hold them more accountable, expect them to try harder and you magnify their mistakes far more than you do for any other kid on the team.
In fact, in recent games, I’d chided Carter for various minor infractions that would be committed by any 9-year-old baseball player. But somehow they weren’t excusable for him. He wasn’t fielding properly; he wasn’t running hard enough; his batting mechanics needed work, etc. I fear I had managed to suck out much of the enjoyment of being a baseball player.
The nitpicking even had just been petty in some instances, but I convinced myself that it was for his betterment. When in reality, I had just been making baseball kind of dreadful, which I’m pretty certain is a crime in most states.
However, on this night, as Carter chugged into third base to the sound of his raucous teammates tearing up the dugout, he flashed me that million-dollar smile, and the lesson hit me like a thunderbolt: Baseball is fun; keep it that way, stupid.
And all it took to remind me was one 9-year-old’s picture-perfect swing of a baseball bat.
Devlyn Brooks works for Forum Communications Co. He and his two sons live in Moorhead.