Youth baseball brings out the differences in kids. Some are hyper-determined, and some others would rather contemplate dandelions in right field.
My grandson Tyson’s approach to baseball is to try his best and not sweat the details. The 8-year-old is more into football, anyway. Another of my grandsons, Jake, is 9 and more intense. He achieved his 1st degree black belt in taekwondo earlier this month, and he has indicated displeasure at not being the best player on his traveling team in Mankato.
My daughter said that I should have a heart-to-heart talk with him. Because I, having been a great ball-playing success myself, am someone Jake admires and would listen to.
I chuckle. Kari’s recollection of my ball-playing days is a little bit askew. I remember her once, after watching me play in a men’s fast-pitch softball tournament, telling me I was the best player on the team. Bless her heart anyway.
I might, however, have been the most serious. So I can identify with young Jakey.
One must be careful, as an adult, not to take the seriousness quotient too far in youth baseball, however. Traveling league or not, the game is still new to all of the players in the 8- and 9-year-old range. It’s important to remember that, and to remind yourself of it regularly when you’re watching the kids play.
While watching one of my grandkids play baseball recently, I noticed a girl playing second base. She tended not to move when the ball was hit. She bent down to pick it up when it was aimed directly at her, but five feet to her right or five feet to her left, forget about it. It reminded me of another outfielder I had on my daughter Laura’s Little League softball team who, when a ball was hit past her, instead of chasing it just stood there peering at her parents in the bleachers and smiling sweetly.
Amused by the girl at second base, I wondered aloud to my wife why (I assumed) none of the adults ever explained to her what she was supposed to do when a ball was hit in her vicinity.
“Quiet,” Sandy whispered. “Her dad may be sitting next to us.”
I’m not being mean, I said. It’s just that, isn’t the idea behind youth sports to teach the kids the right way to play the game?
In that very same game, there were two players standing fairly close together in left field on the edge of the AgriLime infield. A ball was hit between them, and into the outfield grass. Neither of them went to get it. Instead, they pointed at each other. “You get it. … No, you get it,” they seemed to be saying.
I wondered what was so scary about going into the outfield grass. Turns out, that was from where the gnats came. When the kids stayed away from the grass, they were safe from the bugs.
I sometimes hear higher baseball levels described as “Little League,” usually when we see players kick the ball around a few times and make the bonehead plays that even major leaguers make occasionally.
But it’s not really Little League. Real Little League is much more entertaining.