Let's talk about little league baseball. Yes, Able played little league but he didn't start until he was in third grade or so. Everybody who knows anything about kid's baseball knows you have to start when you're four (or three for some people), hit the ball off the T and stay with those kids all the way up. By the time they reach middle school they are either sick to death of baseball and never want to see one again, or they have solidified into a killer team that goes on to take the state championship.
Those kids who join the team in third grade (usually because their parents thought it was silly beyond reason to try to play any organized sport when they haven't even mastered pooping in the potty) never really work their way into the weave of the team. They're always the outsider, which is not necessarily a bad thing, but it might be.
My second round of little league started last year when Brendan played baseball for the first time. He was seven at the time; a tall seven. He spent a lot of time in left field, but paid attention and helped with some plays, got hits, ran the bases, made a few runs and hit some people in. I call that a good year any way you look at it. All the cousins watched from the bleachers and cheered for the Falcons.
This year Brendan played again and Zane signed up for tball. Tball with three and four year olds is almost exactly like watching a bunch of puppies playing with a ball in the back yard, except there is a dad or mom standing in the field with each puppy and trying to get them to do something specific when the ball comes to, or by, them. Their games are hysterical to watch. Everyone claps for everyone else's kid. The games are timed, so there is an end to the silliness eventually. Games are always called for rain.
Yesterday was the final game for both boys, at the same time, of course. I had watched Brendan's game the night before, so I stayed at Zane's this time around. (That decision proved unfortunate for me because Brendan, a.k.a. Slugger, hit an infield home run and their team won. How did I miss that? Well, I was down the sidewalk watching the puppies, that's how.) I love this kid's red cleats. If not for those shoes, I probably couldn't ever pick him out from the stands. You would think I could at least tell which boy was my grandchild wouldn't you? What if I told you that when Able was that age and was playing in the outfield at one game, I asked the woman beside me who that kid was out there who was dancing around and she told me it was my son? There you go. Thanks for wearing the red shoes, Brendan.
Brendan's team was much better this year. They usually knew where the play was, most of them had strong if not very accurate throwing arms, they know a lot of the rules now and can hit off the machine fairly well, they are trying to slide into base, they don't cry when they strike out anymore. It is beginning to be fun. At least it seems to be.
This is what the tball players know:
1. Hit the ball off the T.
2. Run to first base.
3. (This is an unwritten rule but all the kids know it) When the ball is hit, run like crazy for it and everyone dog-pile on top of it, laughing.
They can all hit the ball now and they have learned to then start running toward first. That's progress. In the beginning they were so elated to have hit the ball that they forgot what to do next. I'm fairly sure that having twenty or thirty odd adults yelling at you to run doesn't help at all. We can't help ourselves.
Last night they played in the drizzle because it was the last make-up game and no one wanted to go another week. It is too hot. They should have been done two weeks ago but were making up games from that rainy May we had. The kids had a great time playing in the rain. There weren't as many dog piles as there were in April. The outfielders managed to stay on their feet most of the time. I say that because usually they are so bored out there they lie down or sit down or lean against their dads. In one late game I saw one dad in the outfield who was holding his tiny little boy in his arms. The boy had fallen asleep. Take him home dad. Just call it.
Here is Korenaki (yes, a misprint on the shirt), ready for the big play….which never came. But he was ready….most of the time. During Zane's game last night some kid ran out of the dugout and tackled a kid who was on his way to first. There were tears. I'm not going to lie to you. Zane has learned to run the ball into home plate when someone is coming from third. For quite a while he would run toward home and then stop to let the runner go by. ! This is what happens when you teach kids good manners and then switch it up on them. No, you can't be polite to a base runner. It is a footrace and you need to win.
The side story to little league is what goes on in and behind the stands. Mom, dads and grandparents watch the game and forget about the little kids. Cousins, and little brothers and sisters run around, chasing each other here and there, they eat snacks and steal drinks of water from anyone who isn't watching, they now and then get hit by a back-hit ball (accidents happen folks). They fall off the back of the bleachers, skin their knees on the sidewalk, poke ants with sticks, get too hot and have to be cooled down. They talk grandma or grandpa into taking the long walk to the bathroom with them several times. They get dirt in the face over and over again because the catcher can't really catch anything, they sometimes get dragged through the mud and rocks at the carousel, AND, if they are lucky, they get snacks with the team when the game is over. Apparently it is worth the wait.
I don't think decisions about the upcoming year need to be made at the exact end of the season. By that time you are so done with the whole thing, you couldn't possibly commit to doing it again, yet. (Similar to asking a woman who just birthed a baby if she wants to have another one soon. Are you crazy?) But memory is funny in that sometimes the worst parts of things begin to fade in the sun of passing days and after a while, you begin to think you might want to go there one more time.