Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Basic Baseball

Ball season is almost over and it struck me that I haven't yet submitted a column about baseball.  I have been helping out with the "Rally Caps" program and often help the develop skills and proper techniques.  In this setting, inspiration is easy to come by.  These young kids are eager to play, not always to learn, but at least to play.   The enthusiasm is contagious and I often find myself excited and encouraging them more loudly than likely necessary.  Helping kids in this type of surroundings is physically and emotionally rewarding.  Here is how I recall the practice from a few nights ago.

It was a hot evening and I was lobbing some pitches to the 6 year old kids.  I was already tired and my enthusiasm was waning when a young girl who had been struggling to hit pitches came up to the plate.  I lobbed a pitch to her and she swung hard and immediately I noticed improvement in her swing from the previous week, but she missed.  I seen her facial expression change to that look of "Oh no.  Here we go again."  She stepped back up to the plate and I threw another pitch to her.  This time she swung and rapped a hard hit down the first base line.  The hit was great but not nearly as inspiring as the surprise that came across her face.  Her face lit up with pride and lifted confidence.  I hollered at her to run to first and she quickly ran down the base path with teeth showing a large smile the whole way. 

Another struggling hitter stepped up to the plate or maybe I should say, stepped on the plate.  I gave him pointers on his stance and the batter's box, which I am sure I have instructed him on before.  When I at last had him positioned he whispers "This is uncomfortable."  I quietly snicker as I head to the pitchers mound and lob in a couple of pitches.  After a few pitches he makes contact with one and stands confused at home plate.  I holler at him to run to first base and his response was "Where is that?"  I couldn't help but laugh out loud as I pointed and encouraged him towards first base with a high five when we get there.

Another young batter, who is stronger than most kids at this level, steps up to the plate.  He is brimming with confidence and I decide to throw a couple of harder pitches to him.  No matter to him, he watched the first one float to far outside, and as I piped the second one he whacks it out deep to left field.  This player too smiles the whole way down the first base path and I can see him thinking to himself "Yes I beat the coach.  Wooohooo!!"

The evening was filled with moments like these and every player wore a smile as a badge of honor at the end of the night.  I realize once again how great it is when we simply play for the joy of it and on this night I was back in mosquito ball myself and enjoying it through them.  I bet I threw over 90 pitches that evening and if the kids weren't tired out.  I sure was.  If you have a son or daughter, a niece or nephew, a grandchild, or simply a young friend playing baseball, I encourage you to get out and watch him or her play.  It is a great way to spend an evening out and the child will truly appreciate it.
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