Monday, March 21, 2011

Batter Up

For a kid who grew up playing outside virtually every day, about the only thing I knew outside of piano lessons were sports. I played in the front yard, back yard, anywhere I could: kickball, soccer, baseball, basketball, and football. Such great memories and so much of my childhood.

The most challenging? Baseball – hands down. Okay, so I never played organized football and I never attempted surfing ‘til later. But baseball was great. I vividly remember playing catch in the front yard with my dad (and sometimes mom) for hours. I miss the sound of the ball smacking the leather. I miss the smell of the grass, the dirt, and the leather glove. I miss big the silver coin that I got as a voucher to the snack bar after games – and the Cream Soda Crush I chose every time.

Though I was never any good, I loved it. Time has passed and my only baseball pursuits have been attending as many pro stadiums as possible. But now I’m a father and my daughter is eight. It’s finally time. For a kid who loves to dance and reads like it sustains life, she has begun to show more than a passing interest in playing softball.

So I signed her up and we’re now two practices into the season. She played soccer once and was not terribly intrigued. But she’s a bit older and this is way more complicated. She has to learn to throw, catch, field grounders, spot fly balls, run the bases, and hit. Her first practice brought all of these to my attention quickly. All of these skills were developed decades ago – though to minimal success. I forgot about all these. So she’s got a long road ahead of her. Maybe I should have started the human growth hormone earlier.

As I walked with her to the field that first day, a flood of memories washed through my mind. I even had butterflies in my stomach. To see if I could help, I brought my glove just in case. Clearly I wasn’t the only one with such plans. About nine other dads did the same exact thing. Were we all prepared to relive our childhood through our daughters or did we just want to play catch for the first time in 20 years?

I hope she loves it or absolutely hates it. I want her to enjoy it the way I did, but I don’t want her just doing it the next ten years to fill up her weekends. I hope she excels for her own self-esteem or she accepts her God-given abilities for what they are – she’s not getting a head start athletically from her parents. I hope she takes more pride in her times of serving the homeless than in her ability to hit the ball. But please, God, just one simple request: let her hit the snot out of that ball every now and then!

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