Wednesday, April 21, 2010

An angel in the in-field

    I must have been about 7 years old the first time my parents took me to see a professional baseball game.  I may have been completely uncoordinated, without an athletic bone in my body, but I fell in love.  The diamond down below, the blue sky and bright sunshine above, and the roar of the crowd all around.  What could be more fun on a spring afternoon?  I have loved baseball ever since.  It is a love I share with my husband and that we have passed onto our children.      
    Over the years my favorite team has changed.  As a kid, I loved the Cincinnati Reds.  When I moved to the Tampa Bay area, the Devil Rays were just starting up and I became a fan right away.  Nowadays, though I still love the Rays, the team I care most about is the Dunedin A‘s, my son‘s Little League team.   Every game you’ll find me in the bleachers, with a front row seat.  I get as excited about their wins and as upset about their losses as I  do about the “big leagues”, maybe more so.  My son has been playing Little League for a few years now and his greatest baseball ambition has been to be a pitcher.  His first few seasons were spent in “A” level ball, which means coach pitched.    He hit well, he ran hard, he enjoyed his games and practices with all his little teammates but what he really wanted was to pitch.  When he finally got to the “AA” level, where kids get to pitch for a few innings, he practiced throwing balls down the hall in my house day and night, putting dents in the bedroom doors and impeding traffic to the bathroom.   Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately for my nerves, he was only given the chance to pitch once or twice that first season.  It did not go well.  I remember one game where he hit an opponent with the ball, he came close to hitting another, and he ended up getting pulled from the mound after throwing several more wild pitches all over the park.   We had a very rough afternoon following that game because my son was so upset over his performance and the resulting embarrassment of being taken out mid-inning.
     This year he is a little bigger and, hopefully, a little more mature.  One thing hasn’t changed, though.  From the beginning of the season, he hoped and hoped he would get his chance out on the mound. I watched him in practice as he over-excitedly flailed the ball towards his unsuspecting teammate, thankfully clad from head to toe in padding, and wondered if maybe next year might be his year.  His coaches are, however, pretty willing to take chances and they are also very good about letting the boys try out each position.  
    It was in the third inning of a very close game when they decided to give him his turn and they put him in to pitch.   I felt myself tense up.  “He is just not ready for this,” I kept thinking.  I was sure he would struggle like he did last year and be devastated all over again.  I felt like pacing back and forth along the sidelines in my nervousness but held myself back.  Still, I held my breath through the entire inning.  Instead of being wild, his pitches were slow and deliberate.  He took his time, focused on his accuracy and allowed his teammates to field the few balls that were hit off his unhurried throws.  He got out of the inning feeling good and I thanked God that it had gone fine and was all over.  I figured he had had his turn as pitcher for the year, he had gotten relatively lucky in that it went okay, and now I could relax for the rest of the season.   He immediately started talking about the next time he would pitch.   Last night, he got his chance.  It was the first inning this time.  I heard the coaches in the dugout calling out positions and my son’s name came right before the word “pitcher“.  I was sure I heard incorrectly but, no, there he was, shirt tail hanging out, big grin on his face jogging towards the pitcher’s mound.  “Oh no,” I said to Tim, “I can’t go through the nerves again." In my mind, I was thinking , "He got so lucky the first time it would have been better for him to have had his one success and leave it at that.  There is always next year to try again.”  My muscles tense, my eyes focused unblinkingly on my son as I watched the inning unfold.  Right from the start he looked more confident than before.  His pitches were accurate (mostly), they were faster.  He looked great out there.  The inning, though not perfect, went well.  So well, in fact, they put him back in to start the second.  This time, when they pulled him mid-inning it was because he had thrown his limit of 40 pitches and, to my surprise, he had done a great job.  
    In my mothering protectiveness, I had wanted to hold my son back.  I had thought it was best to shield him from the possibility of failure by not giving him the chance to try again.   In my desire to protect my son, I did not realize I was trying to take away his chance to succeed, as much as his chance to fail.  I had underestimated, not only his talent, but also his ability to bounce back from last year’s disappointment.  While it is my job to protect my children sometimes what they need even more, is my support in both their successes and their struggles.   
    It isn’t easy for me to watch my children endure disappointments but sometimes they teach me better than I teach them.  This time I learned, first hand,  “if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again" and “nothing ventured, nothing gained".  Perfect lessons for a mom who still has a long way to go in learning to let my little angels spread their wings.

1 comment:

  1. Hi,

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