As this year’s two-month Little League marathon drew to a close, I came to realize something important about myself: When it comes to baseball, I’m just a teeny, tiny bit more …intense than most 9-year-olds.
This year, as the manager of Sean (#2 Son) and Mark’s (#3 Son) Red Sox team, I spent countless hours — or maybe I just don’t want to count the hours I spent — pleading with my players to “Stop makin’ dirt piles in the middle infield” or to “Get a little wider and keep your knees bent at the plate” or to “Look at the batter while you’re playing third or you’ll get hit in the face” or to “Reach all the way back when you’re throwing, and get that elbow up” or “FOR THE 500TH TIME, OUTFIELDERS, DON’T HOLD THE BALL! JUST HIT THE CUTOFF MAN!!!”
To be honest, I’m not really sure what they thought of me. I like to think that I’m notfull-on R. Lee Ermey. But the realist in me recognizes I’m a bit of a self-important,“Play the Game the Right Way” kind of guy. (Which is funny, since baseball’s very much a later-in-life interest for me. I never played growing up.)
Whatever the evolution of my disturbingly diligent diamond devotion, I found that I was “communicating”/(yelling?) pretty much all of the time. Encouragement, mostly. And instructions, often. But …not always. And I was doing it without any confidence that it was actually working.
They improved over the course of the season, which is a great feeling. But I think their improvement had a lot more to do with repetition and real-game situations than it did with any expertise I brought to the table. Honestly (and somewhat painfully for my self-important-self), I have a sneaking suspicion they improved at least partiallybecause they tuned me out towards the end and just “played the game.” (And I’m betting their parents now understand a bit more clearly the colloquial definition of insanity that comes so instinctively to many of us.)
But when ’twas all said and done, I think the kids had fun. And most importantly, as we walked away from our final game (which we lost in part by stranding the tying run at third base with no outs in the bottom of the last inning because my little Red Sox KEEPSWINGINGATPITCHESOVERTHEIRHEADS!), Sean asked me: “Are you going to coach me next year, Papa? Because I’d like to play again, if you’re coaching.”
Ah, right. That’s why I’m doing this.