Unfortunately for them, neither my husband and I are very sports-oriented... I can't really speak for my husband's athletic ability since, you know, we don't really play sports, but I can tell you that when athleticism was handed out, I was one of the last in line. I'm somewhat uncoordinated, I'm slow, I'm not all that great with hand-eye coordination or with learning to move my body in new and interesting ways. I'm much more suited to cerebral tasks (like writing, or sitting at a desk and dicking around on facebook).
Case in point: I was out the other night with my friends Red and Sarah. We had dinner and then we decided it was such a beautiful night, we were going to go to the beach. The Chicago police, however, generally frown upon nighttime strolls on the public beaches, and as such we had to be sneaky about it. Stealth-like. We park near the beach and head out on foot, keeping an eye peeled for the po-po. Down the beach a stretch, we see a van that may or may not be an Official Vehicle. "Let's run!" one of them whispers, and they take off towards the nearest bit of shadow. The two of them bound effortlessly across the sand like nimble gazelles, their lithe bodies and long legs made for the task. I heave myself into action but quickly fall to the back of the pack, the sickly one, sides heaving, body jiggling with effort, sand sucking at my feet, trying to drag me to the ground. They wait for me in the shadows. "It's the shoes," I gasp out as I join them, thinking my sandals are hindering my progress. "OK! Let's run to the next one!" they say. They take off; sandals now in hand, barefoot, I follow. The sand sucks ever more insistently at my feet and I wobble around, faltering, the beached manatee. I haven't made it two steps and they're halfway down the beach, making it Look Easy. Eventually I join them and we stand on the glorious shore, under the full moon, taking in the night. After a few minutes Red asks, somewhat dreamily, "have you guys ever successfully run away from someone that's chasing you?"
Did you not even SEE me back there?? (Luckily, I've never been SERIOUSLY chased.)
Watching my son play baseball is like watching me run on the beach. It's painfully obvious that he inherited my athletic 'ability'. The difference between me and my son is that he operates under a blissful delusion, one in which he is The Best At Everything. It's kind of awesome to have a totally confident kid, and I know that one day the world will knock him off his pedestal so I'm certainly in no hurry to do it. Let him keep thinking he is Totally Awesome for as long as humanly possible.
What I DON'T like is that he doesn't take it seriously at all. I DO want him to have fun, but I want him to listen to his coaches and at least pay attention and be a little disciplined about it, and he's terrible at that part. He doesn't follow directions, he plays around, he wanders off, he bothers the other kids... THAT is the part that is cringe-worthy to me. I don't care if he's athletically talented or not; what matters is that he goes out, has a good time, tries new things. He's got a LOT of talents; baseball doesn't have to be one of them. But listening skills and teamwork and obeying when you should be obeying, those ARE important.
When their team shirts came in, his coach offered him a choice. "Which one do you want, Drake? 2, 8, or 11?" "Two!" Drake shouted. Later in the car, he starts telling me "I'm number two because I'm the SECOND BEST PLAYER on our team!"
"No, Drake, that's not what it means. Your number isn't a ranking of who is the best and who is the worst; your number is just an identifier. That's why your coach let you PICK. If they were going to order you by who is best, they would have tested you guys at running, and throwing, and batting, and stuff like that. They didn't do that."
"Besides, if they DID rank you, you wouldn't be number two. Do you know why? Because teamwork and listening are VERY important out there, and you haven't been doing a very good job of either. In order to play your best game, you have to listen to your coaches, you have to pay attention to the game and to your teammates, you have to follow the rules of the game, and you have to PRACTICE, and STOP bothering the other kids on your team. You'll never be the best if you can't do those things. And you know what? You may never BE the best, and that's OK because there can only be one person who is the BEST at anything; being the BEST isn't what's important. What's important is that you do YOUR best, and that's all anyone can ask of you. But you can't do your best if you don't listen."
"OK. But I'm still the second best on the team!"
I shake my head.
"Drake, what do you think Uncle Matt and Grandpa would say if they saw you at practice, goofing off and bothering the other kids and not listening the way you do?"
Drake considers this question for a moment, thoughtfully. He answers, "They'd say, 'GOSH, I love that kid!'"
Drake's first official game was last Saturday. And of course after about two weeks of sunny days in the seventies, the day of his first game is grey and in the forties. My dad said he would have cancelled the games if it wasn't opening day, and if all the kids weren't looking forward to them so much; he was afraid he'd get lynched if he did. And indeed, the kids WERE excited. Running around without a care in the world, thrilled to be out there for their first games. The parents and siblings, less excited. Those of us that actually showed UP huddled together for warmth in our portable chairs, inadequately dressed, cramming on all the extra outerwear we could find in our cars (good thing the kids' costume box was still in my car from when we shot that movie!), huddling under blankets.
Unfortunately, there was a bit of a mixup on the times; we were told to be there at 9AM for practice, and that the game would start at 10AM. We show up at 9AM and there's no one there. We sit in the car for a while. Eventually about 9:30 we see some people on the other side of the park so we drive over there. A few kids and the coach are there. The kids run around while the coaches set up the 'fields' and get things together. Eventually it's determined that practice actually starts at 10, and the game starts at 10:30. By the time they figured this out, it's 9:45; we've already set our chairs and everything up outside by the field, we're all freezing, the kids have been running around for a good twenty minutes and are now starting to get chilly. And it's 15 minutes until practice even starts, and another 45 until the game starts. Off to a great start!
By the time the game starts, the kids are good and cold. The sun breaks out of the clouds for a little while, and it helps a bit, but if it ever got over 50 degrees that day, I'm a monkey's uncle.
Grandma putting Drake's jersey on over both jacket AND sweatshirt.
Our team is up to bat first, and since my son is number two, he goes second. Most of the kids, even with several weeks of practice under their belts, are still deep in the throes of "I have NO idea how to play this damn game". My son is no exception.
But batting, and running the bases (watching them all run in was a real treat; at some point we ended up with three kids on third base at the same time, and watching them all run pell-mell towards home base, arms and legs akimbo, was hilarious), that's a thrill. Sitting on the side waiting your turn, NOT so much.
Especially when it's freezing and windy. Eventually the teams switch and Drake's team takes the field. Where do they send Drake? Left field.
My son, ever so dedicated to his craft (as I'm sure you gathered from the earlier section of this post), is cold.
He's been outside for a LOOOOONG time and ...
aw, fuck this. Just fuck it.
He's cold, he's tired, he's miserable, and he is DONE WITH THIS NOISE.
Grandma attempts to give him a pep talk.
And by 'pep talk', I mean, snuggle him in a blanket. Then it's Auntie Denise's turn.
You can't hear it over the sounds of Uncle Matt's outrage (especially when some other kid actually HITS the ball INTO left field, the very position Drake just abandoned, lol), but Aunt Denise's pep talk involved bribery. $5 if he stuck out the entire game.
Unfortunately, it was around this time that OJ and I had to leave. We had scheduled a counseling session that morning and because of all the time mixups earlier with the game's start time, we couldn't stay for the whole thing. The kids went home with my parents, and I am told that Drake DID finish out the game... though at one point he brought a blanket out there with him and was rolling around on the ground in it.
My son has a great career in baseball ahead of him, I can feel it. GOSH, I love that kid.