What the Game Has Taught My Ballplayer

There is a little boy living in my house.  Very soon he will be 9 years old.  Not really such a little boy anymore.  He’s quite a kid, though.  And he’s an awesome ballplayer. In fact, he is my favorite ballplayer.

We started him playing at about 3. Backyard stuff.  Throwing and catching with his great-grandma.  Batting with a plastic bat.  Learning the basics of baseball.  We pitched to him because he never did like a tee.

Baseball Cleats

At 4, he got his first pair of baseball cleats from his Tia and I took him to his first Rangers game – a game where he sat and watched the action on the field. In the backyard, he was making up baselines and pretending he was Ian Kinsler or Josh Hamilton or Michael Young.  He began to understand that not every swing he made was going to go over the fence.

When he turned 5, we put him on a rec league team – coach pitch.  In his first game, he let a pitch go by.  It was a ball and he knew it.  The crowd was dumbfounded.  The umpire called a strike.  He learned that not all calls go your way.

Age 4 – First Rangers’ Game

In between games, he was watching the Rangers on TV; studying the double plays and imitating the batting stances.  He discovered Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder and other great players from our opposing teams.  (There was joy in Dallas the day that Prince came to play.) He saw that though someone may not be on your team, they add value to the experience.

In the fall season of first grade, they brought out the pitch machine.  It was a tricky adjustment for the boys.  Pitches were faster and not always over the center of the plate. He had to learn to make adjustments.   He did and was the lead-off batter.  When he got on base, he casually handed his batting gloves to the first base coach just as he had seen the pros do.

Spring and fall, spring and fall. Baseball.  Second base, short stop, pitcher position, a game or two at catcher.  Catching pop-ups.  Fielding grounders.  Throwing in to first. Making outs.  He made his own first double play at 6 when he caught a pop-up and then tagged the runner heading to third. I couldn’t have been more proud, but he knew that he was just doing his job, helping his team.

In January of this year, he moved up to a select team.  This season, he is playing center field – hustling and leaping and diving to snag a ball.  This season, he is doing some of the pitching – finding the strike zone, learning control.  This season, he finally gets to take a lead-off and steal bases.  He’s been waiting to do this because the boy lives to slide – down and dirty every time.  (Yes, that’s him sliding in my header picture.)  And this season, he is struggling to connect the bat with the ball. He has a mental block about a 9 or 10 year old pitching to him.  Sometimes in life, we have to think about our problems differently in order to overcome them.

The spring season will be over in less than a month.  We have just three more games and one more tournament.  The summer will find us loyally cheering on the Rangers. He will spend hours tossing the ball up in the air and running to catch it, or throwing it against a pitchback net. He will play The Show on his PlayStation® .  We will read books* about our heroes and the legends of the game.  We will watch The Sandlot and A League of Their Own.

This is our life – my grandson and mine.  Baseball.  No matter what else we do, it always comes back to baseball.  It is the thing that bonds us together and gives us hope.  We may strike out in the moment, but there is always another ball coming our way.  As long as we keep swinging, we will get through it.

 

 

 

*There is a series of books about baseball legends  (Babe Ruth, Honus Wagner, Jackie Robinson and others) for young readers by Dan Gutman known as The Baseball Card Adventure Series.  I highly recommend them for any young baseball fan.

A Girl Should Have Some Fantasy

I am a baseball fan. I love everything about the game including ridiculous and extremely trivial statistics, jokes about pitchers, and hating the guy who left your team just for more money.  I love the Cinderella teams and the just called-up rookie who hits his first ever major league home run.  I love dollar hot dog night and I love how the game of baseball relates to life.

For years there has been this Fantasy Baseball thing. Guys I knew who loved baseball, but frequently took it way too seriously and too personally, would talk about it.   They would discuss their drafts and their aces and their injured players. They would wear me out with the talk of their fake teams.  When I wondered if Yu Darvish would recover from his Tommy John surgery and play again for real for my beloved Texas Rangers, they were worried about his draft position when he did return.  When Prince Fielder re-injured his neck and was forced to retire from baseball, I cried a little bit. My friends in Fantasy, worried who they could find to replace him on their “team”.  I really didn’t understand the whole thing.

Until now.

This year, I decided it was time for a little fantasy of my own.  I got together with my grown son, who was also a first time player.  Together, with the help of the ESPN app, we figured out how to draft our teams.  It was SO MUCH FUN!  Well, it was fun when we got the player we were going for and not getting him stolen out from under us by some unknown, and therefore hideous, player-thief.

After drafting our first teams, the adrenaline was rushing.  But wait…we didn’t get Elvis on that team.  Oh, I really wanted Elvis.  And what about Kershaw?  Some player-thief got him.  It would be nice to draft Kershaw.  I wish we had known more about drafting.  I wish we had had the first pick.  Hey, why don’t we both get one more team? I think we could do two teams.

Cut to 7 weeks into the season. The grown child has 25 teams.  That’s the limit for free play teams.  In my rookie season, I am managing 20 teams of my own.  Elvis Andrus is on about 6 of them and I managed to sneak in and get Clayton Kershaw on 2. Every day I check out my teams.  Which ones are winning, which ones are not.  Can I find a better hitting 2nd baseman?

My loyalty to my favorite players has gone to the wayside in this game.  With only 25 active players allowed on your team, the ballplayers you love for their heart and hustle, get dropped when their batting averages drop.  If a pitcher isn’t throwing strikes and getting me points, I search for someone who can.  I found this guy Jose Berrios.  He pitches for the Minnesota Twins.  I like him a lot.  He has gotten me points.

When your favorites are doing well, hitting home runs and adding up RBI’s, it’s awesome! When pitchers are hurling K’s and maintaining that low ERA, it’s awesome.  Until you get that alert.  Alert: Cole Hamels placed on the 10 day disabled list (DL) with oblique strain.  What?!?!  He can’t play for 10 days?  The reality is he will be out for 8 weeks or more.  Aaaaccckk!  You cannot find someone to replace him.  Oh, you will find someone to fill in his slot while he rehabs, but it won’t be the same.  Your fantasy team, your ALL star team, won’t be the same.  They didn’t tell me this would happen.  They didn’t tell me about DTD (day-to-day) listings either – when your very best starter may or may not start because he may or may not have a minor injury.  And Mondays!  They didn’t tell me about Mondays, when NObody plays because in Major League Baseball almost everybody has off on Monday.  Or they have Thursday off.  Mondays and Thursdays – terrible days for fantasy.

But here is the great thing about Fantasy Baseball.  You can draft the leagues best players, the future hall of famers, the hot new rookie (Aaron Judge), the latest call-up from the minors.  You can check your team every day and make adjustments to your daily line-ups or you can leave it alone and just believe your team, the one you hand selected, will come out ahead.  You can follow your favorites and keep up with their stats.  You can add to the conversation around the water cooler or at your local bar.  And you can take your love of the game with you wherever you go.  It’s not just a “guy” thing.  If you are a girl who loves baseball, then you should have some Fantasy.