Tuesday, June 12, 2007

The Hits Just Keep On Coming

You may recall the post in which I declared that against my initial instinct, I forced my son, Jackson, to play baseball. This caused me some inward reflection. One the one hand, Jackson didn't want to play, but on the other, he never really wants to try anything new unless it involves the Nintendo DS or mass consumption of sugar. He is seven years old after all; even though he looks older, and in many ways acts older, he's still just a little boy.

This weekend I was painfully reminded that he was on the field against his will. It didn't help that we just saw Meet The Robinsons, where we come to find out that the bad guy started down the dark path of his life because he fell asleep in the outfield and lost the little league championship for his team.

Jackson struck out three times in a row. I sat next to him on the bench and tried to console him, but he was on the verge of tears and was unreachable. We'll go to the batting cages this week, I promised. Everyone goes through a slump; you just have to work through it. Hollow words upon deaf ears. His heart was broken.

I questioned the decision to make him play. Were those welled-up tears because he had let me down? All my words of reassurance would never take that away. He would believe only what he felt in his heart, that his daddy wants him to be a good baseball player, to go onto the majors and make millions of dollars.

His next at bat, a miracle happened, a crushing ground ball through the infield. His smile as he leaned toward second was the healing balm of my heart. Thank God! The next at bat, same thing. At this point I hoped the game would end, but his name came up again.

I was all nerves as he stepped up to the plate. You might be laughing right now. It's of little consequence, you might think, a little league game like this, so early in life. But, in my opinion, this is the time when patterns are learned, and what, for better or for worse, will be repeated throughout a peron's lifetime. For instance, if I would have pulled him out and let him quit, he would likely always be a quitter, and never know what its like to fight through adversity.

His last at bat, Jackson hit a rocket into the outfield, over the fields heads and it rolled to the fence. I could have killed the first base coach for not sending him to second base, but I'll take it nonetheless.

The best part is, the coach gave Jackson the game ball. One of his teammates, who is also in Jackon's first grade class, said that he has never seen anyone from the team hit a ball harder.

This is what I was talking about. That's the feeling you don't get sitting at home playing Gameboy.


Ultra Toast Mosha God said...

..unless sit at home hitting baseballs with your gameboy.

Now that would be tough.

It's good that he achieved something like that. I was always an also-ran in school sports, but I enjoyed playing on the basketball team, if only briefly.

Anonymous said...

I'm sure he'll find the right path for him regardless of what happens to him (or what dad does or doesn't do). Sounds like he had a good time.

I pretty much sucked at bat, but I was a good pitcher.

magnetbabe said...

I think I've mentioned this before, but this post made me want to reiterate my personal opinion- it's okay to quit if you hate something. The biggest winners in life know when to quit! But when quitting means letting your team down, you buck up and play through the tears. I agree that these are experiences that will shape a child, but you have to try things and you never know you won't like it until you try. Hell, I'm almost 28 and still learning this difficult lesson!

Scott said...

Toast - I think we've all been an also-ran at many things.

Jason - I've always been a good hitter and not much good at fielding.

Nat - I agree. If he doesn't want to play after this season then it's over. I just wanted him to get a taste of what success feels like at the game.

Beth said...

I agree with Magnet. I've let my kids quit things before when they absolutely hated it and they became extremely proficient in other things. I don't believe the all or nothing mentality. Nope.

I also know from having little leaguers, those memories don't last forever for the kids. My kids don't remember any of their hits or their strike outs from those times.

Jada's Gigi said...

I agree that one's life can often be marked by some pivotal moments in childhood...but parents making them pivotal is also often the case...glad this time it worked out great for Jackson :) and you are SO right..you just can't get that sitting in front of the gameboy

mr. schprock said...

I just called Theo Epstein, GM of the Red Sox. Expect to see some scouts at Jackson's next game.

Scott said...

Beth - Well I remember, and I'm forty plus. But I had some success at it, and I see myself in my children. If Jackson doesn't want to play baseball anymore, he can stop after the season is over.

Cheryl - Funny thing is, I would have been a bad parent by most people's definition Jackson had continued on the slump. That he pulled out of it and enjoyed his success makes me think that I was right to pursue it.

Mr. Schprock - You see, it's not what you know, it's who you know.

Kaycie said...

None of my children ever cared much for sports, but each of them has played something for at least a season. I think that the individual achievements felt good to them, but to me the more important thing is learning to be part of a team.

I played softball, basketball, volleyball, ran track, and cheered. They all helped me to build character and in ways large and small helped shape my personality.

I think you've done well for the little guy.

Alan said...

I agree with Jada's Gigi, it's the parents' involvement that makes it pivotal.

Your insights are faithful, Scott. You probably did know what Jackson was feeling when he was close to tears. It makes sense that he wanted to make you proud of him, more than he wanted to actually win.

The thing is, he did make you proud of him, and I don't think that's the worst motivation a person can have. Or let me say, I don't think making Scott Ellis proud of them is a bad thing.

Sometime, in a quiet spot, you might feel the need to reassure your children that no matter what they do, you're proud of them. But I think that whatever they wind up doing, it'll be from the influence you've had in their lives anyway. And from what I've read so far, the "Fatherhood of Scott Ellis" should be bottled and sold.

So carry on, good sir!

Beth said...

Then perhaps my kids just didn't hold onto that stuff as you have. I did ask them about those days and it seems to be a blur for them. My son remembered the time I made him stand up to the Little League bully though. I believe I traumatized two children that day. LOL

I think the bad parents are the ones who never question anything they do. You seem to analyze everything, so you seem like a pretty good one to me.

Kathleen said...

Tell him that Tony Graffanino of the Milwaukee Brewers struck out FOUR times yesterday. And he bats 2nd in the batting order, so he's supposed to know what he's doing.

Although I think Jackson's probably not so bummed now that he kicked serious butt in the second half of the game.

onipar said...

No other words for it:

Freakin' awesome!

I'm glad your son got over the slump. It sounds like a hell of a game too.

Moni said...

My daughter is the same way, doesn't want to try anything that doesn't involve a screen of some kind...tv, gameboy, computer. But I think you definetly did the right thing by urging your son to play baseball, I think the best thing a parent can do is to urge their children to at least try something unfamiliar.

Who knows? They may like it, they may not, but then you never know until you try. It's a tired expression but so true.

The Zombieslayer said...

Screw the gameboy. We call all those gaming systems/things "Nofriendo." And yes, you won't get that feeling from a Nofriendo.

That's great about the final hit, but at his age, whenever a ball goes to the outfield, you send the kid to 2nd. Is your first base coach a moron?

Yeah, take him to the batting cages regardless. I tried to take my son at least once a week when it was baseball season. It really helps confidence.

Toni Anderson said...

very very very cool :)

jenbeauty said...

HUGS for making me smile at a time that it is difficult to do so!

Good for Jackson (and dad too!)

Sunshine said...

I have two video game addicts as well. Their play time is limited but I do get a bit tired of fighting with them to be interested in other things. There's more to life than video games and TV!!!
Congrats on sporting success. There's nothing wrong with having kids try different ventures in my book. Some things take and others don't. But having the chance to try is half the fun.