My agonizing rookie season as a tball dad was spent sitting in the bleachers with other sleep-deprived parents, all of us with high expectations for our children’s performance on the field and aspirations for a successful future in the big leagues. Together we watched helplessly as our four and five-yearolds chased and pounced on softly hit baseballs like a pack of wild cats converging on a cornered rat. After tumbling over each other and clawing for the ball as if it were a fumbled football, one victorious player with a soiled shirt and grass-stained pants would emerge to lob the ball weakly toward first base where it inevitably rolled past an inattentive kid manning that position. Ball caps emblazoned with colorful logos of minor league teams were used as colanders to sift reddish dirt. Gloves were either worn on the wrong hands or as ridiculous hats. The experience was maddening.
In my second season as a t-ball dad, I served as an assistant coach and never – not once – sat idle on the bleachers. My days of watching helplessly from the sidelines were over. If a player took a break to make a dirt angel, I prompted him to stand up and be “baseball ready.” If a player ran toward the wrong base, I politely turned him around like a friendly traffic cop. I high-fived runners and shouted encouragement as batters swung the bat for strike 10, strike 11. The kids, to my relief, slowly improved.
So when the need for coaches arose this fall, I happily accepted the challenge. I’ve paid my dues, literally in blood, sweat, and tears. I am ready to teach young players one of the most difficult games in the world during practices scheduled less than two hours before their bedtimes. I am prepared to stand with my squad in all weather conditions and watch as only three positions touch the ball while the rest of the team kicks up dust, lies down in the outfield, and showers the other team’s base runners with juvenile insults. When a player’s mother screams to her lollygagging son to run like a cheetah, I am finally able to laugh when he eventually crosses home plate and confesses to me that that was his penguin walk. I am coaching a great group of young kids, and I appreciate every minute I spend on the field with my sons, even if it’s still exasperating at times.