Sunday, July 21, 2013

T-Ball: "The Best Free Entertainment In Town"

The former president of Little League in Lubbock, Texas once told me that t-ball was the "Best Free entertainment in town."  He was speaking to me as a parent then, and he was right, but what he didn't tell me was that coaching is where the real fun happens.

Back in May,  Melissa and I found out that Nolan's t-ball team didn't have a coach, so we signed up for the job.  I attended the parents meeting where I was informed that Provo plays what I call "Kumbaya ball," where everyone bats each inning, there's never a third out, and everyone wins. Callan played this kind of t-ball in Ohio and it was great fun.  At the meeting I got a mesh bag from the city with three t-balls, two helmets, a bat, and a T.
 We had ten little five- and six-year-olds and we practiced once a week on Tuesdays and games every Saturday and we did our best to live up to our one imperative from the city--make sure everybody has fun.  Callan helped coach and we did the normal throwing and hitting practice, but my two favorite activities were when we played "catch coach" in which Callan and I ran all over the field and the kids tried to tag us with their gloves, and another game that didn't have a name but involved all the kids lining up facing the backstop about twenty feet away and then throwing balls at the fence, where I stood waiting to catch their tosses and roll them back out to them.  The goal was for them to get more balls at the fence then I got out in the field.  In theory this was a great game that would get them throwing the ball a lot, but in practice (no pun intended) it meant ten kids throwing baseballs at me.  Luckily none of them had strong enough arms to hit me and they thought it was great fun watching their coach scramble around like a moving target.

At the games Melissa ran the dug out, getting kids ready to bat and keeping folks happy and I helped batters get to the plate, observe correct batting stance, and run the right direction when they hit the ball. We had one boy who had such  a difficult time running in a straight line to first base (he usually ended up veering toward the pitchers mound or stopping to stir the dust in front of home plate') that I resorted to chasing him down the baseline telling him in a mock-monster voice I was going to "get him" (once when he was the last batter of the inning and was going to have to run around all the bases without stopping, I ended up chasing him all around the bases like was great fun).

Nolan really came into his own out on the field.  About three weeks before t-ball started he said, "I don't want to play," which is the kind of thing he says two or three weeks before starting something new, but by the time practices rolled around, he was suiting up in full hand-me-down uniforms and wearing his glove around all afternoon. We made sure that every kid got to play every position, but it was always really fun to see Nolan and some of the other more coordinated kids playing infield and actually making some plays.

We had our fair share of tears from kids for all the usual reasons--getting tagged out, not getting to bat first, getting hit by the ball, getting tagged out, dropping their snack on the ground, getting tagged out---but it wouldn't be t-ball without some tears.  By the end of the season all the kids were hitting pitches from me during games rather than using the tee, and every single kid had a lot of fun. Mission accomplished.

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