The truth about youth baseball
Little League parenting is not for the weak.
Playing Little League ball also requires fortitude, if you’re not particularly gifted in the skills of batting, throwing, catching and/or running.
A few personal successes can sustain you for a while, but coming up short time after time is painful for a youngster. Sticking with it is deserving of our admiration, and it usually pays dividends.
Parents deserve admiration as well, and sympathy. Watching your child play blends hope, dread, excitement, disappointment — a toxic mix of emotions strained through six innings of action.
It goes something like this (I’ll use the masculine gender, but the stuff is the same regardless):
Your youngster strides, shuffles or trots to the plate with his bat and steps into the batter’s box. Fifth inning, two outs, team behind by a run, teammate on second base.
HIS COACH: Move farther back in the box.
Batter does so.
First pitch comes in low and bounces on the plate. Batter swings.
COACH: Move up in the box.
PARENT (to his son): Make it be there, guy. (Thinks: He needs to watch it all the way in.)
Next pitch comes in way above the batter’s head, and way outside. Batter doesn’t swing. Couldn’t have reached it if he did.
COACH: That’s the way.
PARENT: Good eye, good eye. (Thinks: Boy, I’m glad he didn’t swing at that.)
Next pitch is perfect, right across the plate, right down central. Batter doesn’t swing.
COACH: Gotta hit those.
PARENT: S’all right. Pick out one you like. (Thinks: That was the one you like.)
Next pitch is low and inside, almost hits batter’s ankle. He jumps out of the way just in time.
COACH: Good eye. Move back a little in the box.
PARENT: Good eye. (Thinks: Maybe he should have stayed in there and got hit.)
Count is now 2 and 2.
Next pitch is slow and tempting, but way outside again. Batter lunges and starts to swing, but doesn’t quite close the deal.
UMPIRE (hesitating): Ball.
COACH: That’s the way.
PARENT: That’s it. Make it be there. (Thinks: Whew.)
It’s now full count.
PARENT: (Thinks: Don’t swing at anything bad, but hit it if it’s in there.)
Next pitch: Slightly inside and misses the corner.
UMPIRE: Strike three.
COACH: Looked inside, ump.
Parent at this point has three choices.
ONE: (Point out to umpire that the pitch was obviously a ball, in a variety of language choices.)
TWO: (Say nothing.)
THREE: That’s all right. You’ll get it next time. (Thinks: Geez, they’ve gotta get some umps who can see the ball.)
But next time it may be different.
Maybe he hits a slow grounder that’s bobbled in the infield and he’s safe at first. Maybe the blind ump calls it right for a change. Or maybe he actually connects for a solid hit.
It’s baseball, after all.
And until the end of the season, there’s always another game. And another. And another.