Last week my son Austin had his very first little league game. Austin is 11 years old. Eleven is a little old these days to start little league. When I was a kid that was about the age, I started at 10. Kids start with tee ball at 5 or 6 now. I think the game is too hard to start that young.
This is also Austin’s first attempt at any team sport. I think the experience will be good for him. Unfortunately I’m not too excited about the league I signed him up for. The league is very unorganized and I’m not thrilled about the fields that Austin will be playing on.
The team he is on only started with 11 players on the roster. That number is now down to 9. That is not enough players. If one kid gets sick or has to leave town his team will forfeit the game. This is why I just about had a stroke on the way to Austin’s first game. The directions to the field I got from the league were so bad, I showed up ten minutes late. Let me tell you, this field was in BFE. It is a good thing it got dark and the field lights came on or I wouldn’t have found the place. Austin was the last player to show up. They had to start the game one player short. If we were 5 minutes later they would have forfeited. The coach had to be both pissed and relieved when we finally showed up.
On the way to the game I had a little talk with him about what to do in certain game situations. If he was lucky enough to get on base he would have no idea what to do, that is how new he is to this game. I tried to make it real simple for him. I told him just to listen to his base coaches, they would tell him what to do. I ended up being the first base coach that night. His coach had third base. We would have our hands full.
It was the top of the last inning. The game was tied 4 to 4 and Austin was leading off. Austin managed to get a walk. He didn’t realize it when it happened. The umpire had to explain 4 balls is a walk to him and that he was to go to first base. Nice. When Austin got to first I explained to him the situation, “OK, Austin you need to play it safe here. It’s a tie game. Don’t run unless it’s a wild pitch or the ball is hit.” Next pitch Austin runs half way to first and stops, realizing he wasn’t supposed to do that and runs back to first base. If the first baseman hadn’t dropped the throw from the catcher, Austin would have been out. I call time out and have a little heart to heart with my wanna be Rickey Henderson, “Did you hear a freaking word I said to you Austin? Play it safe!” Of course this all said in that quiet but firm voice that us parents use when we want to kill our kids but don’t want anyone else to hear us. I doubt there was a single parent or coach that didn’t know exactly what I was saying to my kid even though they couldn’t hear me.
“OK, Dad!” Austin said with an excited look in his eye that told me what I said just went in one ear and out the other.
Sure enough, the very next pitch, Austin is headed to second base. He should have been out, but his time the ball gets by the second baseman. Austin turns and looks at the ball. We are all yelling, “No Austin! Stop! Hold Up!” Austin is now on his way to third. This time he should be out by 15 feet, but no, the ball now gets by the third baseman. Austin turns and looks at the ball. “STOP AUSTIN, STOP!” Yea right, off he went. This time he was toast. Out by 20 feet.
They went on to lose 5 to 4.
I was genuinely pissed, but I couldn’t show it. The boys were just stoked that it was such a close game, or that they just got to play one. Although Austin screwed up, it didn’t seem to bother him, and he had a great time, which is what I want him to do, have a great time. But I am really torn about how I feel about this. There is an important lesson to be learned here and its not going taught. When I was playing ball, if I pulled a stunt like that my ass would be benched. This team has 9 guys. You can’t bench anyone. I think playing team sports is more than just “playing a game.” Austin disregarded what his coaches and teammates told him to do. He should be held accountable for that. Spending some time on the bench would be the only appropriate way to handle that. Its not like I can ground him at home for his screw up in a baseball game.