Yesterday was the end of the season for my daughter. This was her first season of America's Pasttime -- the low-stress variety, or as it is commonly known, t-ball.
I should explain that where we play, t-ball isn't really "t-ball." For us, it's more like Coaches Pitch baseball. Precious little attention is paid to runs or errors. Even outs are a little superfluous at times.
Picture a five-year-old girl with a batting helmet that is one size too big, standing with a bat, trying to hit the spongy white ball tossed toward her by her coach. In truth, at times it becomes more of a test for the coach to hit the kid's bat than for the batter to struggle to make contact with the ball. If after 6 or 12 or 185 pitches the coach is unable to strike the child's bat, then and only then is the tee pulled out to hold the ball while the batter then attempts to hit the now-stationary baseball. And after pointing the child in the right direction and offering an encouraging word or two, the coach then watches the batter swing and miss about half a dozen more times before the ball is accidentally hit onto the field of play. Then everyone yells, "RUN!" and the batter drops the bat and runs -- often to first base, but sometimes it takes a few times to get the batter to the right base. Then the next batter steps in...
It's actually fun for the kids and mostly for the parents as well. There aren't many "little league parents" who think their kid is being scouted by the Dodgers or anything. But it's hard for those of us who had already "graduated" out of t-ball to get used to players who like to leap on the ball and tackle it rather than catch it, pick it up and throw it.
That's why I have a special respect for t-ball coaches. These poor souls are either the sweetest, most patient people on earth, or they are incredibly stupid to sign up for this. At one game, I happened to be walking toward the concession stand as I passed the other team's dugout. I heard the opposing coach actually telling her players, "We don't wear our baseball mitts on our face!" I never would have thought to tell them that, but I don't have the expertise that these coaches have.
But the people I learn the most from are the t-ball players themselves. I watched one day as a player tried to pull a bat through the chain link fence. He tugged and tugged, placing hit foot against the fence to brace himself and get a little more leverage. It still wouldn't move. Then the coach showed him that he had to pull it out from the other side of the fence. The player learned that the bat is bigger at one end than at the other. Sometimes we all miss the obvious stuff.
But these five, six, and seven-year-olds look at the game differently. And who is to say they aren't right?
Here are the top ten lessons I learned this season from t-ball players:
1) You always hit the ball harder and better if you warm up by hitting the ground in front of you with the bat repeatedly before the pitcher pitches. You get bonus points for hitting home plate with the bat as many times as you can also.
2) The pink bat works better. I don't know why. It just does.
3) The ball itself has little to do with the actual game.
4) The best part about playing the infield is that there are all kinds of cool rocks to look at.
5) The best part about playing the outfield is that there is lots of grass to pick and throw in the air.
6) Batting helmets are amazing inventions. You can hit yourself in the helmet with a bat over and over and over again and never feel a thing!
7) When running from one base to another, keep at least one hand on your helmet at all times. If your helmet falls off, you lose.
8) If the batter hits it to the outfield, the job of the outfielder is to recruit four or five other kids and race to the ball. Then you jump on the ball. After a two-minute wrestling match for control of the ball, the winner either throws it further into the outfield or runs with the ball to the nearest base and steps on it. (The base, not the ball.)
9) If a batter is having a tough time hitting the ball, it is perfectly acceptable for fielders to lay down on the ground, throw rocks into the outfield, or draw pictures in the infield dirt.
10) A trip to the restroom is always more important than anything else you might be doing on the baseball field.
Oh yeah, and one more:
11) We don't wear our mitts on our faces.
Hey, you never know when that advice will come in handy.