Kid’s Got Game



There was no doubt who I’d be rooting for when I arrived to watch Drew, my ten-year-old grandson play in a baseball game.  It was a first for me so I wasn’t sure what to expect as I settled into a chair behind a chain link fence, just a few yards away from first base where he was positioned.  He observed my presence, but offered no acknowledgement:  He was all business, nothing personal,

Now, ten-year-olds playing baseball leave much to be desired.  You might say that their efforts merely resembled baseball.  The “rules” confirm that.  No more than five runs can be scored in any one inning; pitchers are limited to thirty-six pitches and the game ends after six innings.

If this particular game was any indication ten-year-old pitchers have considerable difficulty throwing the baseball anywhere near the plate.  As a result the umpire must be exceptionally tolerant when defining the strike zone.  As it was, game “action” primarily consisted of a procession of walks and strikeouts.  Batters did on occasion make contact, but that’s when other problems surfaced.  Fielders were notably limited in their ability to field.  A majority of ground balls were bobbled while fly balls became unpredictable adventures for the outfielders.  Furthermore, runners reaching first inevitably made it to second base on “steals.”  Still there were positive interludes.  Every so often ground balls would be fielded cleanly and thrown to first for the out.  One or two fly balls actually were caught (although, in one instance, the outfielder seemed truly startled when the ball somehow landed in his outstretched glove).

Noteworthy also was the manner in which players conducted themselves, reproducing postures and gestures clearly derived from watching major leaguers.  They crouched expectantly and pounded their gloves while awaiting the pitch and a possible play coming their way.  They blurted out encouraging words of infield chatter, and whipped their bats energetically just before stepping into the batter’s box.  Prior to the start of each half inning, infielders tossed the ball around with flair and finesse, even practiced executing double plays (a highly improbable happening during the actual game).

Now for the most pleasant surprise – my grandson.  No, he wasn’t ready for a call-up to the Majors, but he acquitted himself exceptionally well.  At the plate he made contact all three times at bat, in one instance hitting the ball well into the outfield.  (He also “hit the deck” most expertly when a pitch came perilously close to his head.)  He fielded his position flawlessly, made an accurate throw to the plate on a relay from the outfield and slid gracefully into third on a hit ball.  Because pitchers are rotated after 36 pitches, he was sent to the mound in “relief” where, unlike his predecessor who couldn’t locate the plate, he was on target, walked no one, and struck out several.  Not a bad day’s work I’d say (though you may choose to discount some of this scouting report, given my connection to the subject).

Two final observations.  Sitting nearby me was the father of one of the ten-year-old players who was experiencing total futility at the plate, swinging and missing time and again.  The father took him aside and urged him to keep his weight back, lock in on the ball, head still, etc.  Comes his last time at bat Raymond is at the plate, with the bases loaded.  As usual he swings and misses – strike one.  Strike two follows – predictably a swing and a miss.  I’m feeling terrible:  the father appears resigned to yet another failure, a third strikeout.  Then the miracle.  The pitch arrives, Raymond takes a healthy cut, makes contact and sends the ball bouncing through the infield.  Raymond has his hit and rbi’s.  I applaud loudly and offer congratulations to Raymond’s dad, obviously relieved and elated at this unexpected turn of events.

As I’m leaving, another game is underway on an adjoining field.  These kids are older, sixth graders I’m told.  Quite a difference.  The pitches are coming in hard and on target, batters swinging and making solid contact.  It seems close to the way baseball should be played.

So, now I have something to look forward to.

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