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Baseball.

My boys love it. It’s their thing and although they are only 4 and 9 years old they both seem to have a talent for it. In my opinion, as a parent, this makes watching their games much more easy and enjoyable. I like to see my kids succeed. What parent doesn’t? But success can look much different depending on which side of the field you are on.

baseballA few nights ago both boys had a game for the Fall Ball season. Eli (4), Tee-ball, which is pretty much ridiculous to watch. The coach is out on the field basically trying to herd 12 cats for an hour. It’s hilarious. Each kid gets a million 5 pitches and if they still miss they use the tee and can swing a million times  until they hit the ball more than 2 feet and run to first base. They all will have the chance for two at bats and mostly no one ever gets out. It’s pretty much an hour of watching a bunch of tiny narcissists, waving at the crowd while receiving praise for not peeing in their pants on the field while either playing in the dirt or running and tackling one another to be the kid to get the ball. The perfect foundation for baseball aptitude.

*sigh*   At least Eli enjoys it.

Dominic (9) plays Minor Ball, which is much more about competing. There are the kids whose parents are recording every practice and game boasting of their uber athletic 10 year old’s prospects for college in 8 years. Absurd. Kids begin to pitch full games at this age. There is a lot more pressure to win. To succeed. To be honest at this age baseball can start to become NOT fun depending on which league, team, or coach you play for. Thankfully Dominic has had some fantastic coaches since starting at age 6.

Dom also had a game that night. He pitched for the first two innings. He did wonderful. He was poised, controlled, and strong. I definitely had a few proud momma moments. I enjoyed watching those innings.

Fall Ball is not quite as competitive as Spring and Summer Ball. Fall Ball is usually a much smaller league due to so many kids going out for football so the Fall is used as a teaching season. A season for newbies to experience the sport and see if it’s something they want to pursue…but sometimes coaches can forget this.

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Most Coaches want to win. They want their team to feel like winners.  They want the best team. They want success. But sometimes what they are recognizing as the best athletically is not the most successful lesson they can teach their team. Having experience in being a coach I’ve learned that success is more than winning. Sometimes success is in the failing, the learning, the trying, and the loving.

Enter, Abigail.

Abigail was on the opposing team that night. The only girl on either team.  She is adorable, with long blond hair, glasses and a sassy, yet sweet attitude. She is brave. Confident. Quirky. She is also a terrible pitcher.

ball fieldNow, now, don’t get upset with me. I admire this girl so very much (and her coach) for trying to pitch. She went out there and gave it her all. I found myself cheering her on from across the field (to the chagrin of the parents on our side) hoping against hopes she would get a strike out…or at least a ball across near the plate. I treasured that every time she returned to the mound after running to retrieve the ball that bounced off her glove from the returned pitch, that she would circle it twice and awkwardly reset, concentrating all the while on the batter in the batter box. Her wind up was endearing as she would jerkily reach back… and up… and to the side with no hesitation or iota of smoothness and finally releasing the ball into a perfect arching rainbow that lacked any focused direction or enough velocity to reach the plate.

But the whole time she was smiling. It was a smile full of radiance. Bright. Full of joy. The kind of smile that is full of might, adoration, and confident belonging. A journey of fun. Enjoyment.

Success.

Her team rallied around her. These 10 boys. They started walking and handing the balls to her that inevitably seemed to continue to miss her glove. She must have pitched that ball at least 50 times during that inning and missing the return pitch consistently. They played hard anytime one of our boys got a hit off of the coach standing in for his obligatory pitches. They knew she was terrible. But they encouraged her anyway.

Success.

Our team? Not so much. I was embarrassed. Fuming at what some of the boys were saying in the dugout as well as the comments from the parents on the bleacher behind me. Mostly though I was overwhelmed by this little girl’s tenacity. Her heart. A parent yelled to her son who was at bat and had attempted to swing at one of Abigail’s pitches, “Boy, Don’t you dare swing at those pitches.” I wanted to turn and yell, “Don’t you see the beauty that is happening right in front of you?! Don’t you see it?!” I didn’t though. I held my tongue.

Success.

After the game as I waited for Dominic to come out of the dugout I saw Abigail run off the field to her Momma shouting, “I got to pitch Momma! They let me try! I was a pitcher!” I wanted to run up to that sweet child and hug her and tell her how proud of her I was…But I saw her Mom and Dad were already doing so.

Success.

hand holdingDominic came out of the dugout and met my eyes. I could see he was wrestling with telling me something. I asked him if he had fun. He nodded. I mentioned he had a great night of pitching, he looked at me sideways and slipped his hand into mine. We walked in silence behind some of his teammates who were chatting about the game as we headed to the concession stand for him to get his free “after game beverage.” As we turned and continued toward the entrance of the ball park, him sipping his cold drink, me trying to figure out what to say about what happened during that inning, Abigail walked by and ahead of us. Some boys behind us laughed and made some rude remarks. Dominic put his hand in mine again and we continued walking. Dominic whispered to me before we reached our van, “Abigail doesn’t know how to pitch, but she knows how to be brave.” I answered back, “You’re right. I love you.”

Success.

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