Sports

The purity of T-ball is what’s good about the national game

By CASEY OLSON

The Mirror

As an avid reader of sports pages from across America, I always have a hard time reading columns about the writer’s kids. It’s just not something that usually excites me enough to devote a couple minutes of my day to partake in the story.

So I have always tried to steer clear of constructing a column about my two sons. But this is a topic that I couldn’t resist writing a little something about. My oldest, 5-year-old Isaac, has started his first season of T-ball.

Talk about a proud papa.

And don’t get me wrong. I know there have been a lot more important milestones in his life. Things like saying his first word, taking his first step, his opening day of kindergarten and the most important of the bunch — adapting to the whole toilet being used for more than just a place to throw stuffed animals that cause it to overflow.

And there will be many more important milestones to come — graduating high school and college (hopefully), getting a job, getting married and having kids.

But watching him put on his baseball hat a little sideways and running onto a grass-filled diamond is also something I will remember for the rest of my life. It was so cool.

The game is just so pure for these 5 year olds.

Sure, the kids would rather squat on the grass and look for worms than hit their cutoff man or make a diving catch. They would rather chase butterflies than pop ups and just beam with pride after making contact with the ball.

But the kids are playing the game because it’s just plain fun and not for all the other factors that have made their way into youth sports. Things like pressure from parents, pressure from coaches, college scholarships or playing good enough to get picked for one of the numerous “select” teams that have popped up in the area.

Those are things that I’m not looking forward to if Isaac “chooses” to continue playing sports through elementary, middle and high school. As the sports editor of the Mirror, I am constantly getting calls from parents wondering why their kid isn’t in the newspaper.

“If you write a story about my (son/daughter), it will be easier for them to get noticed by college coaches,” is one I’ve heard multiple times. A statement that just isn’t true — guaranteed. I tell them that if your kid is good enough, they will get noticed, no matter how much ink they get in the local newspaper.

That just isn’t the case on the T-ball field. There is no talk about playing time, where my kid is hitting in the batting order or what position they are relegated to playing. Those just aren’t important. All the kids play the same amount, the batting order is put together on when the kids get to the field and they play every position on the field at some point.

It’s perfect.

And it doesn’t matter at all that his team will probably not make a legitimate out all season long on defensive side of the ball.

But who cares?

Not one of the 5-year-old kids that make up his team can honestly even catch a ball, let alone have the wherewith all to pick up a ground ball and throw it to first base before the runner gets there.

Sure, one of the kids might extend their tiny mitt and the ball will “accidently” find its way into the pocket. But what inevitably follows is amazement that the ball actually landed in their glove, followed by confusion of what needs to be done with the ball. The end result is usually parents volleying in from the stands, “Throw it to first, throw it to first,” and the kid holding onto the ball until the runner touches the base.

Hitting is another story. The boys and girls on the team are pretty advanced in that facet of the game because hitting is what they’ve been doing since they could pick up a Whiffle Ball bat.

There aren’t many 5 year olds out there who would rather work on defensive fundamentals rather than grabbing a metal bat and taking a few hacks off the tee.

So I’m just going to enjoy the purity of the T-ball game while I can. It’s not going to last long.

Sports editor Casey Olson: 925-5565, sports@fedwaymirror.com

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