Sunday, July 8, 2012

Playing Catch

I don't have a very big backyard at my place.  The Org Wife and I do our best to take care of it over the spring, summer and early fall, with a nice selection of plant life keeping things colourful.  But the little patch of grass I try to maintain is probably small enough for Derek Jeter to be able to field softly hit ground balls across its entire range.

When you're five years old, though, your backyard, no matter how big or small, can feel like a massive universe of possibility.  For the oldest Org Kid, our backyard is on occasion a construction site; a farm; the surface of the moon or even a baseball diamond.  When he was about two, we got him a little plastic T-ball set -- the kind with the big oversize hollow plastic bat and balls.  It took him a year or so to be able to consistently belt those balls over the fence, and into or through the cluster of small trees at the back of the yard.  Home runs.

We graduated to me flipping light underhand tosses to him with the same toy bat and balls.  We weren't practising plate discipline by any stretch of the imagination.  Every pitch resulted in a swing, and after a while, some of them resulted in some pretty solid contact too.

Last year, the Org Kid played his first year of organized ball, or at least as organized as you can hope for from ten 4-to-5-year-olds loosely defined as a T-ball team.  We'd pack up our equipment and drive to hot, dusty diamonds for an hour of kids wildly chasing, throwing and swinging at rubberized softballs, followed by a treat for everyone.  His first year, the Org Kid wasn't very interested in anything but the treat.  This summer, he was far more energetic.

But T-ball season is short, wrapping up before vacations start, so now, to keep the baseball juices flowing, we're back to that undersized backyard.  We can't lay out bases to run or set up the tee, but we can do lots of other stuff.  Almost every night this past week, we've played catch.  The Org Kid seems to have finally settled on which hand he'd like to throw with -- his left. (And no, I didn't try to persuade him either way, even if I am mentally picking up my tickets to his MLB debut as a flamethrowing lefty.)  The fact that his glove is supposed to go on his left hand doesn't seem to bother him much.  He just flips it over and wears it on his right hand, catching balls I toss to him basket-style, with me urging him to always secure it with the other hand.

Tonight, after dinner on the patio, the Org Kid wanted to practice hitting.  We grabbed a bat and a practice ball and set up down the length of the yard.  "Bat up over your shoulder.  Eye on the ball."  I'd flip some underhand tosses, and the timing would slowly come along.

But I know that backyard isn't going to be able to hold him for long.  Certainly not forever.  He's already putting the tomato plants and herbs at risk.  Eventually, he'll figure out the swing that will let him hit it farther than the yard can hold.  I'd like to keep playing catch and hitting balls in the backyard with him for years and years, but one day it'll all just be too small.

For now, I'll enjoy playing on our little patch of grass out back, and maybe start getting his little brother involved too.  Oh, and I'll go find him a right-handed glove.


Bombastic Dave said...

Nice article. You sound like a pretty cool dad.

Anonymous said...

Very cool.

Brainojack said...

I'm so very happy that the name of the article wasn't 'Having a Catch'

Anonymous said...


Chill said...

Beautiful piece. Warms the cockles...even to the sub-cockles...

My oldest, now 8, has graduated from t-ball and coach pitch and is now playing his first year of rep ball. My wife can't play with him anymore because he throws too hard for her and our backyard is really only big enough to get his arm warmed up. Hitting wiffle balls is even out of the question. We're now endagering the neighbours cars out front. And I couldn't be happier.