When Major League Baseball kicked off the 2016 season, my sons insisted we watch the San Jose Sharks game instead of the Oakland Athletics’ game 2. I immediately questioned all genetics.
But still, I could tell there was minor improvement and enhanced interest occurring on the diamond. Coach-pitch, albeit still in the t-ball category in terms of Little League division designation, showed some impressive development.
Among players rocking a uniform of high socks – the universal Little League standard for “these pants will totally fit for another season,” there is definite interest in how the game works this year.
Destroy: Did you know baseball is an old sport? It’s been played for a hundred million years. Except not by dinosaurs.
By the second practice, Coach revoked all of Destroy’s questioning privileges. Herding a dozen kindergarten Bad News Bears on the ball field clearly indicated that our Little League Angels coach was clearly looking for his own halo managing the coach-pitch crew.
Lesson 1: Throw the ball.
Throwing a ball takes great mental concentration: Step. Turn. Throw. But in coach-pitch, the series can often be a bit more malleable.
Bend elbow. Point at target. Look. FLING BALL HAPHAZARDLY.
Coach: Look where you’re throwing, just like when you walk. <Destroy walks into the fence> Well that explains that.
Really the kid takes great care to avoid athletic injury. He has not yet used his rotator cuff to assist with a single throw. Clearly there is still great need for practice; that said, I’m seeing shot-put scholarship potential here.
In any case, at any point on defense, there’s bound to be a delay in play shortly forthcoming. “Catcher” seems to be developing great talent for beaning the “pitcher.” I assume this will change when catcher and pitcher start being actual positions in the great American pastime as we’re more familiar with it?
Lesson 2: Field the ball.
Our coach consistently reminds the boys about the importance of being ready when playing the field. Because you just never know where that ball is going to go…
Before every inning, Coach asks all boys to show their ready position. Apparently the coach-pitch Angels are very ready to impersonate angry grizzly bears. Well…they’re certainly ready for something.
When Destroy is in ready position, the kid will not move from ready position. Not even for something as silly as ball hit his way. Ready but not really ready.
It occurs to me, as a spectator parent, that the coach-pitch pop fly drills are actually a perfect blend of WWE Smackdown and Lord of the Flies reenactment. (Wait, was that “Kill the Pig!” I just heard shouted from the infield.)
Often shortstop and third base cannot be bothered with the game due to a deeply involved mid-inning meeting. I shall just assume the topic is regarding a post-game snack.
Of course, not only position players come up with complex distractions.
Coach-Pitch Fellow Parent: Which one’s yours?
Me: The one performing a rousing encore of “Best Day of My Life” on the pitchers mound.
Occasionally, games may get momentarily exciting when a rogue skirmish of glove-tag thwacking breaks out. (A completely banned game on the school yard.) Obviously these occurrences would be a bit more sportingly brilliant if anyone had a ball…or if any runners from the opposing team had been to bat yet.
Never mind, the pitcher just ran off the field missing a shoe.
Lesson 3: Hit the ball.
Soon enough, it is our team’s turn at bat.
Team Mom: ARM THE MINIONS
Coach: <sighing> Can we have a well-behaved batting practice today?
May I remind you these are a gaggle of 5- and 6-year olds. Like a lion to its pride, crow to its murder, a coach-pitch baller to his chaos.
First up – it’s a swing and a miss off the tee. Coach then puts ball on tee to hit. (No coaches were harmed in the making of this at-bat.)
Coach then holds out hand to remind player to drop bat gently. Player high-fives Coach and swings wildly again. Danger Coach Pitch, Danger!
For those of you keeping score, go ahead mark all ADHD meds all worn off for No. 16 during his second at bat.
Despite the danger to the batting coach’s well being, our manager works hard to convince the gaggle of Angels fearing of nothing not to take one for the team (even inadvertently) themselves.
Coach to batters: If the ball is gonna hit you, get out of the way.
I promise, everyone is going to get on base in this division.
By the same token, “Don’t chase a bad pitch” is quite literal in coach-pitch Little League. Come back batter!
So we tried a new batting technique. I bought Search a batting helmet that actually fit him.
Search: <putting on new batting helmet> Hey!!! I can see the field!
Lesson 4: Run the bases.
Major Leaguers are often superstitious of stepping on the baseline. Coach-pitchers are apparently thwarted by touching an actual base. But I’ll give credit to finding the general base path area.
Then again, the omission may have just been anticipation of the delay in favor of the home team. Because the runner on first needs to pee. You know, it’s taken me 35 years to realize that big league ball players adjusting themselves at the plate is simply a lasting habit from the constant Little League potty dance.
In an unexpected twist to the game, the recently relieved runner on first beautifully pirouettes toward second. This kid’s going full circle!
Granted, you knew that ball was base-clearing the moment it left the pitcher’s hand because he was the last batter on the team’s bench and Coach yelled out to let everyone know, “Home run hitter! Run around all the bases!
Lesson 5: Enjoy the game.
Inevitably the post-game recap and sportsmanlike handshake with the opposing team will become a mosh pit. I’m actually rather impressed by the crowd-surfing dexterity of tiny tots.
Search: Do we have a baseball game today?
Search: Yay! That means we get snacks!
Coach: Guys! I need you to pay attention to the game! … To THIS game, guys!
Oh well. Tie game! Who brought snacks?