02/28/2009 04:00PM, Published by Super Admin, Categories: In Print
I’ve been a backstop for a long time. The parks department put me up in ‘83. I’m 20 x 16 panelized feet of galvanized steel. I’ve seen a lot of kids playin’ ball and there’s nothing I love more. I guess you could say it’s my reason for being.
Over the years I’ve noticed that a few certain elements seem to be the keys to success for everything from boy’s hardball to girl’s softball – both of which I love, by the way. Hey, backstops don’t play favorites (and neither do the umps, but no one ever believes me on that one).
One: The parents gotta not only care, but care for the right reasons. If their six-year-old doesn’t poke a homer off the tee, they still oughta get a trip to the ice cream shop after the game. I’m happy to report, most parents get that. But I think the same should go for a 12-year-old. Yeah, they may look like a big-leaguer when they step up to the plate or onto the pitcher’s mound with their game face on, but in the dugout they’re still having burp contests and arguing over who would win in a fight, Batman or Spiderman. Come to think of it, so are a lot of the players in adult recreational softball leagues.
Two: Hopefully your kid is out there because they love the game, because there’s no doubt they’re out there because they love YOU. They want you to be proud of ‘em – even the little tyke doing the pee-pee dance in right field. Never stop letting them know how great you think it is that they lace up their cleats – even if they’re tying them on their own now.
Three: They’re learning a game – how to hit, throw, run it out to first, all that stuff. But they’re also learning life lessons like fair play, good sportsmanship and making a commitment to others. If you’re tryin’ to stack a team in the pre-season draft, or yellin’ at a 15-year-old ump for missing a call at second, or always missing practices or getting your kid there late, think about the message that sends. It sure ain’t one they’re gonna run on the scoreboard between innings at Pac Bell Park.
Four: Winning is great. It’s awesome. It makes me quiver right down to my anchor blocks. But win with class – clamp down on any smack talk or in-your-face celebrations (and that includes some of you parents in the stands). And while you’re at it, teach them how to lose with grace. Sure, it’s fine to kick a little dirt, but losing a little league game shouldn’t be anything that ruins a weekend, or even the ride home.
Five: Teach ‘em to support their teammates. Parents and coaches are one thing. But there’s nothing better to the ears (or heart) of a kid who just struck out for the fifth time in a row than to get some encouragement and a pat on the back from a teammate. When they finally do uncork one, it’ll be tough to tell who’s got the bigger smile.
Six: Countin’ on your kid to be the next Jenny Finch or Dustin Pedroia? Great, but don’t push ‘em too hard or else you run a real risk of burning them out or wearing them out before they even reach high school. Let your kid’s drive lead you...not the other way around. That’s not to say don’t push a little, but never let that push become a shove.
Seven: The most important – enjoy these moments. Once they’re gone, that’s it. You wanna come away with some great memories, right? Well, so does your child. Support, teach, and support some more. It’s pretty simple.
Oh, and don’t forget the ice cream. •
Catch Tom on the Pat and Tom Morning Show on New Country 105.1.