She is 10 years-old and her ball uniform is black and white and crisply new.
Her curly ponytail peeks out from behind a baseball cap and her steely blue eyes are barely visible behind her pitcher’s helmet.
She leans back, does her windup and, finally, sends the ball hard and fast across the plate.
“Strike,” the umpire yells in his ‘don’t argue with me’ voice.
The crowd and all the grandmas in it cheer in agreement.
Once again, she leans back, does her windup and sends the ball flying across the plate.
“Ball,” the umpire yells in the same ‘don’t argue with me’ voice.
The crowd, and all the grandmas in it, groan. The coach (her dad) chews his gum faster.
He is eight years-old and wears no uniform, only a T-shirt and blue jeans. But he looks good, like a real ball player, only in miniature. He stands ready on third base, banging his left hand into his ball glove, his eyes, the kind of blue that has to be borrowed from the summer sky, on the batter, who happened to be his six-year-old brother.
His brother hits the ball, connecting with a great smack that seemed to vibrate through the stands.
The crowd watches, including all the grandmas, breathless as the ball soars up, up, and up, high into the summer sky, finally coming down to land with a resounding plop in the third baseman’s glove.
The batter is out, but he rounds the bases anyway, his smile never leaving his face.
“You hit it, you run,” the coach (his dad) told him. And so he does.
I love it. Ball season. And sitting in the stands, watching this generation learn the basis of the game is like instant sunshine for me.
I’ve heard it said the young people of today don’t get out much. I’ve heard it said the younger generation is all about keeping their eyes glued to some sort of screen and letting their fingers doing all the talking as they text, instant message and play on snap chat.
But, I beg to differ.
Kids still want to play. They want to run and jump and be part of the big game of life. They don’t want to just sit on the sidelines and watch.
Unfortunately, sometimes they don’t realize that’s what they want to do. They need some encouragement. A gentle push.
That’s where the dad, or sometimes the mom, comes in.
Because when your dad or your mom happens to be the coach, social media doesn’t stand a chance.
You play ball!
Hearing the staccato crack of the bat, sliding into home and racing to catch a fly ball that is a mere dot against the sky is no different today than it was back in the day when grandmas such as myself were participants instead of spectators.
And I’m willing to bet that these kids are not a lot different either.
For me, softball is my sport of choice. And it’s probably the very best way that I can think of to wisely waste the hours of a summer evening.
And when I think back, way back, to the days of my youth, I remember my own coach. I never really thought of him as a coach, just as my dad. But, looking back, I realize that what he taught me has been passed on to the next generation.
He taught me the love of the game.
It’s important. And at the end of the day, it’s probably the most important rule there is.