Reflections of a Baseball Mom

Life lessons of an All-Star season

Photo Credit: Lisa Walton

On Wednesday night, my son’s 10u All-Star team lost a heartbreaker to [finally] end our baseball season.

After 18 (give or take a few) regular season Little League games, three rounds of playoffs, two weeks of All-Star practice, four games, including a championship victory in the Regional Tournament, more practice for Sections and three nail-bitingly close games in the Sectional Tournament, the season is over.

I’d be lying if I said the loss wasn’t hard–for us all. The game was so close. Our boys battled back repeatedly from multi-run deficits. The tying run was only 60 feet away from home plate when we recorded our final out. It was a tough loss to swallow.

But they had a great run! These boys played their hearts out night after night. They stayed focused and positive. They never gave up. I couldn’t be prouder of their effort.

There was no place they’d rather have been than on that baseball diamond. And there was no place I, or my fellow baseball parents, would rather have been than cheering them on.

Over these last few months, I’ve had many people ask me why we do it. Why do we let our son play at this level at only 9 years old? Why do we give so much time and energy to this game? And the rules that go with it? No swimming on game days or before practice. Mandatory daily practices in the grueling heat. No day trips or vacations until the end of July. And hours upon hours of baseball.

And my answer is simple: I can’t imagine not doing it.

My son LOVES this game. If he is not at an official practice or game, he is taking part in a home run derby, game of run down, or wiffle ball tournament in our neighborhood. And if there isn’t anyone to play with, he’s out there in the yard with a bat and ball practicing his swing by himself.

To not let him pursue his passion would be wrong. And definitely detrimental to the entire family. I can’t imagine how he’d fill his summer days without baseball. He might drive us all insane.

But, besides the joy that baseball brings to Kyle, this game is teaching him valuable life lessons. Lessons that make our family sacrifices worthwhile.

During this long season, I’ve had time to think a lot about baseball and the many things we can learn from America’s pastime. These are my reflections as a baseball mom.

It Takes A Village

Some of you may find it odd that I use the plural possessive when writing about my son’s baseball team. I don’t take any credit for what the boys do on the field. But this team is a family. The players, the coaches, the parents, the friends, the fans–we are all in this together.

A ten-year-old doesn’t make it to practice or games without a little help. Parents rearranged schedules to get boys to the field. Families arranged carpools to make sure everyone has a ride. Coaches went out of their way to pick up players. Just getting everyone to the fields, often in the middle of the day, takes commitment and coordination.

Then there is the uniform upkeep. My son had an almost absurd propensity to lose his belt and/or hat between games. Besides sewing on official patches and laundering pants and jerseys daily, I also had to collect and keep track uniform items. My obsessive organization saves us from frantic searches moments before we have to leave the house.

Then there’s the financial commitment. Registration fees, tournament fees, cleats, gloves, bats, helmets, pants… The costs keep adding up. Not to mention the endless supply of waters, Gatorade, sunflower seeds, and concession stand goodies to keep them fueled and hydrated. Plus, takeout on game nights when there’s no time to cook. And team pictures and posters and souvenirs… Supporting a baseball player is a full-time job. (Players, don’t forget to thank your parents).

But it’s one that I will gladly make as an investment in my son’s future.

My son is the one playing ball, but my entire family has a lot invested in this game. So, I don’t feel at all funny about using the collective “we” when I talk about the season.

Friends Can Make the Best Family

And it’s not only my family who provided this incredible support. Neither cold, nor snow, nor rain, nor scorching heat, can keep baseball fans from showing up and cheering for the boys. Not just their boys, but every single player on the team.

Over the course of the season these boys, this team, became ours. We learned their habits, their tendencies, their quirks and their tells. We could anticipate what they were going to do, often before they even knew themselves.

We were there to celebrate the highs and hug out the lows. To remind our boys that as much fun as it is to win, it’s in the losing that we learn. To encourage them to be their very best and to let them know that we are proud of them regardless of the outcome.

It wasn’t just players’ parents who showed up every night. The outpouring of support for this team from the entire community amazed me. Classmates and coaches turned out in droves to root for our players both at home and on the road. Former teammates, and their parents, neighbors, teachers, friends… We always had a full cheering section. Many thanks to everyone who came out to support our team.

Please Don’t Criticize the Coach

My son has been lucky to have had some amazing coaches during his short tenure in organized sports. And this year was no exception. Our coaches gave generously of their time, talent and love to this group of boys. These volunteers, mostly dads, but also grandfathers and uncles and diehard baseball fans, showed up day after day because they believe in the transformative power of baseball. And they believe in these little boys. For that, they deserve our gratitude and our respect.

Our coaches know the game of baseball. Throughout the season they worked tirelessly to share their knowledge with the boys. To instill good baseball habits. To teach mechanics. To make plays and smart decisions. To turn every boy into a better ballplayer than he was when the season started.

It’s easy to sit on the sidelines and criticize coaching decisions or second-guess strategic choices. Especially if we feel as though our child is being treated unfairly. But the coaches have spent hours observing these boys at practice in the sweltering summer heat. They have reviewed their performances well into the night. And talking through their options to make the best decisions they can. Decisions in the best interest of the team.

We all have the same goal here. We all want to win. And to have fun doing it. If something doesn’t work out the way we hoped, please cut the coaches a break.

The Best Things Happen When You Work “As A Team”

By far, the most important thing our boys learned this season was how to be a team. These kids genuinely care about one another. A fact that [I hope] will last long past the last pitch. They rooted each other on, offered support from the dugout, and lifted each other up. Each player did his best to be his best for the team.

Learning to be a team player is more important than numbers on a scoreboard will ever be. And that’s a lesson that our team aced.

Before each game our players chanted “As a team, As a team, As a team!” Win, lose, or draw, they promised to do it together. Recalling the sincerity with which they recited those words gives me goose bumps.

I want to thank the coaches for all their time, dedication, kindness, support, encouragement, experience, and positivity. This season left my son with an even greater love of baseball than he started with.

You Can Learn A Lot on the Bench

I wrote earlier that baseball is my son’s passion and for that reason alone I would let him play. But I can’t imagine another way for him to have learned nearly as much this summer as he learned by being part of this team.

Kyle is an excellent athlete. As the little brother, he’s been playing with the big kids all his life. This has helped him gain skills and confidence. Combined with his natural athletic ability, this makes him a respectable player.

He’s used to success on the field. As an 8-year-old, he played up in the 9–10 division and started every game. Most of them at second base.

He works his tail off to keep getting better every day. The best compliment he’s ever received from a coach, in fact many coaches, is that he so “coachable”.

This past year he was the starting shortstop, a pitcher, and a leader on his Little League team. But as a 9-year-old playing 10U All-Stars, he was not one of the best. He rode the bench this entire All-Star season, getting one at bat per game. I am not complaining about this. It is where he belonged, and we both know it. But this was a novel experience for my son. And he is better for it.

He learned that you have to earn your spot; no-one is entitled to anything. He learned that success takes time and each of us has to pay our dues. He knows his turn is coming and he will work all the harder for it. This season taught him patience and discipline. In a world used to instant gratification, this will serve him well.

He never once complained about his position. He made the most of his opportunities, going 4 for 5 with two walks. He recorded rbi’s, scored runs, and came up big when he got the chance to bat.

I know it wasn’t easy to watch his friends play his favorite game while he sat on the bench. He wanted to be on the field. But my son understood his role. I couldn’t be more proud of his attitude and determination.

Success Takes Sacrifice

This summer also taught him, and each one of his teammates, about sacrifice. Every boy on this team, 9 and 10 years old, gave up a big part of their summer to be part of something bigger than themselves. They skipped afternoons at the pool, sleepovers with friends, and family vacations. They gave their all to the game they love so much.

The boys had many opportunities to develop “soft skills” this season. Teamwork, discipline, and work ethic. Perseverance, communication, and time management. The boys practiced these skills that are so important in today’s world.

While it’s always sad to say goodbye, the memories of this experience will live on forever. These boys played some great baseball. They learned what it means to be a team. They learned how to win and lose graciously.

I can’t imagine a better way to have spent our summer.

Now I’ve got to go because it’s time for tournament practice.

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