This is a story about my 11 year old son, Nick, and a father’s pride.
I coached Nick’s Little League baseball team this year, and now that the regular season is over I’m coaching an 11-12 year old All Star team. Being the youngest on the team, Nick struggles with his self confidence even though he’s an excellent baseball player. He’s not the tallest player, but he’s faster and more athletic than many of his older teammates. Even so, he doesn’t want to take any risks or make any mistakes, and his insecurities often prevent him from performing at his best.
A few weeks ago in the league tournament Nick hit a ball against the fence, just short of going over. That was the closest he came all season to hitting one out, and was perhaps the first time he started to believe that it was possible. A few nights after our team was eliminated from the championship tournament, a kid hit a walk off grand slam with 1 out in the bottom of the 6th, down 9 – 6. Nick and I were there to watch it. I heard that the same kid hit one more out of the park later in the tournament. Those were very likely the only two over-the-fence home runs all year in our local league.
Sometime during tournament time, Nick’s baseball bat disappeared from the trunk of my car. I suspect he didn’t close the trunk all the way one night, and someone stole it during the night. The following week, in exchange for Nick agreeing to mow the lawn this summer, I bought him a shiny new baseball bat, a new bat bag, and new cleats to replace the old ones with holes in their toes. Nick was itching to play again so he could try out his new toys.
Fast forward to the all star team’s second scrimmage earlier this week. In his first at bat, Nick got walked (then stole second, third, and home over the course of the next few pitches). In his second at bat, Nick hit a hard line drive into the gap, and got to second with a stand-up double. It was just a scrimmage, there was no pressure, and Nick was feeling good about himself, perhaps even daring to feel confident in himself.
His third time at the plate, Nick crushed the first pitch well over the center field fence amid groans from the opposing team. There was a mixture of surprise and elation among the other players on our team. Some had never seen a player at this level hit a ball over the fence, and I even had to remind them that they were allowed to enter the field to greet Nick as he crossed home plate.
The excitement was soon forgotten as the game moved along, until Nick came up to bat again and everyone jokingly told him to hit another home run. And then, with two strikes, two out, and two on, he did it again!
It’s amazing how much difference a shiny new bat can make.