Baseball Is Getting a Little More Confusing
Baseball Is Getting a Little More Confusing
The thirteen- and fourteen-year-old seasons can be unsettling for youth baseball players…and their parents. Those are the age groups when many players leave the game of their own accord to pursue other interests. Those age groups are the beginning years of players leaving the game because they are not chosen for their school teams.
In this scene Rooster, Dean Ford, and Brad Baker (our narrator for the Coach Dave journey) attend a fall-league game with their sons. Rooster notices the change of dynamic and acknowledges that “baseball is getting a little more confusing.” Perhaps you can relate to this parent’s dilemma.
A Coach Dave Season Three Excerpt: “Baseball Is Getting a Little More Confusing”
Dean Ford, Gary “Rooster” Hamilton, and their sons joined Rob and me at the Southburg Yankees’ first fall league game. The Southburg Baseball League complex seemed unusually quiet after such a full summer of baseball. Only two games in the entire complex were preparing to start when we arrived for the Tuesday night game.
The Yankees were warming up on the third base side of the field. The other dads and I stopped at our customary spot along the outfield fence in short left field. We saw that Coach Fletcher Brandt had gone all out in outfitting his team. Their white uniforms with navy pinstripes with a sewn-on Old English S had to have cost a pretty penny for such a short fall schedule. Fletcher was obviously thinking beyond the twelve-game fall.
“Look, there’s L.C. and Jesse.” Rob pointed to his summer teammates taking ground balls together near the second base bag.
“Hey, isn’t that Bo?” I asked, surprised. “I thought he was going to concentrate on soccer this fall.”
“I meant to tell you about that,” Rob said. “Coach Fletcher called him this week and told him that a lot of his friends were playing. Kinda put a guilt trip on him. Bo agreed to play without checking which friends Coach Fletcher was talking about. His dad agreed to pay for him to play, so Bo didn’t feel like he could back out. He’s not very excited about playing, though.”
Jimmy Garrison and Cody Trimble, warmed up with the team, along with several others who had played with Rob on the all-star team. I didn’t recognize some of the players. “Who are the new guys?”
Bryce Ford said, “Number 12 and number 23 are the Sanders twins. They’re in eighth grade, and they were both on the middle school team last year. They both play outfield. They’re the only two seventh graders who made the team last year, so all the other spots will be open. The eighth grade doesn’t have a lot of athletes, so I think all of us seventh graders are going to have a pretty good shot at making the team.”
“What about the big kid warming up to pitch?”
“That’s Keith Rankin,” Bryce said. “He lives in Harrisville. He played on a travel team this summer, so we didn’t play against him. Their middle school team isn’t very good, but they will be able to beat just about anybody when he’s on the mound. He throws about eighty.”
“Eighty miles an hour in eighth grade?”
“Yep, a young eighth grader, at that. Throws a pretty good curve, too, when he can control it.”
Rob interrupted, “Heck, Bryce, you probably throw close to eighty in seventh grade.”
“I wouldn’t know. Dad thinks it’s more important to concentrate on hitting spots and changing speeds than how hard I throw.”
Dean smiled. “That’s right, son. The bottom line is getting batters out, right? If you can learn to do that without having to throw breaking balls before your body says it’s time to throw them, you’ll be that much better when you do start throwing ol’ Uncle Charlie.”
Rooster had been unusually quiet to this point, probably ill at ease showing up to one of Fletcher Brandt’s team’s games. Though his disapproval of Brandt’s win-at-all-costs mentality had been quite public, Rooster still felt the sting of David Wayne’s failure to garner an invitation to play on the team. He appeared to be processing the changing dynamic of baseball in Southburg.
He finally spoke. “David Wayne, you wanna go get the boys something to eat?” He handed his son a twenty-dollar bill and watched them march toward the concession stand.
Turning back to us, he said, “Baseball is getting a little more confusing for some of the boys.”
Reading between the lines, Dean asked, “For you, too, Rooster?”
“Yeah, I reckon. I mean, I wouldn’t have wanted David Wayne to play for Fletcher anyway, but I’m wondering if the boys who are on his team will have an advantage over the ones who aren’t when it comes time for tryouts.”
“It’s only twelve games,” I said. “How much difference could twelve games make?”
“I wish it was that simple, Brad. But you’ve got to consider all the practices they’ll get on top of that. And you can look at the uniforms that Brandt bought and know that he’s not just picking up some guys for a quick little fall league team. I hear he’s gotten permission to use the old furniture warehouse on Miller Road for an indoor facility. It’ll be a year-round deal. And you can take that to the bank.”
“I guess I hadn’t played it out that far,” I said.
We watched the beginning of the game in silence. The Yankees looked crisp in the field, getting a one-two-three inning against the team from Lincoln County.
Dean broke the tension. “Perspective, fellas. Remember what Coach Dave is always saying, that who our boys become is more important than what they become. Do you really want your sons under Fletcher’s influence?”
“No,” Rooster countered, “but you don’t have to worry about whether or not Bryce will make the middle school team, even as a seventh grader. Rob and David Wayne and most of the other boys aren’t shoo-in’s like Bryce.”
“I get that, Rooster, but would putting your kid under Fletcher’s influence be worth his making the middle school team?”
“I just wish there was another alternative,” I broke in.
Catch up on the Coach Dave series:
(Especially is baseball is getting a little more confusing for you and/or your young baseball player. The Coach Dave series attempts to bring some perspective to a game that was invented for fun and exercise.)
About Al Ainsworth
Al Ainsworth is a values storyteller. He works with individuals, businesses, churches, and other organizations to pass along their values through the stories they tell…and re-tell. Al is the author of Lines in the Gravel (and 52 Other Re-Told Childhood Tales), Stories from the Roller Coaster (of a Faith Life), and Coach Dave: Season One. Subscribe to his email list for more values storying.