Sunday, July 26, 2009
It would be perfectly understandable, after five baseball tournaments and never progressing past the semi-finals, if Abe started to get discouraged. He's been playing baseball nonstop since February, first with his regular league team, and then this summer with All Stars, and now with his tournament team, the Thunder. We're at tournaments most weekends, and some weekdays too. And when they don't have games, they're practicing, up to three times a week. More for Abe if you count the two weeks of baseball camp and a couple of extra private sessions. They've won games, many games, but they've never won it all. Despite all the hard work, the excellent coaching, and the deep pool of talent, they seem to always lose in the semis.
Today, though, I witnessed something really hopeful, something way more important than getting to the finals. Something I'd been waiting to see. The Thunder came back from being down 1-3 to tie the game and then win 4-3 with a walk-off single in the bottom of the sixth. I was so proud of them all, and their perseverance. It would be so easy at age 10 or 11 to get discouraged when you're down by a few runs. But today they stuck with it, battled hard, and won the game that deservedly landed them in the semis. I jumped up and down on the metal bleachers, screaming "I'm so proud of you THUNDER! Way to stick with it". I'm pretty sure Abe was too busy celebrating with his team to notice his kooky mom. At least I hope.
Abe didn't hit well this weekend. I didn't keep close track, but he did of course. "Four pop-ups today, Mom" he said as we got in the car. "All I needed was a ground-out (his specialty) to bring in a run, but I couldn't even do that." I reminded him that last week he was striking out a lot and that he didn't strike out once this weekend. He battled up there, forcing the pitchers to throw him a lot of pitches. Sometimes runners even advanced. And he really excelled at catcher in his first full-running tournament. But he's not satisfied.
Let me be clear --while he's not happy about his hitting, he's neither tired nor discouraged. If anything he's even more motivated. His first words, upon leaving the dugout after the 9-1 loss in the semis, were "Can we please go to the batting cages? I really want to work on my hitting." He was enthusiastic, almost cheerful, despite the loss not 10 minutes earlier.
And tonight, after returning from a marathon wii baseball tournament with friends, he walked in the front door and immediately asked Paul to throw him some wiffles in the backyard.
He's in a great mood, full from all the baseball (the wins and the losses) and fun times with great teammates. No, he's not discouraged...he just wants to get back out there and play.
Even as I type, he's standing in the living room throwing phantom pitches, and demonstrating the full concept of a "balk" to Paul. And I just heard them make a plan to hit the batting cages at 7:30am tomorrow. Abe's not an early riser, so this is serious.
I was talking with another parent this week about how baseball is really a metaphor for life. Whether they win or they lose, these kids are learning so much about working hard at something they love, about learning from and then letting go of mistakes, about supporting a teammate in a slump or in a streak, and about respect for their coaches, the umps and their opponents. I never played on a team as a kid, but I think if I had I wouldn't have been so afraid to mess up every once in a while. I might have learned to persevere even if I wasn't particularly good, just because I loved it. Abe is good, but what matters even more to me is that he loves this game and he keeps asking for more opportunities to play.
I'm afraid to break it to him that he starts basketball camp tomorrow.