Tuesday, May 15, 2012

GoofBoy at the Plate

I cannot remember a baseball game that made me feel so good. Maybe it is because I am an Orioles fan, and even in their good years they often lost in the end (I was at the seventh game of the 1979 World Series when I was GoofBoy’s age – something like that stays with you.) Of course my own athletic endeavors were irrelevant – I was never any good or on a team that was any good.

When GoofBoy’s baseball team won on Sunday, it was big. They had won the week before, against a team that they clearly outclassed. Nice, since they’d lost their first two. But this game was different. The teams were evenly matched, if a ball was in play, it was fairly likely to result in an out. The other team jumped to an early lead. But GoofBoy’s team clawed back – a run here and a run there.

GoofBoy had been having trouble making contact. But he connected and got a single and his first RBI. Nice. Later he walked and scored the winning run.

In the field GoofBoy isn’t fast or flashy. But he is smart and observant. In the previous game, a coach had ordered him to slide into third. GoofBoy didn’t, explaining later to me that he had watched the other teams third-baseman who wasn’t tagging – just stepping on the base which only counts in a force play. I was impressed, but told him to listen to his coaches.

GoofBoy plays the responsible positions. The outfield, at this level, is mostly about back up and containing the damage. GoofBoy is always in the right place. He’s also at first base, which he handles with steadiness and he LIKES playing catcher. I “liked” playing left field because it made it extremely unlikely the ball would arrive in my zip code. I knew I would probably drop it if it got anywhere near me and that it was highly probable that it would hit me in the neck (this happened several times.) GoofBoy, on the other hand, can’t wait to get hold of the ball – he wants to be where the action is and is confident he is up for it when it comes.

On learning GoofBoy was catching, I reacted the only way I could. I handed him a book, a copy of Roger Angell’s book Season Ticket and told him to read “In the Fire,” which begins:
Consider the catcher. Bulky, thought-burdened, unclean, he retrieves his cap and makes from the ground (where he has flung them, moments ago, in mid-crisis) and moves slowly to his workplace. He whacks the cap against his leg, producing a puff of dust, and settles it in place, its bill astern, with an oddly feminine gesture and then, reversing the movement, pulls on the mask and firms it with a soldierly downward tug. Armored, he sinks into his squat, punches his mitt, and becomes wary, balanced, and ominous; hi sbare right hand rests casually on his thigh while he regards, through the portcullis, the field and the deployed fielders, the batter, the baserunner, his pitcher, and the state of the world, which he now, for a waiting instant, holds in play….
I am perhaps not the most useful father – reading enormous amounts about baseball did little to make me a good player – but it is all I have to offer (and awesome blog filler). GoofBoy has already surpassed me athletically in every possible way except brute strength – and that’s coming within five years.

When the GoofBoy’s team held onto their lead for the other side’s last ups the parents burst into cheers. Our team had triumphed over a team of little Jewish kids (although in fairness, since our time is a bunch of little Jewish kids too, I guess that still counts as awesome.) Every single kid had played a part in our victory – and we parents liked to think that we played a part as well.

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