First tee

Though I’d love to be playing golf on this beautiful Sunday afternoon, this blog post has nothing to do with being on the links. While I hope to get a few rounds in the summer – and perhaps take Grace along, simply to introduce her to the game – we’ve got other kinds of tees to think about.

Yes, the long-awaited tee-ball season is here. Grace has talked about it with regularity after I first brought up the possibility of playing several weeks ago, and I – of course – have been eager to get her on the diamond, vowing at the same time that I wasn’t going to push her too hard. After all, I don’t want my 5-year-old to have lingering anger at her coach/dad after we leave the baseball field and head home.

Yes, I will be Grace’s first baseball coach, and I wouldn’t  (nor she) have it any other way. After taking part in such activities as gymnastics and dance, this creates the opportunity for some serious father-daughter bonding. And that’s what took place for a joyous half-hour or so yesterday, a couple of hours after our downpour; Dad and Grace playing catch, with G breaking in her borderline-too-cute purple and pink glove that she picked out at Center Sports earlier in the afternoon. She had a few nice grabs, a lot of misses, some strong throws, a few pretty errant ones and an awful lot of enthusiasm that prevailed through it all.

Here’s hoping that enthusiasm continues through our first game, which will be Wednesday at Centennial Diamonds. We’ll practice Tuesday – which will be interesting, as I’ve never led a baseball practice before, never mind being in charge of such a large group of 5-year-olds – and I’m eager to watch all 10 of our players hit and catch balls, and do what I can to teach them all to get better. I’ve got to give credit to Stacy Sauerbrei for putting together what appears to be a very useful guide of what skills to work on. While I know baseball and love the game, it should be extremely beneficial to have a small "coaching bible" for a resource.

I should add that this is not exactly my first coaching gig. When I was junior high, I helped out my old little league coach (who had the outstanding first name of Squire), but mostly threw batting practice when he went off to smoke a cigarette (and considering I have a vivid memory of Squire tossing batting practice with a smoke dangling from his lips, I couldn’t have been all that great at it). My real love above it all was keeping stats for the team, and constantly showing Squire who was leading the team in certain categories. This love for baseball’s numbers has carried over today into my playing of online fantasy baseball. Last year, for the first time, I finally emerged as league champ, earning a nice little stipend for my efforts. This year, though, I’m mired in the basement, and at the moment am deadlocked with Globe sports king Aaron Hagen in a clash between ninth- and 10th-place squads.

There will be no stats of any kind in tee-ball, which I should note is a Worthington Area YMCA program. Each youngster hits in every inning, and everybody gets to stay on base whether they’re put out by opposing fielders or not. There will no ERA, for obvious reasons, and I won’t even bother to keep track of errors because I’ll expect plenty of them at this level. And, of course, no score will be kept. It will be purely for fun, and that’s exactly what it should be for (so hopefully there will no clashes with overzealous sports parents … yet).

Our team was assigned the name "Nationals," who people who follow baseball probably know are in last place in the National League East. But while our fine group of boys and girls may have a less-than-emblematic-of-winning team name, we will not be deterred by a mere moniker. We’ll hit, run, catch and throw, and have a good time doing it. We tee off our first game at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday. And here’s another thing I look forward to and remember very fondly from my young baseball days – treats will almost certainly follow.

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