Saying goodbye to baseball

My husband loves to play baseball. He’s a great player, he’s a good coach, and he loves to come home from work and throw the ball with Harrison.

But we’ve been overseas on a military base for the past three years. The translation? Coaches come and go from one season to the next, there is no established program for the kids to work through, and it’s been three years of going through the motions with very little skill growth. No batting cages, camps, and certainly no off-season playing. Harry was a good player in Germany. But that was Germany.

We move to Vegas and suddenly Harry is surrounded by 11 and 12-year-olds who have been playing club ball and travel ball, many of them do it nine or ten months out of the year. These kids are good, they’re competitive, and they’re part of very established programs. Nine and ten-year-olds who can pitch over 55 mph? It’s like watching a mini-spring training camp.

My kid still thinks baseball is a fun after school team activity where you get a treat after the games.

Last weekend we had tryouts for the local teams. Every kid gets placed but they have to go through a series of drills in order to see where they’re playing skills fall.

Jason worked with Harrison so much the weeks before, nights at the batting cages and afternoons at the park doing grounders and fly balls, Harrison does pretty well when it’s him and his dad.

But you put him on a field with kids his age and you’d think the boy had never worn a batting glove. Everything flies out the window. I asked him after tryouts, “So what goes through your mind when you step into the batters box?”

“Nothing,” he said.

“Nothing? Like what do you mean?”

“I mean my mind goes completely blank. I just…think nothing.”

And that was exactly how it looked. My poor kid, during the very first drill where they were fielding grounders he hurt his index finger on his right hand. When he tried to show Jason and me we told him to get his butt back out there. Harry is historically a total baby when it comes to sport injuries, at almost 12 he needs to learn to shake it off. (Unfortunately we discovered by the next morning his injury was legit and warranted a trip to quick care and a finger brace.)

The rest of the day was a colossal disaster. I’m serious, he was the only kid who couldn’t hit off the pitcher, even when the guy started lobbing baby pitches at him. He couldn’t field, he couldn’t run…I sat in the bleachers and felt like I might lose my lunch on his behalf. His shoulders continued to droop lower and lower and I could see what little 6th grade self-esteem he has managed to hold onto completely dissipate in the hot Las Vegas sun.

Jason was sick about it. “What happened to him?” he asked me that night in the car during our date. “When I play with him he does alright. He’s not a star athlete but we have fun and he’s can hit the ball and has a great arm. Out there…my son can’t play baseball.”

There is something to be said for the hopes of a father. Whatever they are, academic dreams or athletic hopes or musical genius…when you want to see your child succeed at something and they fail it’s so personal. It’s a natural response to feel like you must have failed them, not given enough or nurtured their ability along. Sure, we shouldn’t feel that way. Sure, we’re not supposed to put pressure on our kids to please us. Sure, kids need to find their own paths and not be parent puppets.

But letting go of that hope is a tangible thing and I feel for every parent out there who has had to make that shift. Bless his heart, my husband did it with love and only an evening’s worth of heartsick regret.

The next day the head of the baseball association called to say that Harry had been placed on a team in the league below him. They were worried about his safety and frankly, so were we. Harrison was willing to play, wanted to go through with it despite his horrific tryout experience.

But sometimes you have to show your kid that a shift is okay with you. It’s a lot of pressure on a child to tell their parent that all the hours and all the money they’ve put into a sport has been wasted because really, they just want to paint.

That afternoon Jason sat Harry down and put his arm around him. “So,” he said. “Mom and I have been talking and since baseball hasn’t started yet, we’re wondering if maybe you’d rather do golf this year? We found a really great program just up the road…” Five minutes is all it took.

Our boy needed to know it was okay, that he wasn’t letting his dad down. I could see it in his eyes, the worry that Jason would be disappointed or feel like he’d wasted his time with Harrison. He tried to say that no, he wanted to play baseball but it was so obvious that he was really just gauging his dad’s reaction, looking to see if that was the answer Jason wanted. What Harrison really needed was confirmation that it was really, honestly okay to let it go.

Jason gave Harry permission to not be a baseball player.

Best dad ever. They can’t wait for him to start golf tonight.


  1. Epic Dad moment right there. Awesome!