Earlier today my son Emmett had his second game as a member of the Laguna Niguel Orioles, a Class A team out here in Southern California.
The game was held at a field in Irvine. I served as the first base coach, and I began chatting with the other team’s first baseman, a kid named Mason. He’s 8.
Mason is a lovely child. Chipper. Optimistic. Fun. Whenever one of our players reached first, he’d be greeted warmly by Mason. He also happened to be a very good player. Not amazing, but better than solid.
Anyhow, at the end of the first inning I asked Mason whether his father was in attendance. He pointed to a man on the bench, so I walked over and complimented him on his son’s demeanor. “Such a nice boy,” I said.
The guy sorta grunted. Clearly, he wasn’t interested.
The following inning, Mason was back at first. This confused me, because on our team (and all other teams I’ve seen) players rotate positions. It’s an excellent way to gain experience all over the diamond, and certainly makes the games more fun. I asked a nearby parent whether the players move around. “Yes,” the man said, “except for first base.” It turns out Mason’s father leaves his kid at first, because he’s the best player and catches the most balls.
That struck me as pathetic. But what really bothered me was the dad’s behavior following our exchange. The next inning, when Mason chatted with one of our kids, his dad would yell, “Mason, pay attention to the ball!” He also repeatedly insisted Mason stand on the X he’d drawn in the sand a few feet from the bag. “Mason, where’s your X?!” he’s shout for all to hear.
Mason would glumly move toward the letter.
It was just so … sad. One day, maybe Mason will wind up playing for the Los Angeles Dodgers.
More likely, thanks to pops, is he’ll come to hate the game.