The end of baseball

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My son Emmett is 8. He plays on the Orioles out here in the local fall baseball league.

The kid has made himself an above-average player through work and repetition. He loves playing catch, so when he comes home from school we almost always find some time to stand in the street and throw back and forth. It’s become one of my favorite rituals. Emmett is at the age where he loves spending time with his dad. I’m at the age when I love spending time with my son.

Anyhow, the Orioles are awful, and Emmett’s the team’s second or third best player. I assumed he’d make the jump from A ball to Double A for fall—a natural progression, one would think.

Then, earlier today, I found something out.

Here in Laguna Niguel, Double A teams (usually ages 8-through-11) play a lot. Not just a lot. A lot a lot a lot a lot. They practice four days per week, for two hours per day, and also have two games per week. You either do this or, ultimately, your youth baseball career is done.

I am sickened.

Call me old fashioned, but I want Emmett to taste 100 items at the buffet. I want him to try baseball, basketball, soccer, running. I want him to do science and Legos and debate and climbing and … and … anything. Everything. I want him to develop into a well-rounded, well-versed guy; not some baseball-baseball-baseball cyborg.

I mentioned the Double A hours to Emmett earlier today and she said, kind of predictably, “I would never want to do that.” Which is sad, because I’m sure there are tons of kids here like Emmett—enjoy baseball, play well, but don’t want their existences to be defined by and devoted to the game. To me, it’s the warped way of American thinking in 2014: Be the best! Have to be the best! Must be the best! Which irks me to no end, because … well, if my kid’s gonna give all his time to something, it’s definitely not going to be hitting a white ball with a silver bat.

So he’s probably done.