JEFF PEARLMAN

Coming October 2022: "The Last Folk Hero: The Life and Myth of Bo Jackson"

Talking to the Red Sox

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My son Emmett is 8. This spring I’m the head coach of his little league baseball team. Our first game is in 1 1/2 weeks.

We had our third practice today. The kids are of varied levels of skill and experience. Tonight, while at the gym, I was thinking about what I’d like to tell the parents before our opening game. This is what entered my mind …

The odds of your kids ever playing in the Majors are approximately one in 1,000,000,000,000. And, truth be told, I’m not sure why so many parents want their kids to reach the Majors. I covered Major League Baseball for years, and while the glory can be amazing, it’s usually fleeting (average career length: 5.6 years) and filled with nightmarish ups and downs. The worst is the aftermath—and eternity of living off of what you were, but can never be again. I’m not saying Major League Baseball isn’t great. It is. But it’s also not the dream land you may well be envisioning.

You wanna know what is the dream land? Childhood. Being a kid. Being 8, when everything still looks big and shiny and amazing. When kids see adults as larger-than life; when stuff still feels fresh; when optimism reigns; when you’re unaware (or at least unconcerned) with death and taxes and climate change and ISIS. When summer days seem to last forever and you live and die with your favorite athlete and adventure means riding your bike to the store for a Coke and some gum.

That’s the dream land.

So here’s an idea for this season: Let’s not mess the dream land up. Let’s cheer for our kids—all of our kids—whether they win or lose, hit a home run or strike out. Let’s not correct them after every mistake; talk them through each at-bat; admonish them for not having a tucked-in shirt or not paying close attention on every play. I’m the coach, and I’m not supposed to admit this—but baseball can be boring. Painfully boring. So cut the kids a break if they yawn in the outfield, or take a second’s knee at shortstop. Tell them you’re proud, without always telling them that they’re failing, or disappointing, or flawed.

You won’t like this, but I don’t care if we win a single game. I truly don’t. And I also don’t care if your kid is the next Mike Trout. It doesn’t interest me.

What does interest me is teaching a little bit of the sport, and having your kids walk away having the times of their brief lives.

They’re kids.

Embrace it.

PS: And I told them “Red Sox” is kinda boring, so every week a different player picks a new name. Don’t be surprised if we’re the Boogers. Or the Stinky Breaths. Or even maybe the Fabulous Farts.

PPS: And your kids don’t need cleats. If they have ’em, fine. But they’re 8. Sneakers work just as well.

PPPS: And, really, eye black?