The joyful groundout

My son Emmett is 9. He’s a good athlete. Not great, not awful. Loves strategy, loves defense, plays a different sport every season, has absolutely zero interest in one day becoming a Yankee or Knick or Ram.

He’s simply a good-natured kid who enjoys the diversity of events brought forth by life.

Anyhow, yesterday was Emmett’s first game with the Dodgers, his team in the local fall baseball league. He chooses to play fall instead of spring, because spring comes with thrice-per-week practices, plus games. That doesn’t interest him (to our great relief. Fall is one practice, one game). The problem, however, is that most of the other children in the fall league are ballplayers. A bunch of his teammates are also members of a more serious fall league, and almost all of them play, at a minimum, spring and fall. Many have private lessons to boot (to be clear, I’m not criticizing any of this. All kids are wired differently). Also, this is a jump up for Emmett. Last year was Double A. This is Triple A. I was told it’s a significant talent upgrade.

So the Triple A Dodgers debuted last night against the Aztecs, and the wife and I were nervous. We don’t care about winning or losing. And we don’t care where Emmett hit in the lineup; what positions he plays (although the kid looooves second base); whether he bats .400 or .200. Nope—I just didn’t want him to be ridiculously outmatched. I had this vision of opposing pitchers throwing ungodly (for the age) heat and slurves and such, and Emmett standing at the plate, helpless. Last year, in Double A. he went through a solid 10-game stretch of swinging the bat, oh, five times. Maybe less. It was fear, combined with the desire to walk. The end result was a .043-ish batting average, and his personal disappointment.

I digress.

Emmett batted last against the Aztecs, which thrilled him. He hates leading off, so he literally looked at us, smiled, pumped his fists and said, “I’m hitting last!” He came up in the second inning. There was one out. The wife and I were sitting on the benches behind home plate. The first pitch was high, and Emmett swung through it. “OK,” I thought. “Great! He’s swinging.” The second pitch was a ball, as was the third.

Then, the fourth pitch. It was over the plate, a bit low—and Emmett swung! And made contact! It was … a slow roller to the pitcher. Emmett scooted down the line as I yelped, “Go! Go! Go!” He was out by a solid two feet … and the wife and I were absolutely giddy. I can’t really explain how joyful I was, except to say that, at that moment, I knew my kid could hang.

Afterward, we went for ice cream.

He was happy.

So was I.