Even those who love baseball have to admit the kids’ recreational version it borderlines on the intolerable when nobody can throw anything resembling a strike.
It was like that a few weeks ago when I assistant coached for my son Tyler’s team. While our team is pretty solid, the opponent that day wasn’t, and their lack of pitching resulted in a merry-go-round of painful walks that drove in run after run for us. When they did manage to get one over the plate, our guys usually got ahold of it, leading to a dominating (for what it’s worth) performance. I think the score in the 5th inning (we play 6) must have been about 12-2.
I was coaching first base — across the field from our dugout (as the away team, we were housed on the 3rd base side of the field) — when I heard it: that noise I really dislike when issued from any opposing group of kids … chanting. On that day, to my horror, it was coming from our dugout and, God save the queen, my son.
Now, it’s true that I hate chanting in general, but I especially hate it (or any form of celebration) when the game isn’t over and you’re dominating. In that case, it’s downright rude. So, not knowing why this infernal racket was stirred up, I yelled across the field to my son.
“Tyler!” I shouted, to which he looked up. When he caught my eye, I gave the hand across the throat signal, and mouthed, “Cut it.”
“Coach told us to,” he shouted back, to which I looked over at our head coach, Joe. Unfortunately, Joe was head down marking up the scorebook.
I again gave Tyler the cut-it sign.
Unfortunately, as kids are wont to do when collaborating with others of their kind, he declined to stop.
I could not let this go, and so had to up my game.
“Tyler – do I have to come over there and embarrass you?” I yelled, at which both benches and the crowd hushed.
At this, Joe jumped in to diffuse the situation and addressed the team, “Guys that’s enough. I know I told you it was ok but coach Anthony doesn’t want it. So cut it out,” he said.
When the inning ended, I went up to Joe so as to clear the air.
“Hey Joe, I’m sorry to contradict you, but I don’t like chanting, and I can’t have Tyler doing it if we’re winning by 10. If you want to tell the rest of the team it’s ok, you can do that, but I can’t have Tyler doing it,” I said.
“No problem,” he said. “I was just trying to get them into the game.”
And with that, we were good, and all was well.
I did want to tie up the loose end with Tyler.
“Hey buddy,” I said, “I want you to be excited and enjoy the game but I don’t like chanting, and you just can’t do it when we’re killing them.”
“So if we were losing it would be different?” he asked.
“Yes. I still don’t like it, but it would be different. Just think how you would feel if they were killing us and they’re over there crowing about it. It’s not right.”
And with that, he went into the outfield and we were good.
There are things I can stand, and things I cannot. There are things I will accept and things I cannot. Teaching my son how to act both when he’s winning and when he’s losing is super important to me. Some people call me no fun, but I want my boys to be the kind of people who hand the ball to the ref (or whatever the equivalent is for the business world), rather than execute some choreographed dance. People who act like that are the ones I have always respected and want them to emulate. I have a strong hunch acting like you’ve been there before has something to do with getting there again.
Hopefully, in addition to a nice spring day and a win, Tyler learned something that will serve him well in the future — work hard, aim to win/succeed, then reach out and shake your opponent’s hand rather than waving yours in front of him. They know they’ve lost, and don’t need you emphasizing it.