My 8 year old is starting out on his athletic journey and is starting to focus more on baseball, including actually thinking about the game, strategy and how he wants to play it. In his current league, the kids pitch to each other and it can go badly fairly often. As a parent, it can be painful to watch.
Andrew wants to work on being a pitcher but he keeps floundering about his decision. He gets excited about pitching, then quickly reverts to “I don’t think I want to be a pitcher anymore.” But he was looking forward to pitching his first game on Sunday. We ended up playing the superstar team, the team with the coaches that take this super-seriously and who practice 3+ times per week (we seem to have some half-hearted practice 1x per week). Our guys lost fairly quickly – mercy-ruled in the 3rd inning or so.
Andrew did get to pitch an inning and walked 2 batters. I could see him deflating and getting frustrated on the mound. He threw some strikes and got kids to swing at stuff, but he just still seemed troubled by the balls/walks.
In the car on the way home, he spoke up about the loss, how frustrated he was and how he wasn’t sure he wanted to pitch anymore. I didn’t say much, I just said “why don’t you think a little more about it when you’re not still stinging from this loss?”
Two nights ago, I barely got into the door from work and he begged me to work with him throwing a few pitches. It was almost dark and I was still in my work clothes but I grabbed my glove, threw down the plate in the backyard and took my place as his catcher.
He threw close to 20 pitches. 4 were strikes. 10 were balls. 6 were just wild, crazy pitches that almost hit the back decks of neighboring condos.
He got discouraged quickly.
“Ugh, mommy…maybe I shouldn’t try to be a pitcher.”
Maybe it’s because I’m listening to Brené Brown’s Rising Strong for the 2nd time right now. (I still think the world would be a better place if everyone read this book). Or maybe I understood exactly how he felt and was able to have him understand the process.
But this is what I said to him:
“You know, you’re right…throwing balls and walking kids sucks. It’s hard to handle not throwing strikes for every pitch and you’re on the stage, you are the one on the mound being brave enough to put yourself in that position. That takes some real courage. It would be safer and far more comfortable to sit on the bench, or not play at all. And you know that major league pitchers probably threw 1,000 balls before they threw 100 strikes when they were starting out. That means, they knew they were going to throw more balls then strikes and they STILL wanted to pitch. That’s pretty hardcore to keep getting up on the mound knowing and accepting that you’re probably going to throw a lot of balls. Balls happen. But then strikes start happening too.”
He nodded and wanted to throw a few more. The remaining pitches were much like the earlier ones – a few good ones, some not-so-good ones. But he seemed to be more at peace with the wayward pitches.
I finally called it quits because dinner was ready and I could barely see the ball anymore. We were bounding into the house when Andrew stopped and turned to me.
“You know what, mom?”
“Yes, remember that. Balls do happen. They are just part of the process.”