My son is a sports nut. As I write this, he’s literally watching college softball and watching the ESPN ticker announcing the results of each MLB game that pops up. He’s been known to watch college cricket, simply because it’s on ESPN.
He started Little League when he was 3. We lived one town over and their Little League program had a t-ball age group for the 4 year olds called “Mites.” And because N turned 4 before the end of April (barely), he was eligible. He played two seasons while we lived there, and then we moved. I was bummed that he was going to have to start over with kids he didn’t know, but he makes friends easily so we didn’t think he’d have much trouble.
Last year, he started in what’s called Single A “coach pitch” which is really coach loading the machine and hitting the button for the machine to pitch to the kids. We didn’t know anyone around here on his team, but he quickly made friends with a little guy, R. Just as quickly, we made friends with R’s parents and J and R’s little sister would hang out during games. R and N are a grade apart (R’s a second grader) but they’re pretty much inseparable at baseball.
This year, our two families requested that the boys be on the same team, and as luck would have it, last year’s coach got to keep about half of last year’s team together as many of us kept our kids in Single A for another year. So you can imagine how thrilled they were when they found themselves as “Ironbirds” again.
About a third of the way into the season, we’re discovering that N and R not only are really good friends, but they work really well together on the ball field. They have made some pretty great outs, whether they’re playing shortstop and second base, or in today’s case, third base and catcher. They both have an instinct for the game – knowing where the ball should go even if they haven’t quite gotten the execution down. I hope they will be able to stay on the same team as the years go on, because I’d hate to see what happens if they have to compete AGAINST each other rather than with each other.
At last night’s game, N had a rough at-bat. Our friend said he thought maybe N’s bat was too heavy, so I went around to the dugout to see if he had a lighter one in his bag. R’s mom said R’s bat was lighter, and he could try using it. He got up to bat, and launched the first pitch he got clear into the outfield. Now, R isn’t a fan of the other kids using his bat, because kids tend not to take care of things that aren’t theirs as well as they should, but he had no problem with N using his bat. And today, after N slid into home, R came from the far end of the dugout to high “10” N on the field. They never fail to be there for each other, whether it’s to cheer each other on or to give a pat on the back after a rough out.
I’m loving watching N grow as a baseball player, but I’m also loving watching him create what I hope will be lasting friendships bound by a love of the game. It’s humbling to watch my child create relationships outside of our family, because I see them as reflections of the things we’ve hopefully instilled in him all this time.
This morning, as we were talking about last night’s game, and N using R’s bat again, N said, “Me and R, we’re like brothers in baseball.”
Brothers in baseball. I’m not sure there’s any cooler thing for a kid to be.