April 30, 2005 - Saturday
Harry is a Giant. After saying "no" to soccer and "I want to play baseball" since last summer, he's finally getting his chance. And he's clearly enjoying it. He had his first TeeBall practice last evening and his first game this morning: his Giants against the Devil Rays.
They don't keep score in TeeBall and none of the kids seem to notice or care. Everybody's a winner and everyone seems to be happy. The games last four innings and each inning consists of every kid on both team getting a chance at bat: one team and then the other. The Giants have eleven kids and the Devil Rays probably had the same and that meant the game consisted of 88 at bats. The *large* majority of those at bats resulted in slow rolling ground balls hit off a tee (see Harry hitting below) to the infield, usually the middle of the infield, and the play always culminated with a throw toward first base, albeit almost always well after the batter has reached first safely.
The outfielders essentially play kind of an outer infield along the back edge of the dirt and even there they see almost no action. Harry did get one grounder while he was in short right field. He was passing the time kneeling at that moment, but did stop the ball and eventually threw to first. But that's part of TeeBall, too. The kids don't really understand the rules or the flow of the game quite well enough to pay close attention so minds often wander. When you get right down to it, there's a lot of waiting. Somebody hits a ground ball and that usually causes a group of fielders to try and get to it first as if just getting the ball is the object. Then the coaches all yell out, "throw it to first base." It happens over and over and it's still somehow charming to watch.
In this morning's game I counted three outs made off the 88 at bats and two of those were just plain lucky. The ball was hit directly toward a base and caught by a fielder essentially standing on the base. However, in the bottom of the fourth, the Giants' second baseman actually caught a ground ball and made a throw to first that was actually caught with foot on the base before the runner reached. It was probably the first time either first baseman caught one cleanly, let alone caught it before the runner got there, and just about the first time either first baseman was actually watching the play and fully aware the ball was coming.
Ah, but that's TeeBall. It's childhood innocence in a very pure form. I don't really know about all the kids because I was so happy watching Harry the whole game, but he was just thrilled and for pretty much the whole game long. Sure, he kneeled down in the outfield, turned to look in the woods, and fidgeted, but the expression he has standing on third (top left) and here (on right) running the bases is pretty much what his mood was for the whole morning, from the time he put on his new uniform, through the game, and then walking around the local hardware store with the uniform still on. He loved hitting and that's no surprise, nor is it any mystery that he loved running the bases. He even loved being in the field trying to get the ball. He was delighted and it was delightful.
The real joy is that he was excited and, on the outside anyway, not the least bit self-conscious about doing well or poorly. I certainly remember practicing baseball in my yard, practicing sliding, throwing the ball up and catching it, bouncing it off something and catching, and hitting and running after balls obsessively. Yet I can't remember ever being so confident when the time came to play on the field with the other kids. That's probably because I started much later. Little League began in 6th grade and by then I guess maybe I knew enough to be self-conscious and nervous. I was a tiny kid like Harry, and that put me at a physical disadvantage. But it doesn't seem to matter to him. Right now, Harry thinks he's a great hitter and a great fielder and he plays with the reckless abandon that makes the game fun. And somehow that is probably as exciting to me as it is to him.
I just love all of these pictures of Harry. It's hard to pick a favorite, but that smile in the top left and on the right running the bases, his wonderful quiet hitting eyes, and this one (notice his "thinking" tongue, he does that when he's concentrating hard) almost bring tears to my eyes. I'm reliving childhood and it's better this time.