Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Youth Baseball

Kyle is playing Babe Ruth League this year, leading to me discussing youth baseball at work. One woman complained bitterly about her son's experience. He has ADHD, she said, yet they put him in the outfield - the notorious right field - where it was hard for him to pay attention. She thought this was irresponsible of the coaches, not to put her boy in the spot where he could do best.

I hope my face did not show the amazement I felt. Lady, they put kids where it works best for the team, so they have the best chance of winning. That's one of the lessons, that the world doesn't revolve around you and everyone does what they can to help the group effort. But I did immediately see her point as well. She sent her son to baseball so that it would work out for him and his development, not so that Joe's Storm Doors could win. The team is ultimately of no importance, the individual remains.

At first pass, this is certainly an age-related discussion. What is appropriate for six-year-olds and fifteen-year-olds is quite different. The younger the child, the more it makes sense to try them in a variety of situations, to experience different facets. It does seem just wrong to play your one dominant kid in such a way that no one else gets to do much. But having your teenage son play short because there's more going on there and he won't fade out so much doesn't seem like it is educating him into the world of adults, where the common goal has a value of its own.

Plus, as I learned in baseball more than any sport, there are kids who don't look as if they are paying attention who nonetheless are. Taken to extremes, however, no one is ever going to believe you. (I wonder whether, if my second son could see videos of himself playing second at age fourteen, he would agree that any reasonable observer would conclude that the blond kid was absolutely not ready for the play, and finally understand his coach's and father's ire - or whether he would see entire justification instead, noting with full accuracy that as the pitcher let go of the ball, he was always in position and facing the batter. Both are true - which would he see, now that he is 27 and works with youth groups a lot?)


Erin said...

Somewhere in my parents' house is some great footage of me circa second grade playing 2nd base, preoccupied by my OCD nature at the dirt on the base, dutifully swiping it clean with my shoe instead of paying attention to the game. Perhaps that's why I only lasted a year or two in the town leagues...

Ben Wyman said...

I think you finally began siding with the coaches when I began lying down on the grass between pitches.

I tended to think of my position in the field more like a firefighter than anything else. When there was a fire to be put out, I was fully ready, but no one mocks the fireman for staring off into the sky, or trying to kick the heads of dandelions in between fires.