I was THAT GUY at my kid’s baseball game

Guest post by Rich Thomas

I finally became one of them.

It happened in a matter of seconds, but of course, that’s all it takes. Our team had a one-run lead going into the top half of the last inning. All we needed to do was hold them, and our best pitcher was on the mound. It was a swiftly hit chopper down the third base side. The first bounce hit just inside the line, right before the bag. From there it skipped over the line and rolled out towards the left field fence.

He saw it all the way, and like a good fielder should, he moved to the ball. Except he didn’t pick it up. He just ran alongside it, both hands up, palms facing outward in the universal “not me, man” position. There was no way he was touching that ball. The first base coach emphatically waved the runner to second. The third base coach waved the runner in to third. Everyone was screaming. And then it came out, in a blind rush of panic and excitement.

“What are you doing?! Pick up the ball!”

He thought it was foul. Everyone else knew it was fair.

Unless personal harm is imminent, yelling is, for the most part, unnecessary. Yelling at your wife? Bad idea. Yelling in the workplace? Really? Your dog? Pointless. Your parents? Worse the older you get. Yelling at people on their cell phone that make right turns from the left lane, causing you to break suddenly? Totally okay. Yelling at your kids? Very, very tricky.

Everyone yells at kid’s baseball games, and at least 50% of them are completely bat shit crazy, knuckle-dragging fathers who have some warped sense of displaced childhood glory they want for their sons but could never get, or got too much of, on their own. I never played organized sports in high school – I was too busy trying to start a band – and my father was famous for playing one football game, wherein he received a kickoff and proceeded to run the other way and score a touchback for the team that was chasing after him. Is there value in the tough love teaching that only sports can provide? Totally. And in hindsight, my personality could have greatly benefited from it. But for kids this young, I never understood the yelling part. In my three years of assistant coaching both soccer and baseball, I’ve noticed that yelling at kids does one of two things. It either tenses the kids up, causing them to over-think every play, or it pisses them off. If you’re particularly skilled at yelling, it does both. Then you’re totally screwed.

So yeah, I yelled at my son. It wasn’t some long tirade, and since I’d never really raised my voice to him in the previous eight years, I’m sure it came as more of a shock than anything. Later, in tears, he explained that he didn’t know that a ball that bounces inside the bag is in play, even if it rolls foul. I thought back to all our previous practices. It wasn’t something that we ever specifically covered, and since this was his first year playing ball, it’s not something he would have inherently known. That’s why he never touched it. He thought he was doing the right thing.

Jesus, that night lasted forever. The wife gave me an earful, too. And deservedly so. It could have been one of those proverbial “teaching moments” for my son. “You made a mistake, but hey, it’s okay. This is what you do next time.” Instead it turned into a teaching moment for me.

I can’t stand parents who take a unilateral approach to all organized sports. “We don’t believe in competition.” Pity, because 90% of the rest of the world does. My grandfather once said, “I loathe people with precious children. They piss, shit, complain and carry on just like everyone else. Get over it.” Nothing exposes that more than sports. It’s awkward, frustrating and glorious. Have your kids play sports, and if you can, volunteer to assistant coach. It’s a great way of helping make them feel more comfortable. Fair warning, it’s not for the feint of heart. Sometimes it totally sucks, but most of the time it’s fantastic. The two games my son got the game ball? Off the charts incredible.

For what it’s worth, the runner held at third and never scored. Our pitcher struck out the next three batters, our team went nuts, and we won our fifth game in a row. I think we even moved into first place with that win. But yeah, that game totally sucked.

Comments on I was THAT GUY at my kid’s baseball game

  1. My two boys, 7 & 9, play soccer. For the first couple of years, it was all fun and games, considering that all the kids did was run in the same direction. Then, last year, my oldest and his team got to the age where they started to really get it. They got some of the strategy… and so did their opposing team. All of a sudden, I found myself, actually involved in the games and not just laughing at their antics. Before I knew it, I was clapping and making noise from the sidelines. Didn’t know I had it in me! I can’t wait for the next season. Though it make take another year or so for my youngest to stop yelling Tarzan style while he chases after the ball. That cracks up everyone around me too!

    • I think soccer would be a much more interesting game if all the players yelled like Tarzan when they had the ball!

  2. Thanks for owning your mistake, Dad. I had a father who ruined any enjoyment I may have gotten from playing team sports by being a yeller, even a name caller. He called me stupid or retarded if I failed to hit or catch a ball. If my kids show an affinity for sports, I dont know what I will do, I hate sports SO. MUCH.

    • I grew up playing soccer and I think it was full of lessons and valuable pain, but I was also lucky to have some fantastic coaches, who among their other fantasticness, required impeccable behavior from the PARENTS of the kids on the team. I could never be against all organized sports because of this. But man, I go to my nephew’s football games and I get a little creeped out by the parents about to bust their carotid artery screaming at their kids, cussing, etc. That’s not meant to be a jab at football in particular (my problem with football is the brain injuries, yikes.)

    • Hunny; don’t worry you will enjoy watching them in the sports because it is YOUR child playing. I have always hated football and wrestling, you know dangerous, violence, blah blah. My son wanted to play in the pee wee football league and i allowed. It was the most fun i had watching him. a bunch of 9 year old chasing each other with a football. Hilarious! And i still have to ask him ” okay now where does the tight end stand and what does he do exactly?” Just remember for every bad play he/she might make…tell him about 5 good ones and what a great team player he is!

    • Thanks! I’m glad you liked the story. It’s definitely an odd feeling to have that emotional investment in sports, seeing as my Dad was never very “sporty.” Since the season ended, a few of the parents suggested I go out for head coach. (Oh, and my son’s coach from last season has since been banned from the league.) Not sure if I’m ready to make the jump to head coaching, though…

    • This makes me so sad! I was a total tomboy growing up and played soccer, softball and tennis and excelled in all three. My folks were very supportive and I know my dad wishes I had continued playing through high school, but I didn’t (longer story but nothing to do with them). I got so much out of playing sports, and not only is it great exercise for kids but it can also teach very valuable lessons in working with others, team work (literally) and good sportsmanship. All three of these lessons go much further than the field.

      I guess I was lucky in having two supportive parents, but some of my best childhood memories are of hearing my dad shout encouragement from the sidelines or playing catch with me and my mom sitting down on an overturned bucket to field my pitches. Knowing how much they believed in me went a long way…still does.

  3. Thanks for sharing!

    I played soccer for two years in a row when I was a kid, but I didn’t really get any lessons or particularly enjoy it. My husband played soccer for 15 years, in Holland where it’s more popular. If our kids want to play sports when they get older, then I’ll let them (except football) but I’m not going to force it. There are plenty of other opportunities in life where they can compete, learn about working hard and working with a team.

  4. my husband coached soccer for 7 years and i assistant coached for him for the last 3 of those years (that was before we moved–we now have no connections so haven’t coached in a few years). teaching our future child to play soccer is one of the things that i’m looking forward to the most!

    • Advertiser complaint. I don’t normally acquiesce to such things (I have a template for reader complaints about swearing) but in this case, it’s an old post from 2010, and the title was never really core to the post’s content.

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