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.