I Wasn’t Going to Be that Dad!

Posted: May 14, 2009 in Things you should know about the Proprietor of The Small Ball Report

I promised myself I would never be that kind of Little League Dad right up until the day I became that Little League Dad.

My son’s football team went 0-8 last fall. I haven’t spent any time in the film room, but I know that as the smallest tight end in the history of Naperville’s fifth grade, he did not bludgeon running lanes for his team’s, the Colts, swift footed running backs. But, once he learned how to snap his own chin strap, he had a blast.

Is there an NFL career in his future? No, and check.

A few years ago I coached his Y basketball team. We were much better than most of the teams because I designed a flex offense that focused on ball movement and attacking the defense with one extra pass on every possession. Of course the boys ignored my plays and once they passed the ball to the team big kid and proverbial ball hog they made the basket. That kid, you might have guessed wasn’t my son.

Is there an NBA career in his future? No, and check.

When my son was little, he loved hockey. So much that he converted our back yard basketball court into his own imaginary hockey rink with two goals. His slapshot was deadly accurate. The pucks, tennis balls and sister’s beanie babies always found the back of the net. And then we took him to a learning to skate hockey program and he loathed that one extra element, although an important element in the game of hockey, ice.

Is there an NHL career in his future? No, and check.

This is not to say that my son is not athletic. He is never the worst player on his team, but also never the best.

He is athletic. He happens to be an excellent swimmer and middle distance runner. I know this because as just a fifth grader he can beat me at both. Impressive yes, until you see that I don’t know how to do the butterfly.

Despite his athleticism, a couple years ago I made a discovery. I’m not a scout, but my son will not be a professional athlete someday. And, I’m OK with that.

What I’ve also discovered that you might not be OK reading, is your son – or daughter – won’t be one either. I’m statistically safe saying that to the first 22,000 parents who read this. By the way, you are not going to win the Power Ball next Wednesday either. Sorry to ruin these cliff hanger endings.

Once I made this discovery the games and practices became much more enjoyable. I stopped vicariously living my own unfulfilled sports dreams. Even if late at night I sometimes find myself in a Super Bowl huddle telling Santonio Holmes to run a slant route to the corner of the end zone. I still have an imagination.

I’m not the Dad that yells at his kid when he boots a grounder, misses a tackle, throws the ball out of bounds, or purposely taunts his sister by hiding her Polly Pocket doll. Check that, I do yell at him for that last one. A lot, actually!

Friday Night Lights is clearly the best show on network television, but no one watches it. The reason no one watches it is because people think the show is about football, and it’s really not.

This past season featured Joe McCoy as the proud father of the young strong armed stud freshman J.D. McCoy. As an aside, imaginary Texas high school quarterbacks, and many real life ones are always named McCoy. Joe McCoy is the dad that drives his kid to be perfect, the parent that hassles the coach after practice to get Junior more playing time. The dad that refuses to – insert your own gasp, here – let J.D. hang out with the red headed hottie because it would distract him from the grid iron. Off topic, I was hoping for the Doogie Howser hookup on that plot line. Maybe next season, if there is a next season.

His tactics are maybe slightly exaggerated, but you see a lot of Joe McCoys at little league and pee wee games in Anywhere America. They tend to hang on every pitch and mutter expletives under their breath when three overthrows turn a bunt into an inside the park homer. Joe McCoy and parents like him don’t see losing as a teaching moment.

They also yell at an umpire occasionally.

Now, I would never, ever, ever yell at an umpire. ….At least, not until last Saturday

My son plays for the Cubs. They are currently 4-0. He has really stepped up his game in the past year. He’s good in the field, occasionally drives a ball to the outfield, and can spit a perfect sunflower seed in the dugout.

Today’s Little League is not your Little League. They have someone counting the pitches so the young pups don’t wake up on Sunday with a sore elbow. When the real pitchers have thrown too many pitches they have to come out of the game. My son is what you would call an emergency pitcher.

And when do you call on the emergency pitcher? Most often, like last Saturday, when the game is on the line.

On Saturday, the umpire in our league – a high school kid who has shaved twice just to see what it was like – was not calling any strikes the whole game. A sniper on a neighboring rooftop couldn’t get a called strike from this kid. And while neither of the team’s coaches went out to kick dirt on his plate, there was ample muttering from both dugouts.

When Abner Doubleday invented the game he identified the strike zone as the width of the plate and from the batters shoulders to his knees. Pitchers were hitting that target the whole game, but were more likely to get a strike call if they hit the mascot on top of the dugout.

The Cubs were winning 9-4 and because of all the walks and high pitch counts they needed to call down to the bullpen (end of the bench) and thus, my son started to warm up.

He continued his warm-up on the mound and promptly walked the first three batters to load the bases with no outs. If you’ve ever been to a little league game, you know that the bases loaded and no outs and up by only five runs, can also be referred to as a tie game.

By now, coaches, parents, and small sibling kids playing in adjacent dirt piles are trying to find the panic button. And as a Dad, you don’t want your kid to be the kid that starts walking in kids like they are buying tickets to the carnival ferris wheel.

To this point my commentary has admitted that my son is more likely to be Cooper Manning than he is to be Peyton or Eli Manning. This gives me a license to say, from my vantage point, he threw at least four or five uncalled strikes to those first three batters.

During this sequence the audible output that witnesses may have heard me to say, transformed from:

“You can do it!”

To

“You’re real close!”

To

“That was a good pitch.”

To

“What was wrong with that pitch?”

To finally, and I’m not entirely proud of this one

“Come on ump! That was right over the damn plate!”

And then, a funny thing happened. Despite later Zapruder film evidence showing the next pitch bouncing into the catcher’s mitt, it was called a strike. This rattled the lad at the plate, so much he changed his “I’ll take a walk strategy” and promptly swung and missed at the next two pitches.

One out!

Seeing this change of events, the batters on deck and in the hole also went to the plate swinging. And whiffing. Two outs! Three outs!

So after walking the first three batters, my son struck out the side and improved his season stats to a tough as nails ERA of 0.0 with two saves in two appearances.

With stats like that, I’m thinking I need to get him an agent.

He should also stop eating junk food. And, he needs to stop riding his bike past that cute girl on the corner’s house.

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