I could feel the anxiety radiating off of him as we drive to Boyd Field. He hasn’t said anything to me during the short drive, so I’m waiting patiently for him to speak. He looks green, the kind of green you see on cartoons right before they’re about to vomit.With his head down staring at his fingers here it goes, “Mom, I’m nervous.” Andrew says. What gave it away?!? “I always feel like I’m not good enough on my team. Everyone is bigger than me, and I get wicked scared when I’m up at bat.” This makes my heart hurt. Why did my genes of a panic stricken mother have to be passed on to my little boy?? That horrible feeling that makes your palms sweaty, fingers tingly and your stomach clench are simply unbearable. I can understand me, a 28 year old mother of five having these feelings. However, a 10 year old boy should be carefree, living“dangerously”, and loving life. Damn those genes!
"Andrew," I say, “you are a brilliant young baseball player. Just because the other boys are older than you doesn’t mean they are better than you. They may have more experience than you but you are just as great of a player as they are. You are learning at every practice and every game you play in. It's all a learning process, just remember to take deep breaths, and try to relax.”
He looks at me, surely thinking, mom I love you but just shut up because it’s not going to work. It’s okay though, I know I reached him deep down in that ADD brain of his. He’ll be taking those deep breaths while he’s on deck waiting for his turn at bat, or waiting for the ball to be hit to him in the outfield. My words will reach him, I hope.
The Green Team is home this game and the weather is breezy and cool on this Saturday evening. It's only me and Donovan at the game today. A small cheering section of two, although a loud two person cheering section. Donovan and I, sitting front row to root on our number seven and the rest of the green team.
Andrew is batting sixth. That is three spots up from lasts weeks game! He must be doing something right for him to be moved from batting ninth. There he goes walking into the batters box, I see him practice swinging then he takes a deep breathe. I knew he was listening to me. First pitch, ball. Good eye, bud. Second pitch, swing and a miss. Third pitch, swing and a miss. Too high, stay off the high ones. Fourth pitch, inside. Fifth pitch, swings, hits and foul. Ugh the agony I am endearing is unbearable. My stomach clenches as the sixth pitch is thrown. Swings and misses. He has struck out for the first time this season. My heart goes heavy as I see him walk out of the batters box, shaking his head looking at the ground. "It's okay bud, we'll get them next time!" I yell. He doesn't even look up at me.
It's the top of the sixth and what a game it has been. Every inning each team is scoring big, and I can't contain "the crazy mom in the stands" syndrome any longer. Score is 10-13, The Green Team is winning. Bases are loaded and Andrew is in center field. He hasn't seen any action all day, which I'm guessing he's fine with because he's still dwelling on the strike out. The ball is hit, fly ball into left center....Oh My God, Andrew is running, stretches out his glove. HE CATCHES IT! Eruption of applause all around me in the stands. His coaches and team mates run to him on the field meeting him before reaching the dug-out. Chanting his name and making their way with Andrew on their shoulders. He saved the game!
Here comes Andrew, walking out with his bag on his shoulder. Smiling that no teeth grin of his. I love that smile. "Yay Andrew!" Donovan screams. "I knew you were gonna catch that ball." Donovan gives Andrew a huge hug and stares at him with idolization. Nobody is better than his big brother at that moment, or for that matter, ever.
Tuesday, April 24, 2012
Opening day at Boyd Field is a celebration that marks the official beginning of the little league baseball season. Balloons suspend all over the park, the players walk in a parade, and the sweet smell of popcorn and hot dogs fill the air. There are speeches of encouragement from the league President. And even a local celebrity, the University of Rhode Island’s baseball coach stops by with some kind words and memories of him playing on the same field the kids are on today. It is a celebration that comes with smiling faces all around. After all, baseball is America's favorite past-time.
Not only is Andrew playing the first game today. But Donovan and Brady are also playing today as well. The t-ballers have a relay race, and Brady has his first game ever played in baseball. The excitement is enthralling.
Donovan is so excited to be playing t-ball this year. It is his first year playing, however he knows the game as if he has been playing for ten years. These four and five year old boys and girls look amazingly adorable in their uniforms. I couldn't help looking at Don and have tears well up in my eyes. My little boy is playing t-ball. I can't believe five years have come and gone this quickly.
As he steps out onto the field with his other team mates to take his place on second base he looks up at me and waves. He is so excited to start his relay that he quickly moves into second position and cuts the line so he can go before the other kids. 3, 2, 1...GO! And they're off. The first child running around the bases from second to third to home to first and back to second seemed never ending. However cute he is, I am waiting for my Donovan to grab that baseball from the first runner so he can have his turn. The boy hands him the ball, and there's Don running as fast as his little legs can take him. Running around the bases and surpassing the boy on the other team who started at home base. "GO DONOVAN," I yell. There he goes passing home and running to first, he's tiring out cause the poor thing trips a bit over his feet. He finally reaches second base, hands the ball to the next runner and yells proudly that he made it. Yay for Donovan, I'm so proud of my littlest boy.
This is Bradys first season playing baseball as well. He is the triple A division with a couple of friends that he goes to school with. As a first time player, he absolutely loves the game. He looks up to his older brother Andrew for inspiration and motivation. Andrew is always helping out at Brady's baseball practices so he can teach him more and learn how to be a better player.
I think Brady took all of Andrew's constructive criticism and ran with it on opening day. Although it is just a game for fun, Brady took it as seriously as if he is playing in the majors with Andrew. Coach Bob places Brady at short stop in the 1st inning. I've never seen this boy as focused as he was when that ball is hit right at him. Ground ball to short, and my short stop charges that ball, throws it to third to make his first out. That's my boy!
Brady is also the second batter up, and since it's the triple A division there's no "real" pitching. They either have a pitching machine, or the coach is the pitcher. First ball thrown, swing and a miss. Oh, no. Second pitch, swing and a miss. I can't watch. I don't want him to be discouraged his first time up at bat. Third pitch is thrown....SMACK! "Run, Brady, Run!" I yell. This boy flies to first base. I can't believe my eyes. I don't think I've ever seen this boy run as fast as he just did. He has it in him, that athletic gene that is meant to be shown. And shown it shall be.
For being such an anxious person, Andrew really tries not to show it on the field. I know how he feels. That poor boy gets stomach aches, the shakes, and tachycardia. But, I believe in him like no other. He has the determination and drive that I've never had. And he makes me want to face my fears and go out there and do what I know I can do but am just too scared/nervous to do, or even try. Whether it be trying a piece of shrimp, or running a marathon. He brings out the best in me and gives me the strength to want to face my fears. Although, I am most likely to train and run a marathon before a piece of shellfish goes anywhere near my mouth.
Good luck to all the players this year! Remember it's just a game. Have fun, and try your best.
Thursday, April 19, 2012
Here we go again, my throat tightens, my hearts racing, and number 7 is up to bat like a true professional now. Knees bent, butt out, arms up and the bat ready and willing to swing at the next pitch down the middle. Swing it does and right down third base line, Andrew just hit a double. He hesitates running out of the batters box, I don't know why he always does this. But that would've easily been a triple if he flew out of the box and not have given it a second thought. For some reason watching Andrew run is like waiting for a pot of water to boil. It's like slow motion at the end of a good movie, when you know the star of the movie is going to win the race, but they have to, just have too add the music...dundun dundun duuuunnnnn. Hilarious but true. Henry and I look at each other. "We're going to have to work on his running." We say simultaneously.
He reaches second.....finally. Next batter is up and hits it straight to the second baseman. Andrew runs to third, batter out at first. Woohoo Andrew! He made it to third and the dug-out is chanting his name. Way to go Andrew! Let's go Drew! My heart is elated. Next pitch...it's wild, Andrew steals home..dundun, SAFE! Ahhhhh...Andrew just stole home, Andrew just stole home. There's now way my number 7 stole home. Pfft, of course there's a way, he's my number 7. (Biased, no not at all). The smile he has, the one that reaches from ear to ear with no teeth showing, makes my heart skip a beat when he's walking into the dug-out and all of his teams mates are patting his helmet and smacking his bum. A sign of true affection right there.
I never got the whole, smacking on the bum thing. It must be a mans' thing. Cause I don't go up to my female friends and say, "Hey, good job on that A you got in Bio yesterday." (Smack on the ass, while saying so). And was it just me, or did anyone else think that baseball players wore butt pads?!?! Because when I was growing up, watching the Yankees play with my dad, I'd wait for Derek Jeter to step up to the plate, watch him get in his stance and stick out his bum. And BAM there it is, the butt that I thought wore butt pads. I was pleasantly surprised when I found out they didn't wear butt pads, cause that meant that his bum was all REAL.
In any case, back to Andrew. he walked the next time he was up at bat. Number 7 has a pretty good eye, or I like to think it's that and not nerves. Then he made a sacrifice out and moved the runners on third and second, to home and third. The green team ultimately won their second game 13-2! We run ruled the black team in the 4th inning. Another great, and freezing, night at Boyd Field.
Tuesday, April 17, 2012
Arriving at Boyd Field for my sons first game of the season, in majors I might add, was exhilarating. Watching him gear up and practice before the game put the biggest smile on my face. I knew he could do it. As skeptical as he was and the doubts he had, he still chose to stay in the division he obviously belonged in. He knew deep down he has IT.
With a cheering section of about 20 he must’ve felt good. But I mean GOOD. Like, these people are here to see me play, type of feeling. He deserves that feeling. Hell, everyone deserves that feeling. Especially when your one of five children, and the second one born. Sometimes, there can be a little Jan Brady syndrome going on.
Game starts and here he goes, running out onto the field, right field to be exact. Now, I’ve heard from different people that kids who are in right field have the strongest arm. But for some reason, I had a feeling they just put him there because they didn’t know where else to put him. In practice they had him playing third base most of the time, and he liked it there. I think he felt more comfortable there than in the outfield. But I think there is too much action going on in the infield for a 10yr old kid with ADD and anxiety disorder. So, kudos to the coaches who bravely put my strong armed child in right field, where he respectfully deserved to be.
No plays were made to him through out the whole six inning game. He did make his debut in the batter’s box in the second inning. Me being the FANatic mother that I am gets up trying to get a really good video of him at his first batting. As I’m walking to get in position I see number 12 walk over to him. “Hey Andrew,” he says. “Yea,” Andrew replies. Number 12 leans in to tell Andrew something. Andrew nods, looks at me as number 12 walks away and smiles. Damn I wish I knew what number 12 said. I won’t ask because I know that was a special moment between my number 7 and the good doer number 12. I believe number 12 gave my boy the confidence that he lacked and the courage that was roaring to come alive. Oh, how I love that number 12!
Andrew went 3 for 3 at his first game. He walked the first time and had two singles. He was radiant when he hit that line drive between second and third. I had butterflies, so I can’t imagine the flips that were going on in his tummy. Then the second base hit (the pitcher fumbled the ball), and he running as fast as he could to first…safe. Pheww…I can breathe again.
Ultimately, they did lose their first game. They walked in the winning run 6-7. Green team loses, as Donovan would say. As the team files out of the dugout, heads hanging, pissed that they just blew the game they had a 6-4 lead. Here comes Andrew, head held high, like he just won the world series of Warwick American Little League. Sure they may have lost their first game. But he sure played like a winner. He wasn’t going to let losing his first game, bring down the high he was feeling. He survived his first game of the majors. Now he can relax, and I can breathe a sigh of relief. This is going to be a great season.