Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Take Me Out to the Ballgame

I hope the folks here won't mind if a share a proud papa moment. As I wrote before, Number One Monster is a Little League baseball player. Unfortunately he didn't get drafted up into the higher division as we hoped so we were a bit disappointed. But on the otherhand maybe it let's him play a much bigger role in his lower division team.

His new team was hurting for pitchers and catchers and previously my son didn't want to pitch or catch but decided to give both a go again to help the team. I was proud that it was a good change in attitude, previously he stuck to hitting and didn't want to try something new.

So we had our first scrimmage game this weekend. Bottom of the 4th, my son comes up with the bases loaded. WHAM line drive to the fence - a grand slam inside-the-park homerun! His first home run too. Team is really excited and it was fun to see but I'm keeping a level head here. He was already a good hitter and inside-the-park homeruns are fairly common in Little League. But my wife and I let him know we were proud of him.

Well, the inning ends and now it's time for my son to pitch in his very first game ever. I'm more nervous here because kids always have trouble throwing strikes. Last season he saw his teammate use curveballs to fool the batters and so on his own he made up an offspeed pitch. Now most kids in minors Little League have only one pitch because the important thing is to just throw strikes. That pitch is a fastball (which for many isn't very fast at all. Fortunately, my son has decent velocity on his.) In practice, he threw his loopy offspeed for more strikes than his fastball so I was thinking this could work out well.

And it sure worked out because kids his age are badly fooled by mixing up fastballs with offspeed pitches. They can't figure out which pitch is coming in. One poor kid thought a fastball was coming, lunged out three feet in front of the plate and already finished his swing before my son's slow offspeed pitch bounced slowly past him. We coaches couldn't help laughing. Result - 3 strikeouts! (And he plunked one poor kid with a wild fastball.) What was really cute was my son took the initiative and worked out the signs with his catcher. My wife even caught that, she saw him nodding to the catcher on every pitch and noticed the catcher giving signs. Priceless!

So now he is really pumped up and we're all looking forward to a fun season. Thanks for indulging me all! :D


peachboy said...

Hey, Monster D. I enjoy your little league posts. Little league was a time for me to hang out with my dad. I remember when he told me that he noticed a routine that I conducted as I waited for a pitch -- and that when I didn't follow my routine, I didn't get as many hits or walks. As an 11 year-old, I couldn't believe that he was paying such close attention. That attention felt supportive and Dad didn't exert any pressure to win or perform. I was pretty puny for my age (with a miniscule strike zone), and getting some baseball skills gave me some athletic confidence. (Got my photo in the local paper laying down a bunt in the all-star game! See? I still get esteem from it.) Parents can create a positive little league experience, and it sounds like that's what you're doing. Nice.

By the way, is it still a belief that pitching at a young age can mess up your arm?

Monster Daddy said...

Hi Peachboy, that's a nice memory, I sure hope my son has that when he grows up. I can picture your photo, my wife takes a lot of pics and it's great to look at them even years later. Although I think my son thinks I watch him too much, hehe.

Pitching too much is considered bad, kids who have Tommy John surgery have shot up like crazy from overuse. Also throwing curveballs or sliders is considered very bad as the elbow twisting motion is thought to screw up a kid's growth plates before 15. I know how to throw curves and sliders and it HURTS even at my age. So my son is only going to know a few types of fastballs, changeup and sinker. Those should be OK.

Being realistic, very few kids, even the so-called studs make it into MLB because puberty can determine everything. So for those kids, being a stud in LL can still be a great experience if you put it in perspective of building confidence for other non-baseball pursuits. So we should let em have fun but also make them work hard and drive themselves. Should go a long way.

P.S. My wife's cousin hit 6ft so there is still hope for my son, LOL!

Ka_Jun said...

Man, I can't wait to go play catch w/ my boy in the park. His arm's not so good yet, he's 15 months. He rolls a mean ball, though.