My son got beat on a 3-run walk-off homer the other night. It was the bottom of the 10th, his fourth inning of relief, he left a pitch up, middle of the plate, and the other team’s thumper crushed it high and far and deep into the night. It cleared the fence and it cleared the netting hung above the fence to protect the cars in the parking lot of the neighboring warehouse and for all I know it cleared the fucking warehouse, too.
I looked at my son and he looked at me and we both shrugged. What else can you do? He’s 11 years old, but even if he was Brad Lidge, what else can you do?
I don’t like watching my kid pitch. I actively dislike it. “Thanks for nothing,” I tell his manager between innings after he’s waved my kid in from shortstop or first base to the mound. “You’re killing me,” I tell him. His manager laughs. He’s been there, too.
Of course, it’d be worse NOT to watch him pitch. If I tell my son to trust himself — on the mound, in school, and everywhere else — why would I want to give him the idea that I don’t trust myself or him enough to watch him pitch? Besides which, the pitching is much harder than the watching. Throwing strikes, especially early in the count, is a challenge for big-league pitchers. Put any 11-year-old on the bump and you’ll suffer through some long innings. He can’t adjust to the ump’s strike zone, because he doesn’t have that kind of command, and he’s not going to go to the breaking ball, because he doesn’t have a breaking ball. My kid used a change-up last season, but he doesn’t always think of it as an option. He wants to hump up and blow the ball by the hitter instead — which makes it even harder to throw a strike. Speed without accuracy is no good, and finesse is often more effective than force when it comes to most human endeavors, but you’re not born knowing these things. You learn them, if you’re lucky, as you go.
I guess this is what people mean when they talk about the valuable life lessons taught by playing sports. I myself think that the same lessons can be taught by doing a lot of other things, most of which don’t involve any risk of physical injury and wouldn’t give me heartburn to watch. But the kid likes to play ball, and the wife wants him to play ball, and that’s that. And on the night when he got beat on the walk-off tater, I was pleased as hell by the whole thing, especially by how we both shrugged it off.