little league majors baseball is different from the minors.
the uniforms are more "uniformy," the rules are a little stricter, and there are NO snacks at the end of the game. can i say HALLELUJAH! on the last point?
the other thing about majors is that the coach is only required to play a kid two innings. after that they can pull the kid and that's it for the game. in minors, every kid has to play at least 4 innings and is always in the batting lineup.
last night the duke had his first game. and when i stopped seeing him run out on the field or be up to bat round about the third or fourth inning (i can't keep track) it slowly dawned on me that he'd been benched after the second inning and we wouldn't see him the rest of the game.
i was pissed. i was hurt for him, but i was also pissed. both of his at bats he got walked. a walk is as good as a hit. and he has a great eye for foul balls. he made a great play at second and got a guy out, and nearly made a double play to first on that play but the runner was just a smidge faster.
the thing is, this is a pretty established team. it's clear they've been together awhile, and the duke is the new kid in town. and while he's a good all around player, he's an unknown. and he doesn't "stand out" with any one great skill. while he gets on base more times than not, he's not a power hitter. some of these kids aren't so good fielding but damn it if they can't hit the ball and FAR. if you can hit a ball far in baseball nobody cares about what you can't do.
plus, he's not a huge personality. he's not a shit talker or a loud mouth or all attitude.
a LOT of the kids on this team are exactly that. they're nice kids but they let you know they're there.
and the duke? he's solicitous and polite and complimentary. he's earnest and he's there. he shows up ready to work and he gets the job done. he is an excellent team mate and good all around player. he's a solid ball player.
he could be a bit more aggressive, but he's not. not yet anyway. and in the minors he had a chance to warm up to that and prove it on the field.
not so much now. now, he's playing with kids whose dads all work together and are the coaches. he's playing with kids who've been playing together awhile and all have a spot in the pecking order. he's playing on a team where attitude gets you everywhere. where BIG SKILL gets you everything, even if the BIG SKILL comes with BIG ATTITUDE that costs the game as much as it adds. he's playing for coaches who see things one way, the way they've always seen it, and are slow to see it any differently.
plus, part of me suspects they're all republicans, too.
so, back to the game. after it was clear that he knew what was what. that he'd been pulled and that he was the only one benched for so long.
he was remaining positive about the whole thing as usually does, but you could tell he was really surprised and thinking on it. hashing it over in his mind. like, what just happened here?
and i wanted to take him aside and talk to him about nepotism and pecking order and social structure. i wanted to tell him that he's a great ball player, no better or worse than most of the kids on the team but since he's new that doesn't matter. i wanted to explain that in the long run his overall ability and rounded skills will win out over the big attitude and singular skills of the "better" guys on the team, or at least the ones who get to stay in the game. i wanted to go into detail about how he's little yet, how his body will catch up with his want to be a better player. that baseball really is a thinking man's game and he's got that in spades.
i wanted to spin this for him.
and i didn't. we didn't. the lord of the ring and i decided that this is a whole different ball game. that we can't spin this for him in a way that's going to "help." that we can't make excuses for the world he lives in because then it would be just that, an excuse. and that's not going to get him anywhere. excuses aren't going to get him off of the bench. that he's in this and it's his to figure out.
sure, we praised him and supported him and rehashed the game with him. which we have always done and will continue to do.
but, we didn't spin it and we won't.
if he wants to get off of that bench he's going to have to figure out how to do it in his own way.
and i have to say that's a really odd feeling. to know that your child is finally at an age where you have to just take a back seat and hope everything you taught him pans out in some fashion.
and, now, he says he can't wait for the next game.
i'll keep you posted.