Tuesday, May 7, 2013

From the Blastball Journals

When I first heard that the earliest the boys could play T-ball here is age four, I was kind of bummed. I envisioned them getting starting sooner for some reason. (Tiger Mom alert) The T-ball program for four year-olds is called Blastball and after reading the description I was skeptical. Then when I found out the cut-off date for playing in the spring was April 30th and the boys birthday is April 29th, I felt pretty great. They had almost had to wait until the fall to play. Phew. The Blastball commissioner (yes, that's a thing) asked for parent coaches and so I volunteered Brian and myself to coach the boys' team of six boys. The Red Wings.

The Mighty Red Wings
The first practice the boys were super excited...until they found out there is only one base in Blastball. That's right. The batter hits the ball off the tee and runs to first base, which squeaks like a rubber ducky when he steps on it. If the batted ball doesn't cross a line that is straight out in front of home plate about 10 feet, the batter gets to try again. After reaching first base, he returns to his team behind home plate to the whoops and cheers of parents. Meanwhile the team on defense has to stand behind the line and try to stop the ball. Sometimes after kids stop it (or it rolls to a stop) they throw it toward first base where a coach is, but usually it just rattles around on the ground for awhile while the kids dive for it, narrowly missing each other's heads. Oh, and most kids don't use gloves in the field. And certainly not the batting gloves that my boys think they need to use.
On the way to the first practice
Even though the rules sounded lame to me at first, during the first game I realized that this is totally appropriate play for most of these kids. Anything more would be a stretch for many of them. I'd say about half of the kids can't quite hit the ball far enough on the first or second try (and some can't manage to get it past the line at all) and it's pretty common to see a kid or two wandering off in the middle of play-- telling his mom that his pants feel weird or that he wants a snack or a high five or is ready to bat now.

However, as suspected, Cal and Clark are quite the contrast to the meandering,  reluctant ball player. On Friday nights they hang up their jerseys on their closet doors. Saturday morning they wake up and "need privacy" to get dressed in their "locker room" (bedroom). They wanted to wear belts the first day. (They don't have belts) They love it. Even though there are no outs and no runs and no winning, they love being out there decked out in their jerseys and hats with their teammates and often smashing the ball over everyone's heads.

Speaking of heads, they're developing rather big ones, too. At the second game, Clark made a diving catch. He actually dove, caught the ball in his glove, held onto it, and fired it to first base. Not a common Blastball sight. He then raised his hands in the air and loudly declared to everyone, "I didn't know I would make an amazing catch!" He then immediately ran off the field and high-fived me, Gammy, and the other Red Wings parents...and then the River Dogs parents...oops. Their bragging so far hasn't been bad in front of other players, but at home they've both repeatedly told us how good they are at baseball. We're trying to agree with them but also tell them it's not a nice thing to say...which is a confusing concept to them I think.

Game time!
Ready position! Alligator arms!
Cal winds up
Clark in action
After the games a parent brings snacks which usually involves Gatorade that the boys importantly swig down while swaggering around talking about the good game, and their made-up score (which always favors the Red Hawks) and how tired they are from playing so hard. (This often sounds like a postgame player interview.)

We're fortunate in that the other boys on the team are also pretty enthusiastic about baseball, with just one meandering, gum-chewing, adorable exception. The parents are great too, and all eager to be involved. There is supposed to be a parent with each child even at practice and it's not common that we have two parents and two grandparents for one child even at practice. We've already had a little after-practice pizza party at a local restaurant and the opening day Little League parade.

It's all adorable and fun and I'm really glad I have little boys who love baseball. Maybe we can get them into real T-ball in the fall even though they won't be five...hmm. Tiger Mom out.

Bonus: YouTube video of Cal and Clark hitting

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