Did New York Yankee great Derek Jeter wear his glove on the wrong hand and his hat sideways long before he became one of the greatest baseball players in major league history? Did Tim Tebow spend more time making poot noises with his armpit trying to get a laugh out of his older sisters than he did dodging linebackers on his way to becoming a Heisman Trophy winner? Did Michael Jordan worry more about drinking Gatorade than shooting jump shots before he won six NBA championships and became Gatorade’s spokesman?
I ask these questions, because if any or all of them did any or all of these things, then there is hope for my seven– year–old son and his athletic career. Of course, that’s a hope reserved for the more psychotic aspects of fatherhood. How can I have such lofty expectations when the poor kid is not only fighting an urge to use his Louisville Slugger as a lightsaber, he’s fighting genetics? Even if I had managed to get off the bench of my high school baseball team, had a football career that lasted past the third grade, or made it by the second cut of my middle school basketball tryouts, I was still short, slow, and easily distracted. Unless there’s some recessive Payton Manning gene that overcomes all that, it is unfair of me to expect anything.
Still, I can’t say I won’t be beaming with pride if this baseball season he makes a diving stop in the infield or drives one deep to the centerfield fence. I also won’t mind if his infield prowess looks better suited for dodge ball because if he sidesteps a line drive every now and then, it’s better than taking it on the chin, and at least I’ll know he was paying attention. He wasn’t looking in the stands like some poor kid who had just crossed the Sahara waiting for me to buy him an orange Gatorade, he didn’t have his hands in his armpits trying to get a laugh out of the third baseman, and he wasn’t busy trying to figure out how to throw a baseball with his glove on backwards. But, if a line drive ever did find his chin, I don’t think I’d have to worry about him paying attention anymore. Either that or he’d run screaming from the fields forever, and I’d have to find another outlet for my unrealistic expectations.
I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it. As for now, as long as he’s having fun, trying his hardest, and respecting his coaches and teammates, then that’s all I can ask. And if he thinks the absolute best thing about baseball is the trip to the concession stand after the game, then that’s OK. When I was his age, I’m pretty sure that was my favorite part, too.