Monday, May 9, 2011

Catching On, and the Power of a Hot Dog

You know what's amazing about kids, the thing that makes all that other frustrating stuff worth it? It's those moments of discovery and development that occur every day over and over, those amazing moments watching your little bundles of genetic material take off and soar.

The most recent example of this was playing catch with my son. I have been busy lately and have neglected working on fielding heading into his first season of machine pitch baseball. Last year, in tee-ball, we were lucky if they knew which base to go to. And he got the hitting thing down pretty quickly, but I had a million excuses and we hadn't focused on working on his glove. At the final pre-season practice last week, one of the coaches, after watching half the team play in the dirt, promised a hot dog to anyone who caught a batted ball in the air.

So on Thursday night, two days before our first game, I decided we needed to do something about it, or he was going to be on the Billy Butler career path. Owen, newly motivated by the power of a hot dog, suddenly wanted to catch instead of hit also. So we went out in the backyard, and we started with me soft tossing from about six feet away, just trying to get him used to catching it rather than turning away violently as the ball got within 5 feet of his face--to feel it hit the glove and close it. We made a rule, he had to catch five in a row before we could step back two steps. It took about 15 bobbles from short range before we took our first steps back.

It took half that amount for the next step back. Within 10 minutes, we were sixty feet apart, and he was catching pop ups and throws above his waist, below his waist, and out to each side. It was one of those amazing life moments where in a 30 minute span I got to see my son growing up in fast forward. We worked again the next night, and within a day, he went from having to get lucky to catching 80% of what was thrown at him.

He didn't end up getting a hot dog on Saturday, but that's only because no one hit one in the air in his direction. He moved from 2nd, then to 1st base (the position I played growing up as a lefty), something I would have thought a frightening impossibility just two days earlier. He also started 3 for 3 at the plate, hitting off a machine for the first time in a game, when about half the kids understandably struck out when facing down the 37 mph pitch for the first time. The first time up, it was on the fifth swing (they were out after six strikes), the second time up, after two, and the last, on the first pitch.

Life is always learning, and trying, and sometimes failing, but learning and adapting. I'm just glad I'm not too old to learn from my son, because I know that I get to see something new every day.


  1. Love to know that you've expanded your extraordinary writing skills! And...I love to read about my nephew(s) and nieces!!! You are certainly superdad in so many ways!