Saturday, March 27, 2010
Heart and Soul
It's the sixth game of Joey's first season playing Little League baseball, and he has yet to hit the ball in all the times he's been up to bat. He's got everything it takes: a good eye, grace, a strong swing, and the desire to slug it. He puts his heart into every swing he takes, but he's one of two kids on his team who still haven't gotten a hit. Maybe it's the pitching machine they use; seems like it's missing some human aspect. Maybe it's the pressure of being center stage. Who knows. But he's losing heart. After the last couple of games, he's asked his dad earnestly, "Dad, do you think I'll get a hit next game?"
The other night Michael and I were talking about his job, and all the stresses and expectations that come with being an attorney, and he said, "But you know, none of that matters at all when you just want your kid to hit the ball." It was a moment of pure clarity. It's not that it matters if Joey is a baseball superstar, what matters is that he taste the sweetness of success so he can feel good about himself. You want your kids to experience enough failure to teach them humility, and to succeed enough to instill confidence and self-worth.
So today: game six. White Sox vs. Athletics. Joey gets up to bat grinning when he sees us, his family, in the stands, pumping his arms up victoriously before he even steps to the plate. "Go JoEY!" I yell. He swings. Misses. Next pitch comes, Joey misses. Then a foul tip. He swings again, a little early, misses. That's it. "Good try, Joey! Next time!" I yell, feeling a pain in my heart for him.
A little while later, he's up to bat again. "Go JoEY!" I yell as he walks to the plate. I find myself biting my lip till I can almost taste blood, and praying even though I don't even believe in prayer, "Please let him hit the ball, please let him hit the ball . . ." The pitch comes in. He swings. Misses. "Please let him hit the ball, please let him hit the ball . . ." Another pitch comes in. He swings . . . and there it is, that telltale sound of aluminum smacking leather. "Go, Joey! Run! RUN!!!" Everyone is yelling and cheering. For a split second he looks bewildered, and then he runs towards first. I have tears leaking from my eyes.
The first baseman gets the ball and tags Joey out. But it doesn't matter.
He did it. He hit the ball.