Coordination is the key when battling with a cucumber

Over the weekend, our community park was home to local youth baseball tryouts for little sluggers between first and fifth grade. It was just like what I imagine professional baseball spring training is like, except without all the whining and fit-throwing.

By contrast, the kids were really well behaved.

Watching our local tryouts reminded me of the days of helping my daughter prepare for her first season of T-ball. We bought a mitt, ball, practice tee and all the equipment necessary to get started on the basics. For obvious reasons, we saw no need to purchase an athletic cup. At least until I decided to advise her about batting stance, at which point it became obvious that I should have.

At least for myself.

Though practice ended a little early that first day, we were back at it the following afternoon — my daughter with her bat and a look of determination, and me offering advice and encouragement a safe distance away with my bull horn. It was one of those father/daughter moments that lasted just long enough for me to realize it, and just long enough for our neighbor to cross the street and threaten to shove my bull horn somewhere that isn’t located on any ball field.

With that, we decided to try some fielding practice; I’d hit the ball to her, and she’d practice leaping on it with her eyes closed. Before we could do that, however, I had to actually HIT the ball. In my defense, I was using her bat, which is roughly the size of a cucumber. Also in my defense, let me just say that the cucumber and I have about the same degree of hand-eye coordination.

Yet, between the two of us, we STILL couldn’t hit the ball.

As a father, this is very embarrassing.

(As a cucumber, it’s no big deal.)

On the other hand, this was a good opportunity to teach my daughter about the importance of not giving up and how, through patience and determination, you can do anything.

I say this all in retrospect, having hurled her cucumber bat over the top of the house in a fit of frustration. In spite of all this, when it came time for her first official T-ball practice this week, we felt ready.

For those of you who’ve never watched T-ball, the rules are roughly the same as baseball; the ball is hit, the batter runs the bases, and 15 infielders throw their mitts at the ball in order to stop it. Once that is accomplished, everyone runs to a spot about eight inches in front of home plate — which is where the ball has usually landed after gravity, and a solid hit to the neck of the tee, has advanced the ball.

This isn’t always the case, however. In fact, some of the kids I saw could really whack the ball. If not for them, the outfielders walking around with mitts on their faces pretending to be monsters might not have seen any action at all.

In the end, it is the ability to cover your face with your mitt and run around in circles until you trip over a sprinkler head that separates T-ball from major league baseball.

I’d even say that professional baseball could learn a thing or two from T-ball.

But not before I learn how to hit the ball with a cucumber.

(Write to Ned  Hickson at [email protected], or c/o Siuslaw News, 148 Maple St., Florence, Ore. 97439)