The frustrations of T-ball

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I love baseball. The fundamentals of the game are simple. It’s about catching, throwing, hitting and running. In fact, if you pick up a baseball, it’s like your brain automatically knows that object is for throwing. Give a baseball to a one-year-old, and he or she will taste it of course, but then they will throw it.

The game is so easy, that those running our youth baseball leagues in America decided to introduce it to children at a very young age. Thus, in the 1950s, T-ball was born.

I remember playing T-ball. I was on the Greenbacks and we were sponsored by a bank. I still have a yellowed photograph of my team that ran in the newspaper after we won the championship. You see, back then, we kept score, even in T-ball.

However, as I recall, most of us T-ballers were about five or six years of age. Today, T-ballers are as young as three. My grandsons are playing T-ball this year. They are three and four.

I’ve attended all three games this year. As a grandpa, it’s fun watching the kids and seeing them in their uniforms. However, as a baseball fan, these T-ball games are an incredibly frustrating way to spend an hour. Those volunteering to coach this age group are truly special people.

Balls are hit and two, three, four or more defensive players will converge on the ball, each trying to be the first to reach it. Amazingly, that little ball will often squirt between the mass of little arms and legs and keep rolling.

The ball will roll past the kid on the mound who’s eyes are scanning the bleachers for Mom, and the ball will pass another kid who’s on his knees drawing pictures in the dirt.

Meanwhile, the batter is running toward third base, until the coach corrects him and redirects him toward first.

Eventually, the ball is retrieved, and with enough coaxing by coaches on the field, an attempt to throw, toss, heave or roll the ball to first base is made.

Finally, an adult picks up the ball, throws it to another adult at home plate who places it back on the tee, and the next tiny player takes a swing and the chaos repeats itself.

As a baseball fan, I’m expecting the kids to ready themselves while the batter hits. I want to see them charge a ground ball, scoop it up in their glove and make a decent throw to first base. In three games, I’ve yet to see that.

I see kids playing with their hats, kicking the dirt, talking with friends, walking off the field - basically everything but prepare themselves to make the right play.

I occasionally yell my grandsons’ names and tell them to watch the ball. Then I fear I’m becoming one of those overbearing adults who scream from the stands. So I try to just sit in silence and watch.

I tell myself they’re just kids and they’ll learn. Then I go home and tune into a Reds game, and doggone if they don’t play the exact same way.