This past February, the Taz tried out for the Little League Majors. He caught every ball, throwing it back with precision. And when he was up to bat, he nailed the heck out of each ball that came his way. Basically, he nailed it. And since he was already 11 and one of the biggest kids trying out, my only question wasn’t about whether he’d make Majors or not, but which coach was fighting over his massive skill for their team.
So imagine my surprise when one of the Minors coaches called me to let me know he was on their team.
The news was all bad. I hadn’t been prepared for this, and had been building up the Majors to Taz since he’d shown nervousness over joining the older league. So when I had to break it to him that he was staying on the younger team, he was totally crushed. Throwing salt in the wound was the fact that all his friends had moved up and were now needling him for being in the “baby league”. Even worse, some of the kids who made it through totally blew their tryouts.
I’m not going to lie. I was pissed. I was starting to feel like this particular Little League had some sort of vendetta against our family.
Last year they put us on a team that had no coach. None. Like, if you want your kid to play baseball, someone better step up to the plate. It meant that none of the coaches deemed our kids worthy enough for their team, so we were stuck on a team of leftovers. Thankfully it turned out better than we could have anticipated since a great coach stepped up and guided our boys to 4th place in the League.
But this year? My son had done excellent at tryouts, better than most of the kids there, and he was left behind yet again.
First day on the field, Taz was a full head taller than everyone on his team. I couldn’t help but feel bad for him, surrounded by 9 year olds who had just moved up from the Rookies.
“This is stupid,” he muttered. And his attitude followed him out on the field, affecting his performance completely. It had been my hope that at the very least, Taz could outshine all his teammates and show his coaches the mistake that had been made. But I had to eat a bit of crow as I watched the boys lap him on the baseball diamond, my own son lumbering behind them at a much slower pace.
Ah, running. So not the Taz’ strong suit. The kid can throw. He can pitch. He can catch. And he can hit the stuffing out of a baseball. But he cannot run fast, even if his life depends on it. Even though my ego was still sore from him not getting picked, I was starting to understand that there may have been a reason, and perhaps this was it.
The coaches worked closely with the kids, and soon Taz’ speed was picking up. He would never be as fast as the littler kids on his team, but he was moving with a bit more agility than the first practice. And something else was different this year too. In previous years, the kids were just plain mean. My sensitive boy couldn’t just let insults slide off, but would carry the weight of them on his shoulders. But being the older kid this year, the younger players looked up to him. He became the leader of the pack. And it was a major ego booster.
This last weekend he attended practice. And as they worked on batting, he nailed it and sent it flying over the fence. That one play had the whole team rooting for him, and Taz promised he would do it again at the game.
There were limited coaches at the game this last Tuesday, so the coach made Taz his base coach.
“If it looks good, send them,” the coach said. And I marveled at how the Taz straightened up with a bit of responsibility placed on his shoulders. He paid attention to the game, offering support and advice to the players at bat. In the dugout, he shared a game rule a new player didn’t know about yet. And when it was his turn at bat, he lined himself up at the plate and looked the pitcher dead in the eye. The first pitch was too low. The second, a strike.
“You’ve seen what it looks like,” his coach called out. “Swing when the monster in your belly tells you to.”
Taz took a few practice swings, and then toed the plate. The pitch was thrown and he swung easily at the ball. There was a very distinct crack of the bat, and ball went sailing. Taz didn’t even run right away, watching it as it sailed up into the air and then over the fence. And the whole crowd cheered as he made his way around the bases, a huge grin on his face. His team gave him high fives, patting him on the back. And Taz glowed in the glory.
And I’m guessing that it was no coincidence that we received a call this morning that the Taz was being drafted up to the Majors.
There’s mixed feelings with this one. We love our Minor team’s coaches and team. It’s been such a great experience for Taz to be someone looked up to rather than someone made fun of. And the Majors is a lot faster and more experienced than the Minor League. I told the person on the phone that we had to think about it and I’d let her know.
“I hate to put it this way,” she told me, “but no matter what, he’s going to have to trade teams. If Taz doesn’t go to the Majors, he’ll have to take the place of the kid who does move.”
So we’re now a part of the Majors.
Taz got one last stint with his Minor League team today at their annual bat-a-thon. He ended up hitting one against the fence, a couple pop flies, and two over the fence homeruns.
Not bad for a Minor League reject. Right?