Thursday, March 24, 2011

Feeling Their Pain

My son has played baseball for almost 13 years.  He was 4 when he started playing t-ball and turned 5 during the season.  I was concerned because at the time, he seemed so tiny.  And young.  But play he did.  Every year he played in the town's recreational league.  When he was 9-10, my husband coached his team for 2 years.
Then came the time to make the dreaded decision: to play in house or move on to traveling ball.  There were SEVERAL factors that we needed to mull over before we made this decision:  3 young girls who would by necessity have to spend practices and games in a dusty hot field, time commitment, GAS commitment, $$ commitment.  And last but most certainly  not least was the season commitment.  Most of these are fairly self explanatory except "season commitment" so let me 'splain.
Minnesota has about 8 months of winter-like weather.  Seriously.  From late September through April and partially into May, we can count on some frosty temperatures.  They actually caution people not to plant their annual pots until after Mother's Day for fear of frost.  Now that doesn't mean that we don't get the occasional nice or even beautiful day(s) in March, April, October or November.  But the reality is, you can't "count" on summer before June or after September (and sometimes even late Aug).  When we spend so much time under weather constraints, the last thing we want to do is spend a beautiful 80 degree Saturday in July dragging 4 kids half way across the state so that the boy can play baseball.  Instead of being on a boat, yes, I'll say it, drinking a beer.  So when the time came to make this decision, we didn't do it lightly.  We told all the kids, no traveling sports.  We ended up relenting this year with basketball, mostly because we didn't mind giving up the weekend when the temp was -10 degrees.
So, the boy continued with the recreational league until he started playing for the Jr HS.  He continued to play school ball until, well, today.
/vent on
He is a junior this year. He figured he'd be playing baseball, like he has every year since he was 4.  He delivered phone books this fall as part of the baseball fundraiser.  He also went out and sold discount cards as part of the baseball fundraiser.  And last month, he bagged groceries as part of the baseball fundraiser.  We paid his $90 to play baseball.  He started practice this week even though he has been throwing occasionally on days of open gym.  Cuts were today and he learned today that he was cut from baseball.  Not just varsity, which he really didn't figure he would make.  But JV as well.  The coach decided that because he and a few other boys did not play summer ball last year, their skills had not improved enough to make the jump from the "B" squad (basically the 10th grade team) to JV and they were cut from all school baseball.  Because as a junior, he can't play down.
So, I have to look at this situation and ask myself this MY fault?  Should I, as a parent, been willing to give up the one season that makes living in this ice box (OK...we're at the end of winter here and this is the drama queen speaking) bearable just so that our son could have the POSSIBILITY of playing school ball?  What about the job he had last summer?  He worked lawn maintenance from 6am until 3pm Monday through Thursday. 
Let's play "what if?"  What if we martyred ourselves and had him play summer ball.  Would skills he MAY have acquired last summer, then let go dormant during the winter, be enough to have him on the team?  What if he STILL didn't make the team?  Then what?  A calculated risk where we both lost?  What if summer ball last year had interfered with his job, or as I'm sure the coach would phrase that, his job interfered with summer ball?  Which one was of greater importance?
The upshot is, the boy just wanted to play baseball for no other reason that he loved playing baseball.  But he (and we) wasn't (weren't) willing to make it his life.  I am shocked and dismayed that summer ball was made a requirement for him being able to play school ball this year.  Knowing that now, would hit have changed our plan of action?  No.  I think as parents AND as a family, we have to sometimes make decisions that require us to buck the system, especially with regard to the general consensus.  The general consensus is that parents give up any semblance of a family life to allow a child to pursue a competitive sport.  And I think that until more parents make the right decision for their kids, we're going to see more kids, more competitive and losing their drive earlier because the fun is gone.  They will have reaped what they sowed.
That doesn't change my son's pain and disappointment.  And I feel it too.

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