Mission Accomplished, Coach!

The only thing cooler than handing out obligatory trophies to a group of kids who actually earned them, is having your son be one of those kids! (That’s the trophy in the brown paper bag there, not the heirloom Gonzalez 40, thank you!)

The Pee Wee Marlins’ Tee Ball season came to a fantastic end this past weekend and they played their best game yet, hands down, on offense and defense. Even better, they did it against the Pee Wee Mets, the only other team I felt was as organized and, if I may say so myself, well-coached as we were. The last two weeks we had them playing set positions for the entire game, with an eye towards focusing on their individual strengths, and it paid off with some tight defense and a lineup that got stronger with each batter. Nothing gets the parents cheering loudly like a great put-out, or a legitimate bases-clearing hit, and by the last week, we had several kids who were capable of one or the other, or in a few cases, both.

I was particularly proud of Isaac, one of a handful of undersized kids on the team, for his focus and determination, improving each week, especially with his fielding. Right now, I’d say he’s a 2B in the making, with the potential for plenty of singles and stolen bases, but considering this was his first season, his ceiling could be a lot higher than that. There were a few other kids I took personal pride in, too, including the two I “scouted” in the 15-minute practice session before we picked teams at the beginning of the season, as well as a couple of others who I was able to work the kinks out of their batting stance and/or swings. In some cases, simply getting them to face home plate and not kick dirt at each other was progress, but overall, I can honestly say that all 16 of them are better ballplayers today than they were at the beginning of the season, and several of them made at least one new friend, so yeah, mission accomplished!

The trophy ceremony was especially fun as one of my assistant coaches, Carlos, suggested we gather them together in a circle, with their parents surrounding them, and give them individual props. I did, and though I was worried that I might not have something positive to say about everyone without sounding a little canned at times, it turned out they had each made a stronger impression on me than I realized and I was able to sincerely praise them all. Plus, we got it all on video, so I’ll be able to make the DVD I was planning to and have a proper conclusion.

The following day, we had our team picnic, and about half of the kids made it and had a blast running around in the park and the brand new playground (with sprinkler); playing wiffle ball, frisbee and making bubbles; plus completely coloring the large rock we’d made camp next to with sidewalk chalk one of them had brought. Notably, not counting Dan and I, it was almost all moms except for one other dad who stayed for the whole time, manning the grill and taking a shift in the playground. A couple of other dads came for parts of the day, but it was definitely the kind of stereotypical imbalance that always makes me shake my head a little sadly.

All in all, the Tee Ball experience was a lot more fulfilling than I expected, and despite all of the self-deprecating jokes about becoming a soccer dad and my hesitance to commit to doing it again, I’m pretty sure that I’d enhtusiastically do it again next season, especially if Isaac decides he wants to play again.

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