"You need to keep your head in."
"You need to wait for it."
"You need to let it come into the zone."
"You need to throw your hands."
"You need to swing hard."
"You need to drive it."
"You need to wait for your pitch."
"You need to keep your head in… keep your head in… keep your head in…"
If I was 11 years old and I heard this from my old man, I think I would quit baseball. But I realized something today, While my son is having a tricky time lately in the batter's box, me telling him over and over how to fix it, isn’t making baseball fun. It’s become a job and I’ve become one of “them.”
“Them” are the parents that yell from the stands and drive their children crazy. At 11 years old, it’s not supposed to be this tough, but for some reason, it is lately and as a parent, I just feel bad for him. As Dean Anna said in our interview (Read EXCLUSIVE INTERVEW: DEAN ANNA):
Dean Anna: " ... make sure to have fun. You've got to have fun out there, no matter what! You know, you want to win, you don’t want to lose, but I would definitely keep the kids enjoying the game. When you are having fun, the best of that player comes out!"That is true. And I will now sit back and teach, but not lecture.
It’s easy to get wrapped up, you know. I did. I admit it. After our game the other day, I pretty much parroted that first paragraph to my son. He was upset, but not at me. He was upset at himself. No one likes to strike out 4 times, but when it’s your only 4 at bats and you’re 11 years old, it’s the end of the world. I should have remembered that, but I guess I lost my head.
As we drove, I grabbed his hand and said quietly, “If you let me show you, you might pick it up easier rather than me telling you.” I thought, maybe he doesn’t understand ‘head in’. I mean, it’s easy for me, I’m old, but for an 11 year old with a new hitting problem, he’s never really heard it before.
We got home. He changed his clothes and was throwing his cleats on again.
“Where are you going?” I asked.
“Let’s go train, dad. Show me.” He said.
I didn’t hesitate. I threw on my sneakers and grabbed my bucket of balls. The goal was to build confidence and explain ever so gently that fouling it off and walks don’t count, hits do.
I got in the box.
“You have to start from scratch. So from this point forward, lean back. Be loaded. Now all you have to do is come toward the ball and turn the hips. As you get familiar, you can load again, but for now, you need to stay back.”
“I do that.” He said. He rolled his eyes… this wasn’t gonna be easy. I took out my phone and showed his last at bat… “Watch this.”
I took back my phone and got on the mound. He didn't. He thought he did.
“Stay back. Don’t move your bat. Don’t move anything. Let it come to you, wait, and explode. That’s it.”
2 foul offs. “I can’t do this!”
“Relax. Stay back. Here it comes…”
CRUSH. Up the middle.
“Here we go. Stay back.”
BOOM. Left field.
CRUSH. Up the middle.
We did that about 4 more buckets… and several tips and misses too… nobodies perfect… after all, this is training and a reprogramming of a bad habit in hitting.
I had 5 balls left in my bucket, but I wanted him to get a big one.
On the second ball, he crushed it to the right field fence… “That’s it. Great job.” 3 were left over. End on a high note… that’s my policy.
We walked home.
I was quiet but my son was talking my ear off. I stopped him.
“SO… more tomorrow?”
“Sure” he said.
“What did you learn tonight?” I asked.
“Listen to my old man?” he said…
“You’re grounded…” I put my arm around him. He’s as stubborn as an ox… but maybe we’ll build up that confidence...
Baseball is a game of failure... but if you stick through it, you really can be great... and yes, treat it like a game, and don't put so much pressure on yourself. That's when it's the best game in the world.
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