The call of the yard
By Jon Weisman
Speaking of retirements …
My youngest son hung up his baseball spikes last year, when he was 7. He lasted a year longer than his older brother, and took a bit more pleasure in it, but it’s all relative. Youngest Master Weisman was the classic player who loved when it was his turn to bat, but went on mental walkabout when he was out in the field, so that when the ball finally did come at him, it was usually 20 feet behind him before he realized it.
He likes being with other kids, but he’s got other ways of being with other kids. He was a good sport, but when you’re 7, now 8, life’s too short to stand around bored in the sun.
But as I expect Jamey Wright knows, there’s always the backyard. There’s always the place where you control the game, where you can bat as long as you like and if you never want to stand around waiting for a ball to come to you, you don’t have to.
Several times during this Spring Training month, while his old coach-pitch teammates have moved on with their lives, my youngest and I have gone out to our little yard, with a toy bat and two Fisher Price balls, well beneath his age level, that we probably purchased half his life ago. The bat weighs about an ounce — just enough heft so that it doesn’t break upon contact, but ideal for him to whip around effortlessly. The ball hits the bat with the sound of a folded newspaper whacking a fly.
The photo above makes our yard look deceptively large — this park, to paraphrase “Major League,” is not Yellowstone. Somehow, the dimensions are just right for what we’re up to. I pitch from just in front of the woodsy part, and he has to make solid contact to get it past me. That happens, I’m gonna say, three out of 10 times. (I really have no idea, but that suits the idyllic feel.) There’s a back fence shortly behind the tall trees, hidden. One time, when we said “one more good hit before we go in,” he cleared it. Now, that was a well-earned home run trot.
This weekend when we did it, he was in a sad mood before we began, and cheerful when we finished.
I have lots of aspirations for my kids. Possibly too many. Possibly not enough. But when it comes to sports, I just want them to enjoy it. We’re not looking to turn pro — we’re barely aiming for amateur. We go outside, never planned, never for very long, never really accomplishing anything. And each time we do, each time possibly being the last time, it means more to me than anything in a boxscore ever could.