Many of us presume too much when attempting to communicate. Evaluating our words, in the way others might hear them, before opening our mouths, might be good.
I stepped into the Little League outfield for the first time in ages. The grass was fresh and sweet-smelling. A warm breeze brushed my cheek. The dandelions were just as yellow and the sky just as blue as it had been decades before. This time, though, I wasn’t carrying the glove.
The five year old at my side brandished a newly oiled, leathery badge of honor, his proudly acquired fielder’s glove. He was the duly appointed center fielder and I was the proud coach. Rather, I was one of three stately T-ball coach/fathers standing in that outfield. Each of us waited for the first pitch with an enthusiasm we thought had been lost long ago.
“Play Ball,” shouted our manager. “Pitcher pitch.”
T-ball pitchers don’t really pitch. Instead, the ball is balanced on top of a black, three-foot-tall, rubber tube, attached at its bottom to a rubber home plate. It is a baseball tee, similar in function to the ones used to hold up a golfball, hence the name T-ball. When prompted, the pitcher fakes throwing a pitch while the batter does his or her best to rip the cover off the stationary ball.
Most athletes at the T-ball level are lucky to hit the ball at all. Hitting it as far as the pitcher is an accomplishment. T-ball pitchers, therefore, generally make fifty percent or more of the plays. Pitchers in T-ball do not pitch. Pitchers field.
The six year old on the mound, imaginary ball grasped in his empty right hand, feigned a throw to the plate. The batter, concentrating with every fiber of his body, took a mighty swing at the white sphere perched at the top of the tee. He topped the ball, but struck it hard enough that it rolled between the pitcher’s legs and into center field where my son stood looking at the airplane passing overhead.
Matthew,” I said. “Pick up the ball and throw it to second.”
He continued gazing at the sky.
Matthew,” I said again, “Pick up the ball and throw it to second.”
Dumbfounded that something had disturbed his contemplation of the overhead jet, he gaped at me with astonishment that only a child can muster.
“Pick up the ball,” I said, pointing to the immobile, round object directly in front of his right foot. “and throw it to second.”
He picked up the ball and studied it for a moment, evidently pleased with its smooth, unsullied white cover and brilliant red laces. His cogitation complete, he finally looked my way once again.
“Throw the ball to second base,” I firmly restated, as the base coach for the opposing team shoved his reluctant runner off first base, toward the next empty bag.
My son looked at me, smiled and asked “Daddy, where is second base?”