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How to Survive Your Child’s First Tee-ball Game

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If you thought “Lord of the Flies” captured chaos of young kids left to their own devices on a grand scale you’ve never watched a tee-ball game.

My son (pictured above, at bat) begged us to sign him up for tee-ball recently. Eli doesn’t know the first thing about baseball, but he thinks catcher’s gear makes him look like a Power Ranger. I hesitated at first. I’m a baseball purist, and the thought of children running clueless around the diamond gave me pause. Shouldn’t my son know the fundamentals first? He couldn’t even pick our local baseball hero Troy “Tulo” Tulowitzki out of a police lineup.

“Relax,” my wife and a trusted Facebook father assured me. “He’ll love it. So will you.” So far, they’re half right.

Eli’s first turn at bat turned me into the father I had mocked for years. You know the guy, demanding a Ruthian home run with every swing. No, I didn’t scream when my son approached the plate. I internalized it all instead. I can’t imagine what my face looked like to strangers.

The ensuing comedy of errors made the Bad News Bears look like the ’27 Yankees.

Later, I settled down. It’s not about me, after all. It’s my son getting his first taste of a game he might embrace for a lifetime, just like his old man did. So, to help fellow fathers who may dread their own child’s tee-ball tenure here are four suggestions to help

Expect Nothing
A little part of me wanted Eli’s first hit to be, well, magical. Instead, his bat barely made a sound as it glanced off the tee, not the ball. If your child is grinning madly at any point, that’s as good as it gets. Nothing else matters.

Praise Hustle, Not Results
It’s easy to cheer on a standing double or a leaping grab, but parents should concentrate on their child’s work ethic more than the box score. Most kids won’t parlay their diamond skills into a big league career so first and foremost, applaud hustle, grit and a love for the sport.

Offer Help… and Expect to be Declined
My sports resume is spotty at best, but I know baseball. So when I gently offered Eli tips on catching and throwing, I expected our father-son bond to brighten. Not quite. “Coach Jay already taught me this,” I was told. Or Eli would say he didn’t need any help. Huh? So I turned to my older brother, a true sports nut, for guidance. “Leave him alone,” he told me. Older brothers just know some stuff.

Enjoy It While It Lasts
It might be maddening to watch your child carry his bat all the way to first base, but he’ll learn to drop it soon enough. Next, he’ll figure out how to turn his head while shagging a pop fly. Tee-ball is like childhood: It’s messy and chaotic and very soon it’s all over. Hold on tight to every miscue.

Photo Credit: Christian Toto

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