For a guy who enjoys a wide variety of sports, I stink at nearly all of them. Or at least the ones I’ve actually played.
I blame it on my size. From kindergarten through high school, I was always shorter than most boys my age. I suppose my lack of strength and poor hand-eye coordination could have had something to do with it, but I’m sticking with my shortness.
I loved to play basketball in my driveway, but my physical attributes pretty much killed any chance I had of ever making a school team. It’s not like I didn’t try. I actually tried out for the team in seventh grade but was cut after the first practice. I guess coaches frown on kids who, when fouled, have to shoot a running jump shot just to get the ball all the way from the free-throw line to the basket.
I wrestled two seasons each in junior high and high school, but rose only to the rank of practice dummy.
Playing sandlot football with my friends was a favorite fall activity. I was a quarterback in youth football for a couple of years, but could barely see over the top of the center’s rear end.
Little League baseball wasn’t much better. I had a weak throwing arm, but what really killed my baseball career was my hitting. My brain, not my shortness, is to blame for this one. As soon as the pitcher began his windup, my brain screamed “he’s trying to kill you!” and my body would respond by jumping backward three feet.
As a result, I struck out every time … but one. That one time, I forced myself to stay in the batter’s box and got hit by the pitch. My brain was right, the pitcher WAS trying to kill me! But at least I got to enjoy the view from first base once in my career.
My parents came to very few of my games as they didn’t deal with humiliation all that well. As for me, I didn’t really care. I was in it mostly for the post-game trip to the Mug ’n’ Bun root beer stand anyway.
At around age 10, I took up golf, where my lack of height didn’t matter. Unfortunately, my lack of strength meant I sometimes hit a driver on a par-3, while my poor hand-eye coordination meant most of my shots ended up in an adjacent fairway.
Over time, however, I improved to the point where I could at least keep up with my playing partners, and I enjoyed golf well into adulthood.
I started thinking about my less than illustrious sports career while watching two of my granddaughters play softball recently. They will be in fourth and sixth grades this year and, like I was, they are among the shorter members of their teams.
But that’s where the similarity ends.
Their brains do not tell them the pitcher is a murderer. Therefore, they do not bail out of the batter’s box. Instead, these girls hang in there and swing. They also hit the ball, get on base and score runs for their teams. I can only imagine how that feels.
They wear uniforms and carry fancy bags containing their helmet, bats and mitt. I wore my team T-shirt and a ball cap and hung my mitt from my belt.
I hope my granddaughters are learning things like teamwork and the value of setting goals and working hard to achieve those goals. I hope softball is boosting their self-esteem and showing them that they can accomplish anything as long as they want it badly enough.
At this point, all signs indicate that is the case. So far, I have yet to hear either of them say, “when are we going to the root beer stand?”