Baseball is Life
Let me preface this article with these are my opinions and I am writing to my boys and whoever else out there that is living the youth sports lifestyle.
Baseball is life…
Our life seems to revolve around baseball. We practice twice a week for Jakhob (13U) and twice a week for Xander (10U) along with double header days for both boys each week and weekend tournaments sporadically throughout the season. Oh yeah, don’t forget about all the extra work we put in outside of the team related activities. All of this baseball keeps us super busy and for the most part tired, very tired…
The struggle is real for the parents of youth athletes once they hit a certain level in the sports they choose to play. The commitment financially, mentally and physically can be tough on the strongest of parents. Life, essentially revolves around the sports our children are playing, which in our case is baseball. Baseball is Life. It is our life.
I want to walk you through this level of parenting. Let’s put aside the everyday life stuff like work, bills and relationships within an everyday family life and strictly take on the sports interactions aspect of this lifestyle. There are a lot of people that have asked us why we cut back on our YouTube vlogs. There are many reasons that I could go into that point to algorithms or other changes in YouTube policies but I’m here to point out that our life is busy and youth sports takes over life.
This season has been an eye opening experience for myself, the dad of a teenager who is trying to come into his own identity and a young phenom that always stands out on every level he has played at thus far. Both boys are on teams that are fairly raw and have room for improvement. Both boys continue to tell me that they love baseball and want to continue playing. Both boys are very good and excel at certain aspects of baseball. They each tell me at least once a week how much they love baseball and don’t want to quit the sport.
Lastly, both boys are extremely different in personality and how they interact with other children in their age groups.
This is where my dad instincts question the legitimacy of that love for baseball.
Let me build a quick player profile for each of my boys before moving on…
I will start with Jakhob, my 13 year old first born who has played multiple sports over his childhood. He eventually narrowed his aspirations down to baseball over the last few years. His personality is very reserved and has difficulty interacting with others which comes from his Tourette’s and Social Anxiety Disorder. Both of which he is still learning to deal with on and off the field. Life has thrown him many curveballs but he always finds a way to do just enough to get by. He has been pitching since he was 8 years old and has focused on his accuracy along with a filthy circle change-up which has left a lot of players walking back to their dugouts. He is currently working a curveball into his pitching repertoire this season. He also is working on his velocity and form to help prolong his ability to pitch moving forward. His batting has been a roller coaster ride of ups and downs with more downs than ups as of late. His stance and stride have changed from week to week it seems. He has not realized his power potential at he plate if he would just focus on the basics of his hitting. He has moved from shortstop to third base to second base and back to third base along with some second base when in the field of play. His lack of speed has been an issue with running bases and playing in outfield positions. Finally, in his player profile, his communication on the field is most likely his biggest weakness. Overall, he plays the game in silence waiting for moments of brilliance along with a few mishaps here and there while just wanting to be a teenager.
Now onto Xander, our baby boy at 9 years old that has excelled at every sport he has played which includes basketball, flag football, soccer and of course baseball. His personality is similar to Jakhob’s in one aspect which is when he first meets someone for about the first thirty minutes or so of being quiet and a bit shy. Then his personality flips and he does everything he can to impress whoever he is with. Sometimes he tries to impress other to a fault; being overly confident can be a bad trait in my opinion. Since moving to travel ball, he has “played up”, meaning that he is usually the youngest on his team. This season, he should be playing 9U baseball and he is playing 10U baseball instead. He has been called a “Swiss Army Knife” for his teams because he can play at every position and play the position at a high level. He pitched a couple of innings last season and looks to be one of the main arms on his new team this season. His main position on the field is catcher and he prides himself on framing pitches into the strike zone for the called strike from the umpires. He can bunt with the best of them due to his speed on the bases which also means extra bases with his stealing abilities. He has the ability to throw kids out from the outfield as well as throw them out from the catcher position on the bases. His hitting consists mostly hard ground balls that he easily makes it safely to first base. He has the ability to hit line drives into the outfield as well but his skinny frame has trouble powering too many to the fences yet. Being a mainstay at catcher the last couple of seasons has helped his communication skills on the field since the catcher is the field captain for the most part communicating plays to the rest of the team from the coach in the dugout. Overall, he wants to impress and will do anything his team needs to him to do on the field.
Now onto the parenting side of this equation and my thoughts about questioning their “Love for Baseball”.
Financially, the struggle is real. I will be fairly candid in my personal opinions on the financing of youth sports here. There are monthly fees, league fees, tournament fees, jersey fees, lesson fees, equipment fees… parking fees, gate fees… fees, fees, fees… and go ahead and double that since we have two boys playing, LOL. As you can see, there are so many fees involved within the sport each kid chooses to play. Youth sports, as I have said before are big business nowadays. This past month and a half alone, we have spent over $1,300 on baseball for our boys. I have no problem with that decision so as long as they both understand that it’s a privilege to play sports at the level they are playing and also understand what it takes to improve each and every time they step on the field. I expect results and improvements in their personal athletic development if I am going to spend my hard earned money. I feel that this is where most of my frustrations occur; the disconnect between the commitment and the improvement on the return of the investment into their personal development. Right or wrong in that assessment of what to expect from them is on me and me alone. I am their father and I know what each one is capable of when they put their mind into it.
Mentally, each of our boys is treated as… an individual with a separate set of skills, drive and abilities. The one thing I can ask from both of my boys is to give 100% in the moment. Respect the time and efforts of everyone around you. Everyone is going to have a rough day here and there but you can always control the amount of respect and effort given. Coaches are there to push you and get the most out of you. Always shake your coaches hand firmly after team activities and look them in the eye when you thank them. Always. Life is hard, baseball is hard and feelings get hurt along the way in both but we never let them destroy us as individuals. I expect control of their emotions on and off the field no matter the circumstances.
Physically, the constant state of being in a rush to make practice, arrive early to all team activities and be able to fuel our bodies can drive our health into the ground without proper scheduling. There are some days that just feel like nothing was accomplished besides the activities revolving around the sports that our children play. Weeknights are full of making sure homework is done properly followed by a rush to eat dinner, put uniforms on and arrive to practice early enough to allow the kids to get loose and prepare to have a solid practice. Weekends are up just as early as the normal work week and sometimes even earlier depending on where the location is at. Constant movement and scheduling conflicts are always occurring.
Each of those three aspects above form my view on their “Love for Baseball”.
I have told both of my boys that the moment they no longer love baseball will be sad for me; however, I will be behind them 100% in the activity that they choose to replace it with. As young kids growing into young adults, I want them to find passion for something that they love to do. I will support them in becoming the best they can be in what they choose to do in life. Baseball or any sport even may not be it for them; maybe it’s music or art or something else creative…
With Xander, he is so young and still loves to play baseball and impress people that are watching him. His passion for the sport is there for now. I always remind myself he is only nine. He loves to play tag, video games and to be his mamas shadow. I don’t think I fell in love with sports (nor even played them) until I was around the age of fourteen. He could always put more time in being a better athlete but again he is only nine.
As Jakhob gets older, I don’t see the passion in him or the fire to work on improving his athletic abilities. He will do what he is asked to do nothing more nothing less (this is applied to everything in his life). A couple weeks back his team has a really bad/lazy practice. His coach was talking to them afterwards and told them he has coached many kids from their youth all the way into the MLB and still works with them. His question to the team was “What do you think each one of his players has done on their off days to get to where they are now in the MLB?” The answer was simple… They have no off days. If they are not on the field, they are in the gym, in the cages or studying other players they look up to. From the moment they decided to love baseball and make it their life, they made it their life. From the moment they wake until the moment they lay their heads on their pillow… baseball is life.
Take that for what it’s worth but I will always be there for my boys first and foremost even when the love for baseball is gone. It’s all about pushing my boys to be the best they can be.
Love you both!