This season, he began Little League. Half the 2nd graders are kept in the younger league where coaches pitch (with 1st graders) and the others are bumped up to the league with the 3rd graders featuring kids pitching. He's on the smaller size, physically, but what he lacks in size he more than makes up with effort and gusto. He's not afraid to mix it up with the bigger or older kids in the least. And when other kids are daydreaming or getting lazy/tired, he's still motoring. I had to remind him that he doesn't have to slide into EVERY base, especially first base.
He was asked to pitch an inning this past weekend and after walking the bases loaded, he was swapped with the third baseman. He was dejected but determined to do better. We threw all weekend so he'd be reminded that he could, in fact, "do it". I'm a sucker for teaching the proper mechanics, so that's all we worked on.
Last night, other kids were asked to pitch so he didn't get another shot. One of the better kids on the team, a 3rd grader, catches most of the time. Late in the game, the catcher was asked to pitch, rather than catch. Below is what followed next:
Coach: Who here has a cup on?
Kids: (maybe 3 hands go up; scary, I know!)
Coach: Which of you wants to catch?
My son, after a pregnant pause: I do!!!
Coach: You sure?
My son: Definitely.
Coach: OK, let's go!
Now, I know he's got the motivation and desire but I am not sure he's ready to catch. Not to mention, the kid who was going to pitch, our regular catcher, can really throw. Not a soft toss like most other kids, but really bring it. Naturally, I am chuckling behind the fence, near home plate, knowing what's coming. I help him suit up in the dugout, with the hockey-style mask fitting over his sports glasses, looking pretty cool even if the chest protector was drooping low on him.
He goes out there, settles in and the game resumes. First few pitches were wide, bouncing off the backstop. Then a strike, connecting with the shin guard flush, making a loud plastic crack. The coaches looked at me and we all laughed a bit. He wasn't the least bit hurt or nervous, unlike in his pitching debut. He missed most of the pitches thrown his way but threw them all back well, in spite of the oversized gear.
Then the great moment. Remember, I am almost behind the backstop, off to the right (as you can see by the camera phone picture taken to the right). The pitcher really hums a strike, the batter swings and misses and the ball just drills my son in the mask, right between the eyes. All the coaches and parents looked at me, figuring I'd be screaming or panicked. My son didn't so much as flinch. Chased the ball down, tossed it back to the pitcher and resumed his position. I just crossed my arms and kept smiling, reminding him to keep his right hand behind his backside. I never thought I'd be proud to see my son drilled with a pitch between the eyes (even with a mask on), but there I was, proud to see him not even hesitate to continue.
Inning ends, he hustles off the field, ecstatic. He didn't care that the ball hit him or how he looked. He had a blast. He immediately starts lobbying the coaches to catch again next game. He asked me to go get him catchers gear. He couldn't calm down. He wanted to call his grandparents and mom right there, from the dugout. He couldn't sit still.
Now, mind you, I have been telling him for a while that the catcher is the best position, since it's involved in every play and requires knowing everything that's going on. [Watching how bored, disinterested and distracted some kids get in the outfield, I was hoping he'd try something to keep him more involved.] He liked to try to play shortstop or 3B. He never believed me, until now.
I think we might have a new catcher in our midst.