According to the Bible, we are to “train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” We have always believed this to be true. We were intentional when the kids were young in finding out what God-given talents and gifts with which they had been blessed, and in trying our best to encourage activities which would help them to develop their gifts. All three kids were athletic, so one of the things we trained them up in was baseball/softball.
One of my favorite “Tribal Tales” is about Jesse and me practicing baseball. This story usually resurfaces during each baseball season (and my boys play pretty much year round: spring, summer, and fall). You would not think there would be much to tell. Practicing anything is just not typically all that interesting. But this particular practice time was quite memorable.
I can recall this day like it was yesterday. The sky was crystal blue. The emerald green grass had just been cut and smelled like heaven. The perfectly straight, bright, white lines marked off foul territory. The field on which our oldest son, Beau, was playing baseball sits pristine on the banks of the Cumberland River just outside of Nashville, Tennessee. There was a crisp, cool breeze blowing. It was absolutely perfect baseball weather.
Jesse, our youngest son, was seven; Beau was eighteen. The three of us had made the trek into the city. Over the years I tried to never miss a baseball game when one of my boys was playing. My husband had a commitment that morning, so I had to take Jesse with me. I knew he would be bored since Beau’s team played a double header, nine innings each, every weekend. I grabbed Jesse’s baseball gear and my glove and threw it in the back of my van. I did not really want to play that day; I just wanted to watch Beau’s games. But I brought Jesse’s bag just in case.
The baseball park where Beau’s games were scheduled actually has two baseball diamonds. One was perfectly manicured and kept up. The other was used as a practice field and was usually in pretty bad shape.
Beau’s team was in the first base dugout. Jesse and I sat in the bleachers with our backs to the practice field watching the game. We watched until about the fifth inning. And then, predictably, Jesse got bored. I could find no logical argument to have him sit with me any longer. I had already bought him a coke. He ate a hot dog. I even went back to get nachos for him. He was full of baseball food and simply refused to sit still.
So, I told him to run back to the van and get his baseball bag and gear. I asked him to grab my softball glove as well. His face lit up. He loved to play baseball. He ran off at light speed across the grass, then the sidewalk, and into the parking lot to my car. He opened the hatch and grabbed all the baseball stuff. Then, he ran back to me as fast as his little legs would carry him.
We went out onto the practice field behind us. We set down the gear in the third base dugout, so that I could still keep any eye on Beau’s game on the field immediately to my left. I hated missing anytime the kids were up to bat.
I walked to home plate with a few baseballs, a bat, and my glove. Jesse grabbed his fielder’s mitt, his baseball hat, and ran out to play short stop.
We started relaxed. I hit him an easy grounder, right to him. He fielded it and threw it to me at home. I tossed the ball up again, and hit it directly at him, on the ground, for a second time. And again. Then again. This slower pace continued for nearly five minutes. Then, I told him that I was going to start hitting it a little bit harder, which I did. So, now the rhythm and pace increased. I am still hitting it straight to him, but we were moving at a much quicker clip. He was doing great. He could totally keep up with the faster pace and cleanly fielded each grounder.
Since he was having no trouble with the ground balls that were hit to him, I decided to start hitting them to his left and to his right in hopes of getting his feet moving and increasing his range. He kept up with no problem. So, I increased the pace and the speed of the hit. By this time, I am drilling the ball at him over and over again. He was getting grounders, line drives, to his left, to his right and as fast as I could get the ball out of my glove. He was playing his position perfectly; nothing got by him.
Beau’s game was in between innings and I was completely unaware that Beau’s teammates had been distracted by Jesse and me practicing baseball. They were now watching our field. Jesse did not seem to notice either, so I kept going increasing velocity and really drilling some infield fundamental plays.
Then I heard one of Beau’s teammates laugh and comment, “Hey guys, look at that mom and kid over there. She is really drilling that ball hard at him.”
Another player joined in, “My mom never played ball with me like that. Can you imagine if she had?”
Still another cackled and said, “I cannot believe how hard she is hitting the ball and how fast it is coming at the poor little kid. But he makes the play every time.”
By this time, I was pretty amused at their comments. I really had not thought of how hard and fast I was drilling the ball at my little seven year old.
The guys were really cutting up and so I turned and looked in their direction and smiled at Beau. The players noticed. Amused, Beau replied, “Yeah, she used to run baseball drills with me, at first base, just like that, up until I started playing high school ball. So I know exactly what he’s going through.”
The baseball players exploded with laughter, and one guy said, “Oh my gosh, that’s your mom, Beau?” Another chimed in, “Well no wonder you play first base like you do!” And they continued to laugh, tease, and give Beau a pretty hard time until the next inning started.
Jesse never knew that what he and I were doing that Saturday morning may be different from his friends and their moms were doing on that very same day. But that was just how things were in our family. We practiced and drilled and trained until we got it right. Because you know, as the saying goes . . . “practice makes perfect.”
(c)2016 Sustained Momentum Entertainment, LLC and Diane Carter LeJeune. Previously published: June 26, 2013 "Tribal Tales."