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Back to the Game I Love

Just when a person thinks life is settling into a routine, fate, karma, or God Himself decides to shake things up. It happened to me recently.

The phone rang on a Friday evening, and my daughter Lacey was on the other end. I was the person whom she had hoped to reach and could tell that something special was coming by the excitement in her voice. Was it another grandchild? Was she taking a new job? No, it was something much more wonderful!

“I signed Madden up for T-Ball today!”

Well, let me tell you that a smile so large that it almost ripped the corners of my mouth appeared. I whooped and told her how great it was. Of course, then I asked her if my grandson needed any equipment: glove, bat, baseballs, cleats, batting T, or home plate. Anyone with a couple of brain cells could tell that I was excited.

After talking with Lacey, she called her brother Dallas with the news while I phoned my twin brother Jim, a lover of baseball more than I am, to give him the news. He’s watched his son play throughout the years and now travels places to watch his grandson Caden play.

I suppose our love of the game centers around the fact Jim and I were less than stellar baseball players as kids. In fact, I spent an entire childhood in right field, the place where the worst players were exiled. Jim was a bit better, but not much. Not until we became did we learn the game and how to play it. Then we began coaching our children (yes, even our daughters learned to hit, catch, and throw) on youth and high school teams.

My next call was to Billy Hayes. He and I coached together from the times our sons were in T-Ball through their junior years in high school. We developed a strong friendship that led us to sitting under my carport after every game and dissecting each inning. That bond forged by baseball still keeps us strong friends even though we don’t see each other too often anymore.

During those years as a dad/coach, I made hundreds of mistakes. My son Dallas liked baseball, but he wasn’t in love with the sport as I was. So, I pushed him… hard. That overly demanding attitude caused strains in a father-son relationship that only eased when Dallas went away to college. The more I pushed, the more he resisted liking baseball, even though he was successful as a first baseman and pitcher and hitter.

I carried those guilty feelings around for years until I put them together in a book. “No Right Field for My Son: A Dad Pushes Too Hard” tells the unflattering truths about my shortcomings as a father and coach. It also delves into the world of baseball from Little League to high school and discusses how politics often plays an unfair part in the sport. I have declared it the unofficial primer for parents who have children playing any sport and a book that all should read. Through my experiences I hope to teach parents WHAT NOT TO DO.

I look for opportunities to speak to groups about youth sports and what parents should do and know about coaching or just working with children. Maybe I can make up for my mistakes by helping others.

So, I have another chance at this baseball thing. Madden might not like the game, or he might excel in it. My job this time to keep my mouth shut and cheer him on. I can only hope that he pays attention and learns the basic skills of the game. I’d hate for him to find himself in right field too. It helps that my grandson will play ball in Nashville, a good 200 miles from my home in Knoxville. Still, I’ve already announced that on several occasions this spring I’ll rise early, hop in the car, and be in the stands when Madden’s team takes the field.

In a shameless plug, “No Right Field for My Son: A Dad Pushes Too Hard” and my other book “Baseball Boys” are available either at Amazon.com or by contacting me at joerector@comcast.net.

Play ball!

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