Extra InningsAugust 21, 2004
Ben began his sixth season of Little League baseball today, with a two hour practice, beginning at 8:30 a.m.
This season is very different from his previous experiences. First, a new, upper-level league has been formed which has unfortunately split the team, with nearly half of the players moving to the more advanced league. We were blessed to be part of the same team for each of these seasons, a team filled with very talented players, terrific families, and one of the best coaches I have ever seen. It was sad for everyone involved to see the team come to an end, but it was inevitable that some of the gifted players would move on eventually.
Thankfully, one of the assistant coaches started a new team and invited Ben to join, along with 4-5 of his teammates.
The second difference is that this is the first season (age nine and under) of kid pitch. For those of you unfamiliar with little league, it may come as a surprise to learn that after t-ball, your own child's coach pitches to his team, with the goal being to give up as many runs as possible. So, over the years, most kids become fairly good at hitting perfectly-placed pitches delivered at just the right speed.
This year, the kids finally start pitching. And since it is now your opponent throwing the ball at you, the umpire calls balls as well as strikes, so walks become part of the game. According to many people who have lived through it, walks become the game as it is rare for a nine-year old to be able to throw a strike from 46 feet away.
For me, this would be more than enough reason to retire. New team, new coach, new rules, and a shocking increase in your chances of being hit by a pitch. Ben, however, has proven once again to be much more persistent and passionate about his baseball life than I ever was. He not only insisted on playing, but is very excited about the chance to pitch, something he has always been fascinated by. In fact, one of my greatest regrets as a father is that I'm unable to teach him how to throw a professional collection of pitches, including his favorites, the slider, knuckleball, and four-seam fastball.
So, thanks to Ben, we have another edition of Fall Baseball to look forward to... I can't wait!