Today was the first day of practice for the Orioles, the little league baseball team I’m helping to coach. It was a perfect spring day in Seattle. For staying inside with a nice cup of tea and a crossword puzzle. But that wasn’t on the agenda, because 12 7 year old boys were ready to play baseball!
Because it was raining, we spent about twenty minutes warming up under a small shelter, throwing balls around. Have you ever gathered a bunch of seven year olds, armed them with hard objects, and asked them to hurl said objects at each other? Wow!
Things got a lot safer when we had them start out about ten feet apart from one another. Then we had them back up a step, if they were able to throw the ball back and forth three times without dropping it. After about five minutes, it was just like a real spring training session. On a concrete platform, ducking balls cruelly heaved at your "teammate", that is.
We got bumped out of the shelter when two other teams showed up. Since it was so wet, we decided to start out by dividing into two teams and playing a game. Some of the kids could hit the ball pretty well. Almost no one could catch the ball or throw accurately. We livened things up by looking the other way when they ran out of the basepaths, sometimes avoiding the bases entirely. We drew the line at fielders tackling runners however. It was just about chaos, no one got hurt, and we got a glimpse of what the kids know how to do, and what they don’t know how to do.
We’ll need to work on some fundamentals. These include not turning your back to the batter to chat with your friend in left field, not absentmindedly walking into the batter’s box when someone else is just about to swing at a pitch, and not humming the ball to your teammate at an impossible-to-catch speed or trajectory.
Once these things are well in hand, we can work on fielding ground balls, catching a fly ball, and throwing to the correct base to get a runner out.
I noticed a couple of other things too. These kids react about the same to being told what to do as my kids. They’re already wise to me.