Today we got three inches of snow on the mountain! I am beginning to wonder if that groundhog was just doing some wishful thinking! And still, even while shoveling the white stuff, my thoughts are turning more and more to the upcoming baseball season!
I captured this moment on the day I realized my son was right–he was meant to be a catcher. I was not in favor of this position change because catchers get beat up. They have to block bad pitches, throw hard to the bases to stop basestealers, and block the plate from incoming hard and vicious slides! Ouch! And yet, on the positive side, the catcher is literally involved in every pitch of the game. He calls for each pitch, learns to know a batter’s tendencies, and calls the plays as they unfold. He commands the game in a way like no other. James is indeed a catcher. He’s been a student of the game since he was little.
I remember the very first time I went out and bought him a bat, ball, and tee. It was one of those big, over-sized plastic sets that serve as the entry into the game of baseball for most little guys. Well, James hit two or three balls off the tee and then said proudly, “Daddy, pitch to me!” Now mind you, he was only three years old! I tried my best to use reason and convince him that a three-year-old needs to hit off the tee for more than two or three times before he could ever hope to hit a pitched ball thrown at him. I told him that even the great Cal Ripken, Jr., who was our mutual hero, hit off a tee at least a hundred times a day even as a big leaguer!
All of my fatherly wisdom and coaching rationale was not enough. So I succumbed and pitched the big plastic ball his way as this three-year-old stood proudly in the batter’s box. I think I threw over a hundred pitches to him that day and he hit maybe five of them. Each time he connected his bat with that ball, he would run around, touching every base, and declare he hit a homerun! I would try to tag him as he slid into homeplate, but he was always safe. And a love of the game was born for both father and son!
James is now seventeen years old and started eight games as a sophomore on his high school team last year. I still try to take my turns pitching to him, but now instead of hitting five out of a hundred, he connects on each and every one I throw anywhere near the strike zone. Then, I duck, hide behind my glove, and scream for my mommy as the baseball comes straight back at me!
James will be starting behind the plate this year as a Junior and he is looking forward to a good season. He’s been working hard in the off-season and can’t wait for the weather to break so he can get out on the diamond!
I realized when James was 12 years old that I could no longer be his coach. He was developing a mind of his own, it was the proper time for him to be coached by someone other than his dad, and he knew more about the game than I did! Admittedly, it was very hard for me to step down from coaching baseball, so I coached middle school football for three years, which I thoroughly enjoyed! But eventually, I had to give that up, too, to be available to get James where he needed to be as he continued developing his baseball quest. I do miss coaching but decided to take up a new spot–behind my camera. Now I’ve been photographing the Pleasant Valley High School Baseball Team for four years and I enjoy the challenge and opportunity to capture the action on the field.
Yep, it’s still February, and there is a lot of snow on the ground, but James and I are thinking BASEBALL! Aren’t you?