My dad used to tell me that I would be one of the greatest pitchers in history. He used to say that all I had to do was throw as hard as I could and no one could touch me. This wasn’t as accurate as he liked to think, but I understood what he meant. I played in Little League and then in high school and college. I was the best. The team cheered around me after every game and the girls flocked to me at every party. I was, quite simply, the man. I played all four years of college, but decided against pitching in the majors after something my dad said to me. I forgot what he said. I also met my wife, who, I knew, wouldn’t wait for me. And I couldn’t be happier. We have a three year old daughter and a ten year old son. And he is going to be the greatest baseball player in history.
The trouble with him is that he doesn’t like baseball. I take him to games and have him watch with me on television, but he just can’t seem to get into it. So I sign him up for Little League. Once he plays, he’ll love it. Just like Brussels sprouts? No, not like Brussels sprouts. I tell him that every five minutes.
I discovered another problem, however. My son is afraid of the ball. To the point that he woke up yelling about a baseball chasing him down the street. It’s a ball! So I take him outback to show him how harmless it is. I roll the ball to him slowly and tell him to stand there and then throw it back. What an arm he has! When he doesn’t flinch, I gently toss it to him. He flinches. I tell him how to hold his glove and catch the ball in the webbing. I won’t throw the ball at him; I’ll throw it to him. He doesn’t believe me. Trust me. I toss it to him and make sure it lands right in his glove. Way to go! He throws it back. We do this until I can actually throw him the ball. It’s a real game of catch. So I have him grab a bat to practice. I start to throw and he starts to flinch. Don’t flinch! Watch the ball! I keep throwing and he keeps swinging, but nothing happens. But he doesn’t flinch. I start to hurl my fast ball right past him at ninety seven miles an hour, hardly my fastest, and he swings out of fright, but he doesn’t flinch. Finally, he tips one back. The bat vibrates horribly and he drops it and tucks his hands under his armpits to keep them from hurting. I run to him, laughing as I always do, and tell him that it was a great swing. But he didn’t hit a home run. None of these kids will throw a ball like that. You’ll crush every pitch you see. Promise? Of course.
At his first game, I’m the loudest one in the crowd. My son is the starting shortstop! The best! He can never throw a perfect game, but he can help create one! The top of the first… he looks stoic in the infield, stopping a groundball and taking it to second for an unassisted double play. My son is the greatest! The bottom of the first… my son bats second, he takes the first pitch low. Good eye! Good eye! The second pitch he swings and sends into the seats, foul. I almost caught it! The third pitch is inside and goes between his ribs and arms. Ball two! He never even flinched! The fourth pitch, it went high and inside. He saw it coming the whole time, but he wouldn’t flinch. It hit him in his right eye. He’s down!
When he calms down, we get him to the car. He still cries, but that’s okay, he can see. His eye is black and a little swollen and his cheek and nose are bleeding. Relax, it builds character! What’s character? It’s something you’ll understand when you have a son. I don’t like character. We get home and my wife is livid. How could you let him play? I thought he would like it! I put a bag of peas on his eye and a towel under his nose. I don’t like baseball! Everyone likes baseball! I’m not everyone! He’s not everyone! But he was doing so good! He could be the best! He’s bleeding! And crying! There’s no crying in baseball! I take a steak out of the fridge and lay it on my face. My wife hates me and my son hates baseball and my eye really hurts. The Sox better be winning.