Play Ball!

Before we begin today's tale, a quick "congratulations" today for our friends B & D on the birth of their new baby girl. A lifetime of pink dresses and ponies awaits you.

May 1, 4:15pm.

That is the date that needs to be kept in posterity because one day a sports caster who is covering the Yankees will ask my daughter how long she has been playing baseball. She can then say, with confidence, that her dad began teaching her how to play on May 1, at 4:15 pm.

I know that the big money in baseball is with the hitters, juiced or no. If you can hit homeruns, you can bank. There is that and a somewhat sneaking suspicion that my daughter may be a little of a clod so I figured we would start off with the long ball. This is not a knock against my daughter, it’s just genetic. Her father is somewhat a clod as well and her mother has only a vague acquaintance with grace. We are a family of fat-footed clod hoppers, and proud of it.

I bought my daughter a T-ball set, pink of course and took her to the backyard. Being a good father, I had expected this first hitting instruction to last a good 3 hours. We would work on keeping the head down and elbow up until the sunset and then go in for some supplements. Yup, I was confident that I would get a 2 year old to do one activity for 3 hours. Then I would show her the skill of charging 10 bucks for an autograph.

My first concern was the size of the backyard. It’s actually a pretty big back yard with at least 40 feet of space on the long side. I was pretty sure that I would spend a lot of my time hopping the fence getting the homers that she would surely send over the fence. My daughter is Hoss.

Ok, yeah, I’ll admit it. My expectations may have been a little high.

I set the ball on the T and told her to start hitting. I scooted back ready to commence with some diving catches and words of encouragement. You would think that I would have also put on a cup given the video’s from America’s Funniest Home Videos, but I was also sure that my little girl was not only a long ball hitter that she was a place hitter as well. There is no way she would ever hurt her Daddy. I have been proven correct but not for the reason I thought.

Little Hoss walked up to the T with the oversized bat. She looked at the ball and then stood on the right side of it. She looked at me, a smirk of confidence on her face.

She then took the ball off the T and put in on the ground. Then, she used her caveman club to hit the ball on the top while screaming “No”. Apparently she thought the ball was doing something bad. In baseball its always healthy to have anger at a ball that goes no where so I couldn’t blame her for this to much and I also realized that I may have been dreaming a little high for my slugger.

I honestly expected her to walk right up, address the ball with a grimace, spit and then hit one clear over the Green Monster that is the tree in the backyard.

We might have to go back to basics. In fact, I should probably teach her what the basics are before we go back to them.

We started with the two hand grip that transforms this club of destruction to a club of glory. We spent a good 20 minutes on this one facet and Little Hoss deserves praise for having that much attention span. Of course, this was a little forced on her as when she ran away from her fundamental obsessed father I was screaming “Two hands, baby! Two hands.” She might have thought we were playing chase. But eventually she got the idea.

Now that that was done, we had to go to hitting the ball. I calmly explained to my daughter that the most important part of the long ball was making good contact and hitting the sweetspot, which I then outlined for her. As her head swiveled around from a squirrel to a bird I kept shuffling in front of her pointing out the “sweetspot” and it was thus that our lesson continued.

Again I got her to address the ball on the right hand side. I spit for her because I haven’t’ taught her that part just yet. I told her to let it rip and she just looked at me. No problems, no problems at all. I am a man of patience. I got behind her and told her to swing, then I took her arms in mine and showed her how it was done.

Now she was ready for a solo hit. I put the ball back on the tee and gave her the swing away sign which I had previously shown her was a touch of my ballcap and a swipe across my chest, but only if it wasn’t followed by an ear pull which would then negate the previous command and tell her to take the pitch while the runner on first stole second. Basics, always teach the basics.

Swing away kid, there were no ear pulls today. Let’s give the fans something to cheer about.

She put the bat against the ball and very gently “pushed” the ball off the tee.

We all went apeshit. The dogs started barking, I was jumping up and down and I could almost hear the pro scouts burning up my phone lines. After all, my daughter’s second attempt and she had already made contact! This, my friends, is what we refer to in the business as a prodigy.

I have also taught my daughter the art of shagging baseballs as well. I have shagged way too much in my younger life, it’s her turn. I’m management.

She got the ball away from the dog, who just wanted to chase it and place it next to a big pile of poop, and put it back on the tee.

Again, we went through the ritual and she again “pushed” the ball off the tee. This continued for another 10 minutes but each push was a little bit harder than the last. No problems, we are just warming up like every big leaguer does.

Now though it was time to teach her the art of the swing, how the power of the hit comes from the rotation of the hips and the proper action of stepping toward the pitcher.

However, before we could get to this very important part of the game the dog stole the ball off the tee. Little Hoss, being the superb athlete that she is, quickly grabbed her bat and turned it back into the caveman club gleefully chasing after the dog.

My daughter’s first brawl, also another great teaching opportunity. I chased after her yelling “Protect the pitcher! Protect the pitcher!”

I get 10% of whatever she makes.

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