Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Field of unmowed dreams

Littlest is playing t-ball this summer in a season that just began last week. The league is for 3- to 5-year-olds, and his best friend and one of his preschool classmates are on the team with him. I'm coaching the team, and it's been fun -- the kids are great. We have 10 players, five girls and five boys. The mix in ages is just right that not too many older kids (Littlest and his friends included) aren't dominating. Getting kids this young to play a position, and stay at that position, is difficult. Usually, the ball gets hit, and just about every player runs goes after it. I've coached teams on which almost always, the older, faster kids get every grounder and the smaller kids get sad. That hasn't been quite the case with the 2011 Orioles, partly because of the mix of kids, and partly because I've gotten better at distracting and moving the older players back once they get a ground ball.

The league is run through Salt Lake County Rec, and the games usually are played in the Eccles Field House -- normally, the University of Utah's indoor football facility. This season, the artificial turf in the field house is being resurfaced, and as a result, the games got moved to the large field of the private grade school next door. The move has not worked out well, and least from a coach's point of view. The grass on this field is so long that every ball is dying as soon as it rolls a few feet. Considering this is t-ball, and that 3-year-olds don't hit very far, every at-bat just about goes like this: Batter hits the ball, ball doesn't roll past the imaginary pitcher's mound, a horde of defensive players descend on the ball, fight for the ball, and finally, one comes up with it and throws to first. (FYI, this league has no outs, and everybody bats and gets one base per her hit.) Luckily, we are split between girls and boys that the battle for the ball has been civil; we've seen teams of mostly boys tackle each other to get to the ball.

My other quibble is that the summer season started so late -- early July instead of mid-June. I guess that might have been a result of the reclocated games, but it means we are going to miss our last three games (it's only a seven-game season, also shorter than last year) while on vacation.

Annoyances with the league itself notwithstanding, coaching has been fun. Littlest is hitting the ball well. Players can try hitting coach pitch (four tries; afterward, it's back to the tee), and Littlest tried tonight and on his two at-bats, hit both pitches on his first swings! The hits didn't go far, and he really only just half-swung and made contact, but at least he's aiming at the ball accurately. I've theorized baseball will be a good sport for Littlest, because it's just him and the ball (unlike soccer, in which it's him, the ball and a bunch of other kids -- he tends to chase his friends instead of the ball). We will likely move to coach pitch next year in another, more organized league.

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