Travel Ball Season
The kids and I are enjoying a lazy Monday morning at home, thanks to MLK Day. They are peacefully playing iPads up stairs and I'm enjoying the quiet. I'm also enjoying the sights from our bedroom window. Over the winter, when the leaves are off the trees, I can see the farmers hillside. Even without the beauty of spring and summer, winter offers so many pretty colors. I can see the browns of the variety of grasses. The evergreen pines seem to be even greener against the winter landscape. And I can see the farmer's cute black cows, of all sizes, munching on whatever they can find. I even have a nice, hot cup of coffee in my hands. 1 Splenda and a lot of cream.
Then... out of nowhere, a worry cloud hits me. I realize something is approaching soon. Something that steals my weekends and makes me wake up at 5 am on a Saturday. It really increases my time in the laundry room, battling against grass stains and red mud. It equals more trips to yucky fast food joints and more cold fries littered all over my car floor.It's almost Travel Ball Season! My daughter, Carley, plays travel softball. Camden, our second born son, plays travel baseball. Cade, the baby of the family, will play rec ball. Growing up as the youngest, he has quite a fast ball and was hitting the outfield fence in T-Ball last year. The older kids have no mercy on him and he's learned to catch it or get hit. Our oldest, Caleb, who turned 16 last summer, plays football. They seem to either play or practice or condition year round.Last year, Carley also played rec ball for the county. They ended up winning states and playing in the world series. The whole community came behind the team. Businesses donated money. The stands were filled at the playoff games with all the locals. The gas station let us all fill up for free before we made the trip to South Carolina for the World Series. Places all over town had congrats signs on their businesses. And it reminded me how much I love the small town feel of rec ball. We held off as long as we could before we let the kids make the switch to travel ball. The truth is, travel ball has put a hurting on hometown rec ball teams.We were between a rock and a hard place. So, we tried it out for the first time last year. We made the choice to add more chaos. But, I didn't handle it well. We were over scheduled, over stressed and over spent. Jim and I saw each other in 2 second intervals in the halls of our home. I just felt like it was too much. I also knew this was going to be the way things went in our spring and summer and I needed to find a way to handle it.I know all the parent sayings. “Enjoy it while it lasts”, “It will be gone before you know it”, “You'll miss these days”. I have news for all proclaimers of those sayings...there are things I won't ever miss. I won't miss the days of being cramped under a shade canopy that's providing little relief in the 100 degree heat with 5 out of 6 of my family members. I don't think I'll miss the constant request for snacks from all little children, some of which don't even belong to me, while I watch what seems to be the 89thgame that day. I won't miss the long drives in the car with each child coming up with new ways to ask if we are there yet. They are very creative with alternatives to the question they know they are forbidden to ask. Some of them are very crafty. “How many miles between us and home?”, “How many movies do we have left before we reach the destination?” “Where will the sun be in the sky when we are almost to the place we are going?” . I certainly won't miss the money flying out of my wallet.Last travel ball season left me pretty cranky. I wasn't a very good witness for Jesus to my family. So, this morning as I shed a tear thinking of a 5 am alarm on a Saturday, I am setting goals for this season. I can't relive last year. This year, as I pay an overpriced ticket fee at the front gate of the complex, I'll rely on Jesus for patience. As we walk, awkwardly pulling an overpriced utility cart I felt pressured to buy because every other family had one, filled with a canopy, 12 folding chairs, 3 coolers of snacks and drinks, sunscreen, bug spray, and money for more snacks, I'll try to remember the goals I set for myself that calm day in the winter.
BE KIND TO THE UMPIRE. Give him a bottle of water. Don't yell at him. He's doing a job no parent wants. He's dressed in really hot armor that never really seems to protect him. He's sweating to death. He spends hours and hours smelling the back end of a catcher when I can't stand a two hour car ride home with the stench that comes from my player. He probably does 1,000 squats a game. He has to listen to parents who know nothing about the game question his intelligence. He gets hit with really fast balls, over and over again. I once saw an Umpire's ear get ripped off from a wild pitch during a 10 U softball game! Give the Umpire some respect. Show him Jesus.
I WILL PAY ATTENTION TO MY NON-PLAYING KIDS AND HUSBAND (If he isn't at another tournament). I will take fun things to do like Uno, playing cards and books. We will go on walks. I will actually take Cade to the playground instead of yelling at him to sit down and play his Ipad so I can watch another game. I will realize snacks are their coping mechanism to make it through the long day. I may even buy them the “I am just here for the snacks” t shirt I have been tempted to get. I will show my family Jesus.
I WILL NOT TALK FOR DAYS ABOUT WHAT MY PLAYER DID WRONG. I have only played one year of softball in my life. I was young and didn't like it and can't remember how it was to play it. I have never played baseball. So, who am I to talk about how to do it?!? Now, a kid doesn't need praise if they did terrible. They know how they did and pretend praise won't mean a thing. They do need to know that tomorrow's a new day and your love for them isn't based on their performance. They need to be reminded that they aren't in the pros. We need to be reminded they aren't in the pros and probably never will be. Most of them won't even get a scholarship for college. But, all of them will have character qualities that can only be learned through a sport. Team work. Self sacrifice. Working through pain. Getting past embarrassment. The fact that they go out to pitch the next inning when the prior inning was a disaster. That they will even step up to the plate again after a game loosing strike out. That they will learn to catch a fly ball after the last attempt ended up with a black eye and a bruised ego. Perseverance. Hope. Listening to authority. They are kids learning to play the game. And they are kids learning life lessons that will show them the way to responsible adulthood. Show your Player Jesus.
I WILL RESPECT ALL PLAYERS ON BOTH TEAMS. Everyone there playing the game is someone's son/daughter trying to do their best. They have the same feeling and insecurities that my child does. I have heard parents from the other team celebrating the fact my son was having an off day pitching by letting him know how bad they thought he was doing. Treat each child, on both teams, like you would your own. They are little kids on a big stage. Show each player the love of Jesus.
I WILL RESPECT THE COACHES CHOICES. That's a hard one. Every parent thinks their kid should be out on the field at all times. But it can't work that way. Someone needs to be sitting when the rules of the game only allow 9 players on the field. That coach is putting a lot more time into this than I am. And I am putting in a lot of time! He's out there pitching batting practice while I'm in the car with the AC blowing. He's doing all the paper work for tournaments. He's sending out reminder and updates and keeping track of money. Show your child's coach some love, not only to show them Jesus, but to be an example to your kids about how to respect authority.
I WILL BE KIND TO ALL SPECTATORS AT THE GAME. Home team and away team. I have witnessed too many adults fighting at games. We are the grownups there. Our kids are watching. We need to be the kind of person today that we want our kid to be tomorrow. Show all families and spectators some Jesus love this ball season.
Our kids will learn more about Jesus on a hot, sweaty, overpriced and long day at a travel ball tournament than they ever will watching you sit and smile at church. You tell them about Jesus. You tell them they need Him. But, can they see a difference in you because you claim to have Him? Do they see a peace in you that only Jesus can bring? Or, do they see a yelling, impatient mess? The biggest goal for me this travel ball season is to show Jesus. I can't do that if I let my devotional time slip. I can't do that if I let my prayer time decrease as ball time increases. Because, the truth is, without Jesus, I am one gigantic mess. With Him, I can be a blessing to those I share time with this season. These are my goals. I won't be perfect and execute them with exact precision. But, I will remember them and do my best to keep them. I'll remember Jesus is at the ball field with me. I want to be the kind of parent and fan that He wouldn't be embarrassed to sit by. Here's too a great travel ball season. Join me and let's make this time in our lives and the lives of our kids better, together. See you at the ball field.