April 14, 2014 11:06:18 AM
"Are you going to be that kind of parent?"
I don't recall who asked me the question. It was several years ago, well before my son, Austin, played his first baseball game or soccer match. But after years of umpiring at nearly every age division, I kind of knew the direction the questioner was going. After all, I had seen plenty of examples of parents shouting, screaming, and carrying on while they watched their boys and girls play baseball and softball. To a lesser extend, I also have witnessed the same kind of behavior at soccer games. It doesn't matter if you are an official because if the parents believe your call went against their team, watch out because you might feel the wrath of a parent who believes they have been scorned.
Memories like that danced into my head and I smiled.
"No, I hope not," thinking to myself that neither I nor my wife, Amanda, was going to have any problem controlling our emotions or holding our tongues. Besides, I thought, competitive athletics don't get serious until high school.
Two weekends into April in our first travel ball spring/summer, I couldn't have been more wrong. Youth sports are addictive. Whether it's recreational or competitive athletics, I have grown to understand how parents can lose themselves in the moment and feel like they are living through their children. I found myself holding my hands above my head and questioning the call of the base umpire when he dared to make a call against our team, the Possum Town Sluggers, a 7-and-under travel baseball team. It didn't occur to me until later that day, when I could feel my voice growing hoarse from yelling and my head pounding from the adrenaline that had me on the edge of the baseball bucket outside the dugout that I had to be careful. I was on the verge of becoming the same kind of parent I had sworn I wouldn't become.
The more I thought about it, though, I couldn't blame myself. I never imagined the pride or enjoyment I could feel watching my son and his teammates. At 6 and 7 years old, they probably only have an inkling of understanding about the word adversity. But watching Isaiah Palmer try to grip a bat and throw a ball after he had slammed his thumb in the car door earlier in the day made me appreciate how much children can love to play sports. Seeing Brayden Edmiston recover from taking a blow to the head from a runner while he fielded a ground ball and seeing him come back and play in a game later that day made me proud of all of the Sluggers.
After waiting more than four hours to resume play, PTS won its final two games in bracket play to win the championship of the United States Sports Specialty Association 82 Challenger tournament in Philadelphia. The victories wrapped up a 4-0 showing that helped the boys secure their second tournament title. Lined up along the first- and third-base lines, the teams applauded each other as they received their medals and trophies and then gathered for pictures. More than 12 hours after the journey started, the players shook off the fatigue and listened as coach Bo Edmiston praised their effort and hard work. He handed out stickers for all of the players for their defensive and offensive prowess.
While brothers played in the infield dirt and sisters helped pick up equipment, parents took to their phones to send pictures to friends and family and to post the newly crowned champions on Facebook.
A picture of all of the boys is in today's paper, along with one of the Cal-City Thunder U-8 boys soccer team. The Thunder recently won the silver division in the Frostbite Tournament and the gold division in the Spring Shootout. Both teams should be commended. We welcome all parents who are helping in every sport to send us pictures of their children's accomplishments.
Whether it's baseball, softball, soccer, or another sport, my hope is the games remain fun for the Sluggers, Thunder, and every other team. Seeing 6- and 7-year-olds accomplish what they have in the past six months has made me realize there are no bounds to what kids can do. Who would have imagined a 7-and-under team could turn a triple play in the final inning to wrap up a victory? Who would have thought a group of boys could play ball -- and stay awake -- nearly all day and still find ways to amaze their parents?
I know the Sluggers will continue to surprise us. Regardless of how they do the rest of the season, I am going to cherish every step each one of the players take. Their growth so far has been amazing. I am going to do my best to help all of them in every way possible. As much as I will try to give them all of my limited baseball knowledge, my primary goal is to keep things fun and positive. I want all of them to continue to grow, to realize their potential, and to know they can accomplish anything if they put in the time and the effort. That might sound like a cliche, but after years of watching athletics at every level, a group of Sluggers has given me a new appreciation of the beauty of sports and competition. I just hope I can be the right kind of parent to enjoy the ride.
Adam Minichino is sports editor of The Dispatch. Follow him on Twitter at ctsportseditor. Contact him at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.