Last night, Sam had his first practice for minor league baseball. He was supposed to have practice on Tuesday, but it rained. Originally, I didn't think Sam was going to be that into minor league. He played t-ball the last two years, and loved it, but mostly loved the fact that he was outside and could get into on-field shenanigans while grandparents and parents looked on. Yes, he was the kid running around, doing pratfalls on second and attempting to roll halfway to third. But anyway, when the practice was rained out on Tuesday, he cried. Like big buckets of tears. I was amazed that he was looking forward to it that much (and even more amazed when he wailed, "The ONLY thing that will make me feel better is if you let me WASH THE DISHES). So, obviously, he was looking forward to last night.
We got there early, so he ran over to the playground/trampoline that is near the field. I could hear him conversing with the other two boys who were already there. They were both a couple of years older than him, and quite a bit bigger. Still, he was hanging tough, telling them (loud) stories about science shows he has watched (black holes were brought up several times) and other random things that I remain incredulous that boys actually talk about. Pretty soon, they had warmed up to him, and they were all playing together. When they went on the field to start practice, I was happy that he had found someone to pass with and that he still seemed excited.
This is where it gets funny. Sam, it seems, had decided to work on some freakish Tim Lincecumesque throwing delivery, so his coach had to come over and give him some pointers. You could really see the wheels turning as he worked to get his throwing right. And that was cute. But the best part was the fact that during the whole thing, he loudly cheered for himself, his throwing partner, and his coach. When he threw it, he would yell "GOOD ONE!" and when the kid catching it caught it, we'd here "NIIIIIICCCCE!" When the coach caught it, he said, "Great job!" At one point, he yelled out, "J'AIME THE BALL!" because no minor league practice session is complete with a little Franglais.
When it came time to bat, I tried to corral Alice, who up until this point had just been walking around, occasionally playing with rocks, so that I could see Sam bat. The first two kids were the older ones and they did well, easily smacking pitches around with some ease. Then it was Sam's turn. Sam walks up there, and for some reason, thinks it is a good idea to stand on home plate facing the pitcher head on. Never mind the fact that this kid has played t-ball, so he knows how to hold the bat (I had even reminded him before we left the house). Never mind that his parents used to have season tickets to baseball games so he's seen a few batters in his life. Never mind all that. There he stands. On home plate. The coach, who I'm sure at that point decided to pick up a case of beer on the way home, comes over to show him how to stand. He listens and does it--kinda. So the coach starts pitching to him (underhanded, I might add). He doesn't hit it. Every once in a while he hits it softly, or hits a foul ball. In the middle of this, Alice, who had been trying to sort white rocks out of the rest of the gravels, decides its time to have a nice trek back to the playground, so I have to follow her, walking to a place that is much farther away from Sam. But I'm watching the whole time.
At some point, I begin praying. Now, I'll tell you: I am not a religious person. Not even a spiritual person. I am nothing. I spent the better part of my childhood and adolescence deeply enmeshed in organized religion (and not just that, SOUTHERN organized religion), so religion and I are having a well-deserved break right now. When someone asks me my religious views, I say "From afar" which is partly said because I think it is funny and partly because it is oh so true. But at this point, I am praying like Jerry Falwell right before a fried chicken luncheon. "Please, God," I say, "Please let him hit it. I will go to church. I will build houses for the homeless. I will never say curse words again (except in very real, extenuating circumstances that involve the stubbing of toes or especially bad plays made by Athletics third basemen). Just let him hit it." And I watch as best I can, but he doesn't. He just swings and the pitches go by.
Alice walks around the playground for a few minutes, and then we walk back towards the field. Sam has finished batting and is now walking back out on the field. His head is down, and I imagine him crying softly. I wonder if I can return the batting helmet that I had just bought, if some other kid can use the glove.
But then he looks up at me with this huge smile and his blue eyes are crazy big and filled with joy. "MAMA! DID YOU SEE THAT! I HIT IT FIVE TIMES! I AM AWESOME!"
Yes. Tears sprung to my eyes at that moment, which is again, odd because just as I am not religious, I am not sentimental or sweet or tear-y either. I choke them down, and yell with abandon, "YES, SAM, YOU DID GREAT! YOU ARE AWESOME!"
He takes his spot between first and second and spends the rest of the practice making the other kids laugh and trying to remember to field the ball when it is hit at him. Some of the other kids bat much the same as him--not hitting much at all--and I am happy to see that. He doesn't notice. He is too happy with what he has--new friends, a new glove, a sunny spring afternoon, a killer batting stance.
When practice is over, he sprints to the car, brimming with news about a "special" practice for him and a few of the other kids on Sunday. How awesome! He can't wait! Can he come early!?! Can we bring brownies!?! Can Daddy come too!?! I just nod. He does his homework and then when I'm putting him into bed, he says, "Mom, I think I'm going to go all the way to the major leagues." I smile and tell him that he'll have to practice. He seems happy with that. When I look out again, he is asleep and when I look at his face, I see the fat little baby who I wondered so much about. Would he be smart? Funny? Would he be happy? And I feel very, very proud that he is all that and so much more.