Stay-At-Home Dad: Son’s first hit a tale of a better batter
BY HOWARD A. LUDWIG May 24, 2013 10:31AM
Bubba Ludwig got his first hit of the season last week. | Supplied photo
Updated: June 27, 2013 6:18AM
He got a hit.
My 6-year-old son hit the baseball for the first time this season. The hit came last week.
A second-grader who lives around the corner was pitching. I can’t remember the pitch count, but I’ll forever remember the stunned look on my boy’s face.
Bubba stopped and stared for a moment. He was either confused or shocked. Then he ran. The third basemen fielded the ball cleanly. He proceeded to overthrow the first baseman.
Had the throw been on target, Bubba likely would have been out. Instead, Bub touched the bag safely.
It wasn’t pretty. Unsure whether to slide or run through the base, my agile boy tripped and fell. His forearm landed on the bag, skinning his left elbow. The pain was quickly overshadowed by a wide smile.
It was the start of a big inning for the Longhorns, of the Kennedy Park Little League. Bubba eventually came around to score, along with four others. Our team of first-, second- and third-graders won, beating the Buffaloes 6-0.
Bubba’s hit came eight games into a 16-game season. I was beginning to think he might not get a hit all year. He didn’t seem frustrated by the slow start. He never once pouted or cried after striking out. But my fear was that the simmering frustration would sour him on the game.
Contributing to my fears is the “no walks” rule in Bubba’s division. Kids pitch. If the pitcher throws four balls, the coach steps in and lobs a ball over the heart of the plate. So a batter’s only option is to strike out or hit the ball. Even in the case of a bean ball, there’s no free pass.
Until Bubba’s big hit, the closest he’d come to reaching base was a foul ball on a “coach pitch.” This pretty much cemented his spot at the bottom of the lineup along with the other first-graders who are relegated almost exclusively to the outfield.
I’m fine with that. Bubba’s not ready to play first base. He’d be killed. And there’s no reason to place a kid who can’t hit at the top of the lineup. Some parents might argue that all kids need to play all positions. I’m not among them.
I know how it feels to be at the bottom of the lineup. I was the kid at the end of the bench, too. I played in the Lemont Little League. The rules were different there. I approached the plate every time praying for a walk. In fact, I don’t remember hitting the ball — EVER.
I think that’s what made me feel so good about Bubba’s first hit. My own youth baseball career was marred with strikeouts and fielding errors. For years after, I was convinced that I hated baseball. I now realize I never hated the game. I hated that I was an awful player.
This isn’t anybody’s fault. My dad played catch with me the same way I play with Bubba. And I have brothers who are capable athletes. I’m just not wired for baseball (or most sports). I’m OK with that now. But there’s nothing fun about being the 10-year-old boy at the end of the bench.
Bubba’s hit had me hoping that he’ll have a different experience. I’m not naive enough to think that he’ll be an ace pitcher or home run slugger. I just hope that the game is more fun for him than it was for me.
And that’s what made me so happy. Whenever anyone asked me what I did that weekend or how I was doing, I immediately replied, “Bubba got his first hit.”
He got a hit.
Howard A. Ludwig is a former SouthtownStar business writer who traded his reporter’s notepad for a diaper bag, becoming a stay-at-home dad.
He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.