Saturday, 28 July 2012

The Last Ball Game

Today I travelled to watch my son play baseball again.  What makes this weekend different is that my son is in his last year of Midget Rep baseball and the local organizations have never offered up a Junior level rep team.  I'll be going away on holiday and leaving my son behind.  He'll have one regular season game left and then the playoff weekend in August.  This all takes place while I'll be away.  So as a result, today was the last time I will see my son play rep baseball.

As mentioned in the post entitled "Graduation Day", my son was introduced to baseball at a very young age.  He started playing T-Ball when we lived near Avonmore, Ontario.  He was 3 years old.  He had spent the first three summers of his life watching his father and I play softball.  From the time that he could walk, he would run the bases with his father after every game.  So by the time he was old enough to play t-ball, he already knew many of the rules.  At one of the first games of t-ball, he was playing first base and fielded the ball and then immediately stepped on first base.  He knew the batter should be out and he was very indignant when the coaches stated the batter could stay on first base.  My son argued that the runner was out.  That was the rule after all.  We had to pull him aside and explain that the other children were just learning how to run the bases and everybody was safe in this game.  When we moved to our current home, we didn't know there was a hard ball baseball organization, so we registered him in softball.  He played very well that year and I remember him making some amazing plays.  There was one specifically where he was playing shortstop and caught a hard line drive to make the out.  I remember a parent from the opposing team speaking to my son after the game and complimenting him on his great play.  The following year we signed him up for hardball.  They registered him into the Rookie age group which used a pitching machine. Our son was very bored but we encouraged him to stay with it and help the other children learn the game.  One night, the coach approached our son and asked him if he'd like to play up an age level (Mosquito) and help out another team who didn't have enough players.  My son was very excited to be "called up to the big leagues"!!  He went over to the next diamond and the coaches put him out in right field where there wouldn't be a lot of activity.  The very first pitch and BAM!!!!  The ball left the bat in a hurry and went out into right field.  Our son fielded the ball after it hit the ground and threw the ball accurately from right field to home plate to get a runner out.  I remember hearing "Who's that kid?!  What an arm!!".  The following year, our son was registered up into the "Mosquito" level even though he was still at the Rookie age.  Eventually we registered him into Mosquito Rep ball a couple of years later and then began our many years of travelling to different cities and ball parks.  We have met many different people and families over the years.

"Rep Baseball" means Representative Baseball.  This is where players go through try outs to make the team so that the roster ends up being the best players in the area.  This is all in an effort to improve skills and provide a higher level of competition.  Our son fully embraced this level of baseball from the Mosquito level all the way through to Midget.  He has enjoyed many hours of baseball.  It has challenged his emotions.  It has challenged his integrity.  For me the highlights have been watching him play in the OBA (Ontario Baseball Association) Championship game and winning the championship.  Another highlight was watching him play in the EOBA (Eastern Ontario Baseball Association) All-Star Game.  Last year he made the Cannon Cup team where he pitched and threw off a very good team of Venezuelan players.

So today signified the end of all of these many years of baseball.  It was a double header, meaning that they played two games with only 30 minutes between the end of the first and the beginning of the second game.  In this league, when there is a double header, each game is only seven innings long.  My son was the starting pitcher in the second game.  He pitched the first five innings and the other team only got one hit off of him.  As my son was getting tired, the coach substituted the shortstop in as pitcher and my son finished the game by playing shortstop.  He immediately turned a double play.  That's my boy!!  I was so proud.  They won the second game by a score of 8-0.

As I watched the games today, I had mixed emotions.  I was definitely the proud momma.  I felt sad because it is the end of an era.  I was definitely nostalgic as I recalled all the years of baseball.  My husband and I reviewed the many ball parks that we've visited and came up with our favourite three.  Our three favourite ball parks where our son played over the years are 1) Riverside Park in Peterborough, 2) Kinsmen Park in Oshawa and 3) Iroquois Park in Whitby.  But I digress.  Back to my mixed emotions.  I was happy watching my son today.  But I was also feeling some hope and excitement about what we might do with our weekends next year without baseball.  Maybe we'll go camping.  That would be fun.  Maybe we'll just chill out at home.  Maybe we'll be able to visit some of the local attractions such as the provincial parks, vineyards or whatever peeks our curiosity.  My emotions were swinging through the whole gamut today.  Part of me hopes that this year's team will make it through the playoffs and then we can still catch one more game before the season is finished for good.  If not, it's been a great time and I'm definitely proud of my son.  He has always played with intensity and given 110%.

The game has taught him how to battle through adversity.  He has learned how to be a team player.  He has learned how to work with a range of different personalities.  He has tasted failure and he has tasted victory.  My hope for my son is that he will always enjoy the game of baseball whether he is a spectator, a player, a coach or an umpire. 

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