Coordination is the key when batting with a cucumber

Ned Hickson photo/Siuslaw News

Ned Hickson photo/Siuslaw News

Walking through my town’s small baseball park the other morning, I was struck by a bit of nostalgia. This was unexpected, considering what I’m usually struck by when the Cedar Company bird squadron begins its morning maneuvers. With spring approaching, first-year tee-ballers were scattered around the field with their fathers, who were imparting basic hitting and fielding fundamentals, baserunning technique, and clarifying that running home didn’t mean crossing the highway alone.

Watching this, I was reminded of working with my oldest daughter in preparation for her first season of tee-ball five eight ten not long ago. As you’d expect, we bought a mitt, ball, practice tee and all the equipment necessary to get started on the basics. For obvious reasons, I saw no need to purchase an athletic cup — until I decided to advise her about batting stance, at which point it became obvious that I should have.

At least for myself.

Though practice ended a little early that first day, we were back at it the following afternoon — my daughter with her bat and a look of determination, and me offering advice and encouragement a safe distance away with my bull horn. It was one of those rare father/daughter moments that didn’t last long enough, yet allowed enough time for a neighbor to threaten to shove my bull horn somewhere that isn’t located on any ball field.

With that, we decided to try some fielding practice; I’d hit the ball to her, and she’d practice leaping on it with her eyes closed. Before we could do that, however, I had to actually HIT the ball. In my defense, I was using her bat, which was roughly the size of a cucumber. Also in my defense, let me just say that a cucumber and I have about the same degree of hand-eye coordination. Yet, between the two of us, we STILL couldn’t hit the ball.

As a father, this is very embarrassing.

As a cucumber, it’s no big deal.

On the other hand, I recognized this was a good opportunity to teach my daughter about the importance of not giving up and how, through patience and determination, you can do anything.

I say this all in retrospect, having hurled her cucumber bat over the top of the house in a fit of frustration.

In spite of all this, when it came time for our daughter’s first official tee-ball practice, we felt ready.

For those of you who’ve never watched tee-ball, the rules are roughly the same as baseball; the ball is hit, the batter runs the bases, and 15 infielders throw their mitts at the ball in order to stop it. Once that is accomplished, everyone runs to a spot about eight inches in front of home plate, where the ball has usually landed after gravity — and a solid whack to the neck of the tee — has advanced the ball.

This isn’t always the case, however. In fact, some of the kids I saw could really hit the ball. Which was good. Because if not for them, the outfielders walking around with mitts on their faces pretending to be monsters might not have seen any action at all.

In the end, it’s really the ability to cover your face with your mitt and run around in circles until you trip over a sprinkler head that separates tee-ball from Major League Baseball (not counting Darryl Strawberry). I’d even say that professional baseball could learn a thing or two from tee-ball.

But not before I learn how to hit the ball with a cucumber.

(You can write to ned at nhickson@thesiuslawnews.com, or at Siuslaw News, P.O. Box 10, Florence, Ore 97439)

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20 thoughts on “Coordination is the key when batting with a cucumber

  1. I love watching little kids play T-ball! whenever I am having a frustrated day or just don’t want to run anymore I stop by the game that goes on at the park. I have seen it all! Kids running the opposite direction, kids twirling and falling, and the mad parents yelling at poor George to catch the ball… well, everything but a cucumber 🙂

    • Yeah, it’s blast. My kids are all in middle and high school now, but I still love to go watch the T-ballers, while they’re still at the age before competition and winning becomes more important than just doing your best and having fun. And before steroids, of course. And regarding never seeing someone bat with a cucumber — Trust me, you haven’t missed anything 😉

  2. Reminds me of how disappointed I was when I first played softball in elementary school and discovered, as a result of a delightful ball-to-eye connection, that the ball wasn’t soft at all.

  3. Loved the post. It brought back not only t-ball memories (T-ball bats & maybe even cucumbers are also handy for loose tooth removal) but of teaching my son to swing a golf club. What could happen to me if I stood directly behind him? Answer: he could drop his wrists, dropping the club soundly into my nose.

    • Lol! While I haven’t been hit by a golf club, I was hit in the forehead with a golf ball while trying to shoot a feature photo of an 8-year-old “future Tiger Woods” teeing off. I was on the ground about 10 feet away. “He never, ever shanks” promised his mom. I guess I was the lucky first victim. I was just glad he didn’t drive it into my camera lens 🙂

  4. This brings back many happy and hysterical memories, particularly the outfielders milling about with their mitts on their faces.

    As a NY Mets fan, though, I have to take a little offense at the Darryl Strawberry dig. Unless, of course, you witnessed this behavior when he played for The Dodgers, then you can be forgiven!

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