Coordination is key when batting with a cucumber

(Sooner or later we all start having flashbacks. Mine just so happen to occur Sunday mornings. That’s because Flashback Sundays is when I reach back — way, way, waaayyy back — and pull something from the distant past which, hopefully, isn’t a muscle…)

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.

(Ned Hickson is a syndicated columnist with News Media Corporation. His first book, Humor at the Speed of Life, is available from Port Hole Publications, Amazon.com or Barnes & Noble.)

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44 thoughts on “Coordination is key when batting with a cucumber

  1. As a 3-time tee-ball, coach-pitch, baseball Mom — I truly enjoyed this. And I battle with cucumbers, but in an entirely different context.

  2. Ha – your rapier wit took me back to the days when I attempted to mentor my then-young son in the art of baseball. Tragically, my truly inspirational coaching never took with him, resulting in two horrid outcomes. One was killing my dream of becoming a “dugout father” and happily sponging off of him when he got to the big (paycheck) leagues, but even worse – he’s a Yankees fan. But still, to quote Bob Hope, the great sage/quipster/Pro-Am golf chip shotster – thanks for the memories.

  3. don’t give up ned, you’ll still have your moment. maybe bring in those longer english cucumbers, you might have a better shot at it. i remember t-ball so well, and you have described it so well. i remember when the batter would actual make contact with the ball and then stand there in shock and have to be reminded to run, and then reminded where to. i loved every minute of it.

    • That sounds a lot like my first softball game after 15 years.

      And yes, watching those t-ball games was always great fun 😉 By the way, I eventually just gave up and made a cucumber salad.

  4. Thankfully my children all demonstrated a early propensity to be rubbish at sport except swimming (they are all now lifeguards) and ballet, neither of which are a spectator sport, more of a ‘drop em off and come back later’ level of participation. So I am eternally grateful that I have never had to stand on the sidelines in the pouring rain watching my son play rugby, wondering where the nearest hospital was.
    All credit to you though for trying so hard!

  5. Reblogged this on Get it. Write. and commented:
    I’m re-blogging one of Ned’s pieces here because he’s funnier then me. Ergo, please read this, laugh, then follow his blog, buy his book and together – we can make him a very rich man. He’ll then buy the island next to Johnny Depp’s and only discover upon washing up on its shores that, because it’s only three inches above sea-level, it’s not possible to have Internet service. Then I shall have the last laugh. Bwahaha.

  6. I feel your pain Ned. I too have failed miserably at practicing sports with my children. I have found that good research sometimes can ameliorate that failure to an acceptable level. For instance, in your case, a quick reference to Wiki concerning cucumbers, would have produced an alternative bat – the Indian Yellow Cucumber ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:An_Indian_yellow_cucumber.jpg ). As a Tee ball bat, it cannot be beat. Remember, Ned, you’re a professional investigative jurnalist – never forget your research!

  7. That was a bit of a throwback for me as well. I remember tee-ball, and you pretty much nailed it, with one exception—most of our team was found sitting in the grass picking dandelions.

  8. Awww, this makes me as weepy and happy as our winning gold again this morning. I can clearly visualize my baby boy’s little squinty-eyed stare and his exaggerated pro-ball stance as if the T-Stand was going to actually pitch the ball to him. Sweet, sweet memories. Thanks Ned.

  9. I read this with an itty bitty tear in my eye. T-ball days are priceless and I still have fond memories of both of our kiddos playing. Hubs had the “hit the ball with a cucumber technique” down pat. Problems came when daddy pitched, kiddos whacked and the loan fielder couldn’t catch a fly ball to save her life. Must have been the kitten-mitten sized glove 😉
    Thanks for sharing…I gave my baseball player an extra hug tonight!

  10. We’re the same, Ned, must be a ’66 thing. I succeeded only with the supply of quality Tee Ball equipment, including the best cucumbers money could buy. However, I failed miserably at implementation, practice, and even spectating. After the first time I walked across the diamond to have a few quiet words with one of those gentlemen who was so busy trying to not feel like a failure that he was speaking (bellowing?) to his 8yo with all the respect you’d usually reserved for someone you’ve caught exiting your lounge room window with your brand new flat screen tv, that my wife and kids allowed me not to attend until the Grand Final. Those kids got into a lot of Grand Finals, hey…

    • Sadly, I’ve witnessed the same spectacles; fathers, in most cases, trying to re-live their glory days, or worried about how their child’s performance will reflect on them. Miserable people whose kids can’t want to leave when they get the chance.

      Good for you for saying something, REDdog.

  11. I was a t-ball coach about a million years ago. My son was an outfielder, which turned out to be handy when he decided to pee. In the middle of the field, during the game. Oh, the memories.

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