Coordination is 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.

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

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

  1. The funniest thing I remember about tee ball and my kid’s early years of Little League; our organization always had a 5 run limit per inning. So after inning one the score was almost always 5-5. After inning two, 10-10, and on an on… At that age I guess scoring runs was easy, getting someone out, not so much.

  2. My son was as coordinated as me and so was assigned to left field. All was good until a high ball was hit to left field. He was standing on one foot with the mitt on his head doing some kind of bird imitation. Of course, the ball hit him on the mitt and by the time he figured out what was going on three runs had scored. I still have fond memories of that game especially the parents screaming, “Wake up John.” All too funny.

    • Daisy picking outfielders are prevalent on most teams because, most of the time, the ball lands about three feet in front of the tee. Not a lot of action in the oiutfield unless there’s a swarm of bees.

  3. Nice story, Ned, and you’ve prodded the memory pool again. Although, I could have already mentioned this one, ’cause you know, like cucumbers, memory turns into pickles.

    One of my fave pics on my nightstand is my baby ‘at bat’ at the T stand. Sweet memories, alright and gone by way too fast. He officially passed me in height this year – of which I am reminded daily, usually by his morning greeting of “Mornin’ shorty”. One of these days he might get a cucumber bat at butt level.

    • Yes, those memories are precious. I have one of my oldest daughter coaching my youngest son at first base. She’s 12 and he’s seven. They were both shorter than me then, too. Yes, sweet memories…

  4. Tee Ball really was a blast, watching the wee ones swing mightily and send that little white pill nowhere or over the heads of the unwatching and uncaring other wee ones. It was a good clue in parenting about how some kids get good at sports very quickly and others are my daughter, Ned. That’s OK, she was and is smart and beautiful got better at sports, too, to play softball and field hockey on the school teams as well as play in the band and marching band and sing in the chorus … OK, now I’m just bragging, like those stupid parents who thought it was special when their Tee Ball star hit the little white pill over the heads over the uncaring other wee ones.

  5. That’s awesome. My oldest daughter played soccer for the first time last fall. My husband coached, and she loved playing on “Dad’s team,” but I think she might have touched the ball twice the whole season. She always asked for goalie, specifically because it involved the least amount of running. I do not have athletic children!

    • She may not be athletic but she’s obviously a strategic thinker! I coached soccer for the boys & girls club for a few years. I hated all the running, too! Kudos to yourr husband 😉

  6. Ah, such sweet memories are rolling through my mind right now. I liked coaching my daughter, such a willing student. When she decided to try out for the park district basketball team at 12, she actually asked me to be her team’s coach. I was cast in a theater company production, a company I had been a part of for 15 years, and was told I would never be in another production when I quit to coach her team. Didn’t care — it was worth it. Now coaching my son was another story……

    • Definitely worth the trade-off, Steve. You can’t make memories with your kids again, and that’s the bottom line. There will always be theater; and your daughter will always have those memories to share.

      You have chosen… wisely.

  7. I never played tee-ball when I was a kid; I did more kickball and a brief stint at basketball, where I mostly attempted to block some other kid from shooting the ball by waving my arms wildly as if I were signaling an airplane pilot it was okay to land. I don’t recall if it worked. I think we lost.

  8. Tee-ball has never been a thing around here. Kids go straight to baseball overseen by a benevolent commissioner who believes that children, even at a young age, should learn the fundamentals, e.g. striking out.

  9. My husband & I coached a team for a few years, starting with tee-ball & moving up to a real bat instead of a cucumber. So much fun! Thanks for reminding me of these long forgotten times!

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