Under the intense Arizona sun, Little Dude played his 7th ever coach pitch baseball game on Saturday.
Each child gets 3 pitches from their coach. If they strike out, they get another 3 opportunities to hit the ball off the tee. There's a decent mixture of balls hit out of the air and off the tee by the entire team.
Little Dude, however, has been either been incredibly lucky or he's just a stellar ball player because he's only had to hit off the tee the first pitch of the very first game. Since then, he's hit every single coach pitch ball. We'd sit on the sidelines, hooting and hollering and after each game, we'd ramp up how awesome it was that he was hitting the pitches and that he's excelling in the sport.
Well back to the 7th game he just played.
During Little Dude's very last chance at home plate, he swung through all 3 coach pitches. We cheered anyway saying, "It's alright buddy!" but I could tell he wasn't convinced. He looked over at us with a straight face and a disappointed heart.
So they brought out the tee, placed the ball on top, and instead of hitting the ball, Little Dude hit the tee itself and knocked it over. Same thing on the second swing. But on the third and final swing, and with a little bit of help, he had a good hit. We all cheered as he ran to first base.
The game came to an end and as he ran across home plate, instead of being excited about the win and snack as all the other boys were, Little Dude ran over to our blanket on the sidelines and nearly burst into tears.
"You did great out there!? What's wrong?" I asked.
It took him a minute to get the words out and then the tears started flowing.
"I had to hit the ball off the tee, Mom. I don't want anyone to be mad at me for having to hit the ball off the tee. I'm disappointed in myself." And with those few words, my heart literally felt like it broke in half.
I hugged him tightly.
"No one is disappointed in you! No one. We are so proud of you! It's okay that you hit off the tee. That's just part of the game. It's okay buddy. It's okay."
The crocodile tears kept flowing and I could see the sadness in his eyes.
It was then that "Dad Seth" chimed in and said the most amazing thing ever:
"I have a question for you Little Dude.... and I want you to try and guess the answer, okay?"
"Okay" Little Dude said as he sniffled and wiped away his tears.
"Think of the BEST baseball players in the entire world. The best ever. Out of 10 balls pitched to them, how many do you think they hit?"
"15?" Little Dude said with a question.
"Well, it has to be smaller than 10." Dad Seth said.
"Um, 8?" Little Dude guessed.
"3" Seth replied.
"They hit 3 out of 10 balls. That means that even the BEST baseball players in the world strike out, fly out, and walk."
"Really!?" Little Dude asked with a quivering voice.
"Really." Seth said. "But what makes them the BEST in the world is that they never give up. They keep trying. They practice sportsmanship. And they ALL started exactly where you are. You were awesome out there... there is no need to be discouraged or down. It's all part of the game."
And that led us into what sportsmanship is, as well as a conversation about disappointment.
Little Dude seemed to feel better and actually began to smile throughout the conversation. The light bulb was clicking. It wasn't about perfection, it was about the experience. As I listened to Seth talk to our six year old about whether he hit the ball off the tee or not, I was so impressed and I actually began thinking about how life is a lot like Little League.
We are going to strike out.
We are going to fly out.
We are going to walk.
We are going to need to use the tee.
We are probably going to knock the tee over on accident.
We are going to be embarrassed.
We are going to think people are disappointed in us.
We are going to be disappointed in ourselves at times.
We are going to feel like failures.
But if I take the same lesson that was being taught to Little Dude and apply it to my own life, I have to remember that I am NOT a failure. I have to remember that the end goal isn't to be perfect and hit 10 out of 10 balls, because even the best in the world can't do that. I have to remember that each and every strike brings me closer to the next home run (as Babe Ruth said so beautifully). I have to remember that the only time I can really and truly be disappointed in myself is the day I quit trying.... the day I completely just give up. And the rest of it doesn't matter because it's all a process, a HARD process to be sure, and the point is to strive to be better, not perfect.
So whether it's in a Little League game or in your game of life, no matter how tough your opponents are proving to be, no matter how fast the pitch is coming at you, no matter if you have to humble yourself and use the tee, no matter if you knock the tee over and get embarrassed, no matter what the score is, no matter if you strike out, fly out, or have to walk....
The moral of the story?
Never, EVER, give up.
Oh, how I love being a mom! I learn so many wonderful lessons myself :)