Jackson (my almost 7 year old) went to his first ever baseball practice this week.
I totally thought I would be “Cool Dad.” You know who I’m talking about. Cool Dad is the dad that simply loves watching kids play the game. He doesn’t care who wins. He wants everyone to do well; and every once in a while he will come up to a kid and lovingly drop a nugget of wisdom from his previous experience that completely changes how the kid plays the game.
Yeah…I thought I would be that guy…but no…what I didn’t know is that “Jerk Dad” lurks in my soul.
It started with batting practice. Jackson (the youngest kid on the team and seemingly the only one that hasn’t played before) was at the plate holding his bat just like he had been told (he is an extreme rule follower). The batting helmet made his head look tiny. It was really cute. The ball was pitched, he swung, and missed. The coach (who is definately Cool Dad) immediately came running over with an encouraging smile and a ton of pointers. Jackson loved the instruction and was soaked it all in.
I on the other hand stood off to the side with my arms crossed listening intently waiting for the coach to say something I disagreed with. As the coach left I smugly thought to myself, “Humph! He didn’t even talk to Jackson about his stride. His stride is way off. I’ll have to show him later.”
A few minutes later, as I internally critized the coach for not teaching the kids how to throw to my satisfaction, I suddenly realized…
“I’m Jerk Dad!”
“OH NO!” I thought, “How could I be Jerk Dad! I hate Jerk Dad! I mock Jerk Dad! I spit on Jerk Dad!…How could I be Jerk Dad?”
Immediately I offered to take the younger kids to the playground. I had to go. “Maybe if I leave,” I thought “I will be able to ward off full transformation.” Like when David Banner calms down before becoming the Hulk.
But on my way to the playground I found myself sizing up the other teams and thinking, “We are gonna kick their butts.”
Did you catch the “we”? “We”?!?! Was I going to take the field with the 1st and 2nd graders. I can see me now, clad in my old much-to-small highschool baseball uniform, standing on the pitcher’s mound, preparing to start my wind up, ready to take down the next 7-year-old batter with my killer fast ball.
At the playground I struck up conversation with another father. Again, Jerk Dad began to emerge as I probed him for information about his kid’s team. How old were they? Has his son played before? What are his team’s stregthen and weaknesses? How long has the coach been coaching? Would he say that his son was good / better than average / or poor? On a scale of one to ten, how would he rate the potential of his son’s team to go all the way? (I didn’t really ask the last one…but I thought it.)
Full transformation almost took place when the other dad asked me if I played when I was a kid. Immediately stories of my glorious highschool career came spewing from my mouth.
And here is the problem with that…I was mediocre in highschool at best and my team was horrible. I had a good fast ball; but I would bean one out of every four batters.
Fearing the full revelation of Jerk Dad, I left the conversation and went back to the field where Jackson’s team was practicing against another team. As I sat down on the blanket next to Wendy, Jerk Dad reared his head again and I complained about Jackson being out in right field.
Wendy looked at me for a second with a curious smirk and said, “You alright?”
“I’m fine” I said as I internally debated on whether or not I should just let Jerk Dad out of his cage to run wild on the field.
Wendy then gave me the “you’re acting like a moron” stare and said simply, “You need to chill.”
And with that, Jerk Dad retreated into a dark corner of my mind.
During the game Jackson hit a single, scored a run, stopped three ground balls, and didn’t over throw first base. He was fantastic. Wendy and I were beaming with pride.
And I have my wife to thank for all of it. Without her I would have never been able to enjoy it.