My seven-year-old, Marco, plays fake baseball on an organized team. That’s right. In his league, the kids go through the motions like they’re playing real baseball, but they’re just faking. There are nine players on each team, and there are four bases on the field, but these games have no outs, no runs, and no winner or loser. Blahhhh…
“Why can’t we have outs and runs?” asked Marco after his first game. “I don’t like this. It’s boring.”
I don’t like it either. It’s absurd.
I should paint a fuller picture of how absurd these games are, in case you’ve never watched one.
Kids don’t pitch, and they don’t field, either. A coach pitches. The kids stand out there with gloves when the other team is batting, and they make an effort that looks like they’re fielding to try to get the hitter out. However, this effort doesn’t matter, since, as I just mentioned, there’s no such thing as an out in these games.
No one calls the hitter “out” or “safe.” Instead, every hitter gets a single at every at bat until the last hitter of the inning (all players bat every inning), who hits a grand slam. In other words he knocks in all runners – the bases are loaded – and he runs all around the bases. Of course, it doesn’t matter that he hit a grand slam because he has to get a grand slam. He could miss 17 pitches in a row, then hit a feeble roller up the third base line, and it would be a grand slam.
Yawn… Does anyone think this is fun?
Certainly, seven-year-olds shouldn’t be playing real baseball like the San Francisco Giants. A seven-year-old pitcher is as likely to throw a strike as he is to hit the batter in the head. More fundamentally, the rules and strategy of baseball are too complex for kids of that age.
Kids of decades ago played all sorts of simpler games on their own with neighborhood friends that built baseball skills and were fun. In my childhood neighborhood, my friends and I played a lot of Indian Ball, Stickball (our own version – not the legendary New York City game), Rundown, and Wiffle Ball.
So, because neighborhood play is virtually nonexistent, our kids need to play this organized fake baseball to learn how to play real baseball.
I considered having Marco stop playing on his fake baseball team, but he refused. Even though he thinks it’s lame, he loves baseball. Every night, after dinner, he pleads with me for 10-15 minutes of our own makeshift game in our back yard with a tennis ball and a foam bat. He really enjoys this, but he has two younger brothers, so I can never give him as much time as he’d like. Also, though, he craves playing baseball with kids his own age.
I’m really frustrated that he can’t learn baseball doing something that’s fun, and that he and his friends can manage themselves, like my friends and I did. I’ve been successful in facilitating neighborhood street hockey and basketball games, but I’ve never gotten a game of Wiffle Ball going here. He doesn’t even have a neighborhood friend with whom he can play catch.
So, Marco’s learning to accept fake baseball. Sigh…