Catching On

The column below ran in April of 2006. A friend recently reminded me of the piece, how it had stuck with him all these years, and suggested I re-run it now that a modified version of sports has returned and many of us are in a state of deep appreciation.

So, I revisited the 14-year-old column, remembered the moment as if it were yesterday, and figured why not? Perhaps it can ease some anxiety, provide the valuable perspective of a former Little League parent. And, it is our Sports Issue.

Today, my wife and I are on the other side of our kids’ sports journeys. Both daughter and son stayed with their games (lacrosse and baseball) through high school and parlayed their skills into opportunities to attend respected universities. Lucky them. Lucky us.

Those were exciting years, but also years filled with significant anxiety as we navigated travel ball, showcases, college recruitment, and the teenage years—not to mention the significant resources it takes to pursue such a goal. I can’t imagine the anxiety parents are facing today amidst COVID-19. Instead of capitalizing on opportunity, they’re dealing with cancelled opportunity after cancelled opportunity.

Then there are the families without the resources for travel sports. With the possibility of shortened seasons or seasons cancelled altogether, how will their kids be seen? What opportunities are they missing?

Maybe none.

This crisis has changed everyone’s reality. You’re not the only one who missed the showcase, everyone missed the showcase. The season won’t just be cancelled for you, it will be cancelled for everyone. It’s out of your control. Adjustments will be made.

So, while those adjustments are being made, capitalize. Have all the catches, kicks, volleys, tosses, swings, rallies, shoot-arounds…your new time at home allows. And when cold weather sets in soon, get creative. Think your kid has the potential to play in college? Then use this time to create a video of them exhibiting their mastery of the sports’ fundamentals and send it to coaches.

The silver lining in this crisis is that it has slowed our worlds down—providing many the gift of more one-on-one time with their kids. Take advantage of this time. Have another catch. I am confident the future holds many memorable sports moments for your family. But none will be more important than that catch.

If The Glove Fits…

(Reprinted from Out & About, April 2006)

“Whaddya think about the season?” my friend asked innocently.

I jumped on the question like a hanging curve.

“It’s going to be great,” I gushed. “I think Bowen is really up for it this year. He was enthusiastic about tryouts. He’s asking me to have a catch. And, you know, he has a great natural swing. And a good arm. He needs to work on his fielding, but he’s not as intimidated by the ball as he was last year. I’m not pushing, but he really seems like he wants to play. And if he’s into it, well… Ah, it’s gonna be…

As I re-established eye contact, I noticed my friend’s bemused expression give way to an approving nod. I’d guessed fastball and he’d thrown a changeup. I stepped out of the box.

“Ahhhhhh, you meant the Phillies?” I said. “Geez, sorry about that. Guess I got a little carried away.”

But I wasn’t sorry. The Phillies? I love their middle infield, Ryan Howard is going to be an All-Star, and the acquisition of center fielder Aaron Rowand was a great move. But losing Billy Wagner is gonna hurt. And I worry about their starting pitching.

Now, can we talk about THE SEASON?

The season, innocently enough, began about a month ago. There I was, organizing the shoe closet (exciting guy, huh?) when my son unexpectedly came up to me and said, “D-a-a-a-d, come on. How do you expect me to be any good if we don’t practice? Let’s go have a catch.”

A catch? With a baseball? You and me?

OK, saying I felt like Kevin Costner in Field of Dreams is a bit overdramatic, but so what? I felt like Kevin Costner in Field of Dreams.

This was a breakthrough. A defining moment. To this point, my son’s passion for baseball was in a dead heat with his zest for cleaning his bedroom. A catch? A baseball catch? Last one in the yard has to take out the recycling!

Stop right there. I know what you’re thinking: Another dad trying to work out his baseball frustrations through his child. Let the kid make his own choices.

Excuse me, but I don’t have any baseball frustrations. Sure, I wanted to be the next Cookie Rojas when I was 12, but by 16 I realized I had a better chance of being an astronaut than a professional baseball player. Trouble is, I never wanted to be an astronaut.

And you know what, I haven’t suffered a bit from my childhood love of baseball (though my consumption of hot dogs during $1 Dog Night could surely come back to haunt me). Truth is, it still brings a smile to my face to recall those Little League days. And isn’t it a parent’s responsibility to pass on the wisdom of one’s years?

Now excuse me, I’m off to have a catch with Bowen.

— Jerry duPhily

Jerry duPhily
Since 1988, Out & About has informed our audience of entertainment options in Greater Wilmington through a monthly variety magazine. Today, that connection has expanded to include social networking, a weekly newsletter, and a comprehensive website. We also create, manage, and sponsor local events.