My 7-year-old watched ‘The Sandlot’—and now we’re a baseball family

Motherly Collective

Sometime last summer, our son watched the great, classic ‘90s movie “The Sandlot.” I think that’s where it started. He put on jeans. He never wore jeans. But the Sandlot kids did. He dug out  a baseball cap from a closet heap somewhere. He put a long-sleeve button-up over  a shirt. Just like the Sandlot kids wore. And he spent hours in the backyard reimagining himself in the movie. In the game. There was no more denying his interest. It was plain as day.

My husband played Little League and was far more enthusiastic than I was to sign our son up. Was it possible he knew more than I did about this rite of passage? I had to give him that. So we registered our son for Fall Ball. I begrudgingly added what seemed to be all 117 practices, warm ups and games to our family calendar. My goodness. I was right to believe that this was a real commitment. But I was wrong on everything else. A rare admission, but I’ll own it.

All season I sat on the bleachers while my husband helped boys with their helmets in the dugout.  I got a swift education. Baseball is rife with emotion. Maybe it’s the steady pace of play. Maybe it’s because the players are 7 years old. Every at-bat is do or die. Every pop fly, a chance at glory or a lesson in defeat. Every grounder stopped and well played, a moment of glee. Every ball flubbed, dejection. A whole slew of guys, chomping gum, rattling the fences and chanting each other’s names. My heart constantly ached or soared,  not only for my son but every boy on the field. We lucked into  fantastic  coaches and an even more enthusiastic roster of players. All of them rooted for our boy  during what became his very first season of baseball. He was hooked. And so was I.

He learned a lot that season. How to step into his throws, how to swing hard. When to throw for the out and when to eat it. 

But I learned more. I learned what it’s like to see 12 boys fight for their lives in 90 minutes. To hold myself together when one walks off the field crying after a tough out. How to contain the pieces of my heart when they take a knee all at once after a kid takes a ball to the gut. As for how to answer after the game, when my son asks what he could have done better? For me, nothing kiddo. For real? Ask your dad. 

One of the deepest joys was watching my husband and our son connect over the game. I listened to their chats, understanding my role  as  cheerleader rather than the ringleader I’m used to being. Gradually, he’s taken on more of the starring role in our son’s eyes. I’ve known for a long time that the days of hand-holding, snuggling and last bedtime check-ins from me would be replaced by video games with Dad, sports talk and general rabble-rousing. I wondered if it would sting. But the soft transition from little boy to big has been gently and firmly ushered by this beautiful, complex relationship I see between the two men I love most. A gift solidified  by many things, but especially baseball.

We’re in the final stretch of the spring season now, with playoffs just beginning. The team has gelled over time, culminating in post-season revelry. They’ve won the first round. Whatever comes next—win or lose—I know there will be more:more heartache and jubilant celebration, more tough lessons and more moments of sheer joy, more teamwork and admiration. More packed weekends and more Gatorade. More baseball. Sign me up.

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