It’s that time of year again. Fall ball is where it all started for Nathan, two years ago on his first t-ball team. We’re back for another season, and as far as skills and ability are concerned, it’s going pretty well.
Nathan hasn’t escaped through the gap in the outfield fence since that first season, and Mr. Andi doesn’t have to stand with him on the field anymore. He looks toward the base when he’s running, rather than grinning into the stands (most of the time), and he doesn’t hold onto his helmet while he’s running, either.
Nathan is a better player now than he was even as recently as the spring. He may spend a lot of his time in the outfield spinning and jumping and giving the appearance that he isn’t paying attention, but when the ball is hit off of the tee, his eyes track it and he checks up – just a tiny bit – if he sees it hit in a different direction before he relaxes and goes back to his spinning.
In Tuesday night’s game, Nathan fielded five balls, despite spending most of his time in the outfield where few balls go – one of which wasn’t even hit to him. When no one else went for it, he ran over and grabbed it. He doesn’t always know where to throw it once he has it, but neither do most of the other kids. A few of them get it, but mostly they sorta freeze up during the play (except for the pitcher and first baseman, who are told to always go to first, no matter what). He’s not a great player, but he’s not bad.
But t-ball feels different this season.
All of the kids he played with in the past have moved up or moved on, and even the few stragglers his age with late birthdays who played in the spring are gone, as well. T-ball is a microcosm of life for Nathan – he progresses at his own pace, and that pace means he is always (eventually) left behind.
Several minutes into the second game last week, I turned to Mr. Andi and said, “We’re getting near the end of the road with baseball, aren’t we?” He responded with, “Yes. I wasn’t going to say it but I’ve been thinking that already.” It’s hard to explain to someone else, this feeling that the clock is ticking on one of Nathan’s favorite pastimes.
Nathan may never move up to Peanut with its harder, faster balls, and the scary pitching machine, and if he isn’t going to move up, then where does he go? In theory (and according to the league commissioner), he can keep on playing t-ball for years, but it simply doesn’t feel like the right thing to do. Of course, we’ve been wrong before about what our kids were capable of. In the same way that Sarah Kate was able to easily move from 8U to 10U softball, Nathan may hit his stride in a few months and be on the Peanut field next season.
Right now, we’re still in t-ball, and next spring may find us back on the diamond one more time, but one day soon the odds are good that we’ll move on to something else.