Saturday, May 24, 2008

Staring Benjamin . . .

This story is out of a movie from Hollywood.
Benjamin has been struggling with baseball. It is almost like stage fright. He gets up at bat and hopes that the young pitchers will walk him to first. So he doesn't swing. The boys on his team are really good and very into the game. They are great kids. They come to every game -- everyone. They want to win. But they are also having fun. Their coach - a superintendent of schools of a nearby town - is fabulous. He has high expectations for them - and they know it. But he's encouraging, not demoralizing. And, he comes up with teachable moments about twenty times during any given game. The team is doing well and last week was tied for first in the minor league. Again, Benjamin went up to bat. The pitcher was a good pitcher and was throwing strikes. His coach told him so. So you can imagine Benjamin's team mates looking on while Benjamin didn't swing at pitch after pitch. Each time he was up at bat. Ugh. None of the kids were "down on him" at all, but they were disappointed to the point of tears when they lost the game. I actually had Benjamin apologize to one of his close friends on the team (who is one of the best players, one of the kids crying, and happens to be the coaches son). The reason being, Benjamin wasn't taking it seriously. He didn't get why these kids were crying. "It's just a game." he told me. I told Benjamin that it wasn't fair to his teammates who did take the game seriously, for him to continue on the team with a half-hearted attitude. Benjamin's buddy, Jason, kindly told Benjamin that it wasn't his fault, there were just a few plays that didn't work out. However, I told Benjamin that he needed to make a decision. Either decide to do your best and give your all, or decide that this isn't the sport for me. Benjamin decided he wanted to try harder. Victor had told Benjamin (with no success) that if he hit the ball and got on base, Victor would take Benjamin out for an ice cream sundae. I told Benjamin that if he didn't at least swing the bat at good pitches, he had to quit. Enough was enough. Admittedly, I went to the game last night with a bad attitude. Spring has stalled here and I literally have to pack my UGGs and wool coat just to stay warm. I have a million things to do at home, and here is Benjamin sleeping in the outfield, zoning out at the plate, and frankly embarrassing me a bit.
So here it is. It's time. Benjamin's up at bat. His coach had already made him "shake on it" and promise that he was going to swing the bat. Not hit the ball, mind you. Just SWING. Good grief. So, Benjamin doesn't swing at a ball ... "good eye" his coach says encouragingly. I'm looking out skeptically saying between gritted teeth "just hit the ball!" Finally, next throw, Benjamin swings. And hits. The cute little ball bounds only seven feet from home plate and Benjamin sits there staring like "why did that ball just move? what is happening?" All of his teammates are going nuts, screaming RUN and cheering for him like he is Manny Ramirez hitting a homer. Benjamin finally gets his act together and runs for first. Instead of running through the base, he slows and stops at first -- and therefore gets tagged out. But everyone is still cheering! "YEA BENJAMIN!!!" Benjamin gets a high five from his coach with an encouraging nod and "next time run through the base" instruction. Several pats on the back in the dug out. Wow. Benjamin is beaming like he just brought home straight A's to his mommy. Victor tells him we're going out for ice cream anyway - because if he'd run through the base, he would have been safe.
Again, Benjamin is up at bat. I'm a little more optimistic - but still clinching my teeth. Benjamin's coach nods at Benjamin encouragingly like "you can do it -- get it done Ben". Benjamin goes up at bat and hits that bloody ball again! This time the ball goes a little farther and Benjamin runs right away to first. The first baseman misses the ball and Benjamin is told to run to second. The Coach, The Mom's and Dad's in the stands, The boys in the dugout all go crazy cheering for Benjamin! Benjamin had the opportunity to run home after the next two hits and when he got to the dugout all of the boys crowded around him and gave him high fives and cheers. Don't you know he hit another one the next time up at bat and got on base again?! And, made it home. At the end of the game, Coach sat everyone down as usual to talk over the things they learned to do and not to do. He pointed out the good things the players had done. He reiterated how in this group everyone hits, everyone plays, everyone is a part of the team. When he got to Benjamin he congratulated him for his two runs and his accomplishment and handed Benjamin the prized reward of a "Game Ball" -- the first one handed out this season by Coach. Benjamin was beaming and his team mates were too. Everyone cheered.
Don't you know we went out for burgers, chicken nuggets, french fries and ice cream after the game?!
Benjamin can't wait to go back today for his next game.
Now I understand why Dr. Trivett asked Benjamin at his recent annual checkup if he was involved in a team sport.

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