Saturday, June 22, 2013

The Baseball Savant


Some people have kids that beg to stay up late so they can read books.  Some people have kids that are obsessed with cool things, like dinosaurs, or legos, or chess, or outer space.  My cousin, for example, performed on the cello at age three in Israel.  All wicked cool stuff.

There is this whole nature vs. nurture debate about whether your kids are similar to you because of your genetic material or because you raise them to enjoy things that you enjoy, either way, it assumes your kids are more like you than they are not.

I raised my children in museums and parks. We only watch PBS at home. My television doesn't get sports channels, not even when they are on "regular TV," or at least that's what I tell the kids. 

 But…

Apparently their father's genes are stronger, because my child in spite of everything I have tried to do, is not the king of legos, or chess, or swimming, or art.  My child is the baseball savant.

He reads stats like other kids read comic books.  He downloaded and printed all 37 pages of the little league rules for 2013. When the coach talks, he listens as raptly as a wayward sinner in church.  Everyday we devote several hours to throwing and catching and hitting and running outside, then he throws a soft ball into the delineated strike zone in his bedroom for another hour before bed. The kid eats, sleeps, and breathes baseball. 

The Strike Zone.
He plays hard and cries just a little when he gets out, but only because he cares so much.  The other day he was on third base as a runner, not a fielder, and the third basemen missed the ball and Big Pants started to leave the base so he could throw the ball back, because he felt bad for them and he really likes to throw. He likes to play more than he likes to win.

I'm not saying my kid is an outstanding athlete.  He's all elbows and knees.  He can't ride a two-wheeler or even swing on a swing without me pushing him, and he's almost  eight.  The reason he is good is because that is all he does all day, every day.

All this is well and good.  I'm glad he has passion about something. But baseball?  Of all the interesting things in the world, must he pick something so ordinary, and something he will never be able to do professionally? There is so much cheating and drugging in professional sports I would never want him to become a professional athlete, even if he beat the odds and was actually good enough.  

He'd much prefer football, but I tell him that we like the shape his skull is currently, and want it to stay that way, so baseball is his second choice.  The kid is a total sports junkie. I try to be supportive.  I even got my own mitt for playing catch. But I was hoping for a swimmer, or a karate kid, or a rubix cube whiz. I would be fine building robot cats or launching a lego toy into outer space. 

I think this is pay-back, because I told his father when I was pregnant that my genes were stronger, and I hoped he was prepared for a brown eyed, brown haired kid like me. Out of spite, I think, both boys are blue-eyed and blond haired.  And as I inundated them with art and music and science, I prided myself that the kids were more like me than like Daddy.  Apparently, I'm wrong about that.

But maybe it's not Daddy's fault.  They say that there is an inherent preference for what we think of as sex stereotyped toys.  Boys often show a preference for trucks and balls.  Girls often gravitate to dolls from an early age.  I'm sure I told the story of how my mother banned all gender differentiated toys until I made my own "doll" by wrapping up a bag of kitty litter in a blanket.  Maybe it's not a mommy/daddy thing as much as it is a girl/boy thing.

Also, if I go back in time, there was a point when I loved baseball.  Back before hairspray and blue eyeshadow, when I reigned supreme over the kickball field, when I was always one of the first picked and often team captain.  When I'd chase down boys that were being stupid and hit them, not try to kiss them.  Back when I rode my bike all day and was sweaty and didn't brush my hair.

Maybe the kid is like me after all.


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