By Robin Jovanovich
After a long year of waiting, our 7-year-old grandson Peter is finally headed to his first day of Little League. Not to say that he or we are excited or that a Major League scouting party will be at Disbrow Park, but we have been preparing for the big day.
Over the last year, we have acquired a pitching backstop and more than one T-ball stand because the aspiring Yankee “took the cover” off the first stand. My husband, who is more than ten times his age, has been his pitcher, outfield, and coach.
When it was raining or snowing, the two of them huddled near a fireplace and watched “Worst Umpire Calls”, “Top Ten Trick Plays” and “Top Ten Fan Interference” videos on YouTube.
Last week, we traveled down to Florida so that our grandson could meet a “pro”, my younger brother Duke, a consummate athlete who has run a baseball academy, brought six teams deep into the Little League World Series, has coached some 2,500 games, and has only been ejected from 20 games for questioning umpire calls.
My brother invited us to meet him at a high school ball field. He showed up with a bucket of balls, his 15-year-old son, who truly is a gifted ball player, and his son’s classmate, a star on the girls’ softball team.
They pitched to Peter, hit ground balls to him, and taught him how to cover the bag at first base. Because he’s left-handed, they also gave him tips on pitching.
While my husband has been telling him for months not to drop his left elbow while throwing, it was only after my brother gave him the same advice that he made the adjustment.
In 2019, we took our grandson to a Padres’ game. We had field-level seats and he came home with a game ball, but he is more likely to remember the JV high school game under the lights in Palm Beach Gardens. There was lots of action, all of it magical in the eyes of a 7-year-old. The tickets were $6 each.
Peter sat in the stands with his great uncle, whom everyone seemed to know, and they talked baseball. When to steal. When to throw the curve. Was the pitcher relying too much on one pitch?
We left after the sixth inning, with the home team ahead by eight runs. As we were heading to the car, we heard the crack of a bat and a foul ball landed within five feet of us. Our grandson ran for it; it would have been his second game ball. He reluctantly threw it back. He understood that this is high school ball, not the majors.
We later asked my brother how he has put together so many winning teams. “You hire assistant coaches whose sons are really good because they’re automatically on your team. After you pick the players with the most skills and potential, and you’re nearing the bottom of the draft, you may find yourself choosing a weak player who has an enthusiastic mom who is also very attractive,” he explained with a grin.
Needless to say, we skipped over the finer points of Little League drafting with our grandson.
And the next day, we were back at the beach looking for shells and tossing a football in the surf.
Seven-year-olds may dream of being Babe Ruth or Derek Jeter, and those dreams never fade, but meanwhile, that first Little League practice is Saturday.