Confidence Curve Ball

My 5-year-old daughter, Clara, has her first-ever baseball practice tomorrow. Her team is called the Grasshoppers. I’m guessing quite a few of the kids will be Grasspickers, with barely a clue that a game is going on around them – just how 5-year-old baseball should be.

In spite of my husband insisting, “There’s no pink in baseball!,” Clara wouldn’t consider anything less. Today I found myself paying a cashier for a tiny pink bat, pink mitt, and pink ball.

That’s the easy part. The tougher part – talking our girl into believing that she really is good enough to play on a team.

“But what if I never, ever even get a hit? What if I can’t catch the ball? I don’t know how to play baseball!” Clara told me today, her blue eyes welling up.

Wow, does she remind me of myself at that age. I was so terrified of messing up, striking out, dropping the ball, or not knowing who to throw it to, that I avoided baseball and most other team sports like the plague. I couldn’t stand the thought of learning on the fly, with others scrutinizing my mistakes.

It wasn’t until I was in junior high that I decided I really did love the sport of baseball, and tried to play on a softball team. I wasn’t just a little bit of a weak link – I was embarassingly terrible, especially when it came to batting. Pop flies weren’t my strong suit either. My brothers (ridiculously talented 3-sport athletes) still crack up remembering time a fly ball landed square on the bridge of my nose instead of in my glove. I can still taste the blood…and the humiliation!

I’ll probably never know if I’m just hopelessly non-athletic, or if perhaps a shot of confidence when I was little could’ve helped salvage me as at least a passable player. Thank goodness I found my niche in the performing arts and academics. Somehow I overcame various confidence hurdles and got the same benefits kids get from team sports by being in school plays, choirs, and speech team.

But I am hopeful my daughter will be a little more rounded than I was. If she can sing and dance and wear pink dresses AND smack the heck out of a ball, wouldn’t that be amazing?

The biggest obstacle may be getting her to stop measuring herself against her big brother, who has 3 years on her, and an OBSESSION with baseball. He never struggled with confidence – just stepped right up to the plate at age 4 and went for it. Now it’s all he wants to do.

Clara clearly is the kind of kid who needs more pep talks, so I gave it my best shot. I reminded her of all the time she’s spent with her dad and brother in the yard, practicing throwing, catching, and hitting. Setting the bar low seemed like a wise move, so I told her stories of my brothers’ little league rookie teams – most memorably, the kid who ran the bases BACKWARDS, and another who wet his pants in right field and refused to come in at the end of the inning. “There’s no WAY you’ll do that, right Clara?”

So we headed out into the yard with that new pink bat. I lobbed her a pitch.

She not only made contact, she RIPPED that ball back at me so fast I barely had time to duck and avoid decapitation.

The shocked, shyly proud giggle that came out of her should be bottled and sold.

I’ll be saying a few good prayers tonight that while I am on the news desk tomorrow evening, she’s having an okay time at her very first official team practice.

(Please, let her get a hit. Just one solid hit.)

Go Grasshoppers.

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