Friday, June 19, 2015

Intangibles: The Favorite Son Saga

Not surprisingly, The Favorite Son (TFS) loves baseball. (Ahem, The Single Father's Guide to Life, Cooking, and Baseball.) Like his Ol' Man, TFS is a fan of the St. Louis Cardinals, hacking scandal notwithstanding. His favorite player is Cardinals' centerfielder John Jay. I've coached or managed his Warwick Little League baseball teams, now, for the past six years beginning when TFS was a five year old tee-baller. Ironically, this year, his team was the Cardinals.

The TFS probably had his best season, which just ended last week. He's a contact hitter who whose on-base percentage was about .800. For non-baseball fans, that's pretty good even for Little League. He's a great base runner who stole a shocking number of bases and scored a bundle of runs. At one point, he reached base and scored in 11 consecutive at-bats and, in a playoff game, he scored three runs in a 6 - 5 extra innings win. An above average fielder, he can play just about any position. More importantly, he's a smart player. For an 11 year old, he has a developed sense of how the game is played. Baseball people refer to that ability as, "Intangibles."

Last week, TFS was invited to try-out for Warwick Little League's U-11 travel team along with about 27 other players. The roster would consist of 14 players. The try-out was very well run by some very good baseball coach/dads, one of whom is a former professional player, and another who's probably the best little league coach I know. TFS was poised, showed off his speed, flashed a little leather, and, being the contact hitter he is, made contact at the plate. Frankly, I was very impressed with the baseball talent in Warwick, New York.

TFS was very excited about playing on the team. Every day for the next few days, he asked, "Did they announce the team yet, Dad?" Then, early last Sunday afternoon, one of the other Cardinals coaches, Dan Callaghan, called me and said, "They posted the roster today. (TFS) didn't make it."

I had to drive The Second Beautiful Daughter to work at Bellvale Farms Creamery, where I thought I could break the news to TFS over some homemade ice cream and a great view of the Warwick Valley. We weren't in the car for two minutes, though, when he asked, "Dad, did they announce the team yet?"

I've learned that the best way to give bad news is directly. I responded, "Yeah, Coach Dan called me just before we left. You didn't make the team. I'm sorry, Buddy."

You know, raising children without a partner is no mean feat. I regularly second guess my parenting decisions and my approach to the wide variety of situations. It's no fun not having a partner to talk and share in the responsibility of raising kids. Occasionally, however, I realize that I'd gotten a one thing or another right.

After he heard the news, I could see in the rear view mirror the disappointment on his face. Tears welled  in his eyes. He asked, "Do you know who made the team?"

I named a few names, all very good players.

"Did Johnny/Billy/Timmy/Tommy make it?"

"I don't know," I answered.

"Do you think I can play on another team, Dad?

"Yeah, maybe. Let's try to find one," I said.

Then, after a long and thoughtful pause, TFS asked, "Dad, after ice cream, can we practice?"

"Yes," I replied.

On a warm New York Sunday afternoon in June, I drove to the Veterans Memorial Park. For 90 minutes, TFS hit live-arm balls in one of the tunnels, fielded grounders, and shagged flies with his dad.