Spring Training has begun at our house. Actually I’m not sure it ever stopped. Baseball has been played in our house everyday for years. I know I mentioned Jacob’s obsession with animals, but he also has one with baseball. I’m guessing it started when I would drag Jacob to all of his cousin’s baseball games when he was a toddler. Here this little boy all of two would sit and watch the entire game, while other kids his age were running around or carelessly climbing the bleachers. Jacob just watched. He’s always been an observer. And at an early age he knew the rules of the game and would pretend to be the “strike” (what he called the umpire).
We started playing baseball in our living room when Jacob was two with a large beach ball and a big over sized plastic bat. That didn’t last long unless we wanted to continue getting smacked in the face with a beach ball. So we switched to a foam bat and ball that is only sold at one particular store, and only in the summer, and only at his grandparent’s house 6 hours away. Needless to say we stock up over the summer and purchase about 6 bats enough to get us through the winter. Almost every night Jacob asks one of us to pitch to him and we take our position on the couch, while Jacob tries to hit a homerun through the opening into our kitchen a floor above.
Unfortunately not only does Jacob play baseball at home, he plays it at school, and not at recess. Every day Jacob brings home a behavior sheet from school, and every day it says, “playing baseball”. A pencil makes a nice bat apparently. If not his pencil, he will use his arms as a bat. Everything becomes a bat. And when he is in his baseball zone it is hard for him to stop. I’m sure it is so frustrating for his teacher.
Although our local major league team is not the greatest, Jacob loves them! He loves watching the games on tv, and also will rewatch old clips online of his favorite players. Over and over he will watch the same clip. The cool thing is he can copy each player perfectly. He knows their swing, stance, and even their facial expressions! He also does a pretty good slow motion replay in case you missed it the first time. It’s amazing to watch! I have tried on more than one occasion to video tape him, but he wants nothing to do with that. When he is up to bat for his own baseball team I have to remind him to be “Jacob” and not any of his favorite players.
But his fears keep him from going to watch his favorite team. He is so worried about loud fireworks at the game, or the announcer being loud, or just overwhelmed by the sheer size of the stadium. My husband tried and tried to convince Jacob to go last season with no success. So finally on the last game of the year, we put him in the van, and drove to the stadium. We knew what could happen, but we also knew how much Jacob loves baseball. We were prepared. Headphones, check. Earplugs, check. Hoodie, check. We were just short of wrapping his head in saran wrap to keep out any sound. The entire way there Jacob kicked and screamed from the back seat. And of course I kept telling my husband we were doing the wrong thing. It’s a fine line for us, trying to decide when to push a little and when to hold back. I admit the mama bear in me would just keep him safe at home forever if I could, while my husband would expose him to the entire world. It took a while to get him in the stadium, but he did it. Once in our seats we knew it would be too loud for Jacob as we were right under the speaker. Jacob was covering his ears and crying and I was telling my husband again that we should have just watched the game from home. But my husband was not going to give up on the night. He went and exchanged our seats for front row on the third base side. One of Jacob’s favorite players was right in front of us! Jacob turned and looked at me and said, “Mommy, I did it! I’m at the stadium!” with the biggest proudest smile on his face. I can still picture his little face beaming while under the stadium lights and the fans cheering around us. I knew then that we had done the right thing. That night is one of my favorite nights ever with my son as a family.
But more than anything when it comes to baseball, I am thrilled that he is on a team and wants to play. My husband is the team coach, which helps. There are some games where Jacob sits on the bench more innings than not. Not because he is in trouble, but because that is what he wants, and my husband doesn’t force it. There are games where Jacob has had meltdowns and I have had to carry all 65 pounds of him to our van while both of us are crying big tears. And there are times were he surprises us beyond measure, like the time he got hit in the face by a ball his dad threw giving him a bloody nose, and he handled it like a trooper. I remind my husband that the most important thing for Jacob is that he is part of the “team”. That he learns how to win as a team, and lose as a team. That he realizes the joys of making friends and working together. But I know at some point the kids on his team will start noticing that Jacob is different. But I hope when that time comes, it comes with understanding and acceptance.