By Ben Smith:
Ball outside. Ball inside. Hit batter. Ball in the dirt, runner advances to second, catcher launches ball to centerfield, runner advances to third. Wild pitch, runner scores. Repeat process over again. That was my weekend. Nothing like a travel ball tournament to put an exclamation point on baseball season. You guys all know how I feel about travel ball, right? Well, after enduring eleven games at our field this weekend, my opinion hasn’t changed. I still think all of you that participate are pretty much getting ripped off. For the most part, kids didn’t play hard at all, and I didn’t witness very much instruction.
By the way, tell your kid if they are pitching and a ball is hit to the outfield with a potential play at home plate that they are not the cutoff man. It’s also not a very good idea to make the first out at home. Saw both of those blunders several times over the weekend. If you’re paying good money to play on these teams, you should expect good instruction. I’d also think that the coaches would be the ones throwing batting practice before the game instead of the kids. I might be wrong on that, though. All I’ve got to go on is that our coaches (dads) in REC ball always threw to us growing up. They also told us when we did something incorrectly. I’d say we probably got our money’s worth of instruction seeing that it cost about twenty bucks to play.
But I’m not here to rant about travel ball this week. There’s no point. You guys have officially killed rec ball and you’re pretty much forced to play travel ball. It’s so funny to listen to people boast about their kids playing travel ball like you’ve birthed some prodigy. Ever watch a show where they have to bleep out a curse word? You get that distinct “bleep” noise in the place of the word. My brain cancels out the word “travel” and replaces it with the sound of a cash register when you mention it.
Like I said, though, I’m not here to rant about travel (cha-ching) ball. I’m here to talk about taking the time to kick back. We all live in such a busy world, especially you cha-ching ball parents. As for me, we start baseball the moment we return from Christmas. If we’re fortunate enough, and we were this year, we get to play baseball into June. Then comes camps, all-star games, state games, and cha-ching ball tournaments. June becomes the busiest month of the entire year. I hate it for our children because they are so patient for dad to have some free time to be able to hang out. Sadly, by the time I’ve got enough free time for us to take a trip it’s almost time for them to go back to school. The new school schedule is still a crummy topic for me and I’ve yet to hear from one single person that said they voted for it.
Fortunately, we get one week to really kick back and relax. And even more fortunate, we’ve got family that live on the beach. So, we pack the car to the gill and head south for the week. This is a stressful time for me. Traveling with four females is pretty much like taking tweezers and pulling single hairs from your leg at a time. There are all of the sibling arguments, the passing out of snacks and drinks, the coffee stops (I don’t drink coffee), and the umpteen bathroom stops. Florida is just a jump, hop, and a skip away but we might as well be driving to the moon. Then, there’s the traffic. Everyone else has the same idea as us, even on a Monday. We jockey for positioning along I-10 as if the checkered flag is just ahead sending me into a fit of rage bad enough to hate the entire states of Louisiana and Texas. Is this how vacation is supposed to feel?
We reach Pensacola safely and exit the interstate. My mood immediately changes. I go from Five Finger Death Punch to Jimmy Buffett in the matter of seconds. The closer we get to the beach, the better my mood improves. By the time we reach the condo, my family breathes a sigh of relief knowing that we’ve arrived without me going to jail. Now, it’s time to relax.
I lay on the beach watching the kids play in the surf perfectly at peace. Amy is making sure they don’t drown, so I’m off the clock as far as responsibility goes. As I’m laying there, my mind begins to wander. How do people do it? How do people keep going and going and going without ever burning out? I see other coaches that do it, and it blows my mind. There’s no way it’s healthy. Not for you, and not for your family. I’ve got a serious guilt complex about how much I miss out on with my family, and I don’t travel nearly as much as some other coaches that I know. We’ve put such a high price on winning in America that it’s not uncommon to sacrifice your family to achieve it. And for what? Same with you cha-ching ball folks. Is the sacrifice that you’re making worth what you’re going to get in return? Forgive me for saying, but I don’t think that it’s worth it at all.
All of that said, put your ball and glove down. Put your bats in the closet. Then, put your family in the car, drive like an insane person to the coast, and go watch the kids play in the surf. Go relax. Baseball will be there later.