You know what you all need? You all need a damned spring sports update, that’s what you need!
This was our first season with two kickballers. Which made for all kinds of scheduling fun, believe me. Fortunately, thanks to having friends on both teams, the girls always got to all of their games, even if S or I couldn’t be there.
M had her best season yet. She was very excited that, since no St. P’s sixth graders were playing this spring, they put all the fifth graders on one team. It wasn’t really an A team – their division had quite an assortment of talent – but she liked to think she was finally on an A team.
The night of M’s first game, I was keeping score at C’s game. The coach who was giving M a ride was supposed to call me when they got back to her house. When she called, we were in the middle of an inning, having a discussion with the umpire about the run rule, so I let it go to voicemail. About 10 seconds later, my phone rings again. This time it was M’s head coach. Why would she be calling right after the other coach called? I had a moment of panic as I swiped to answer, worried that M was hurt.
“Hey, this is K. I was just calling to let you know…that M had the best game of her life tonight!”
My heart leaped, dropped, then leaped again. The coach went on to tell me that M kicked the ball over the outfielders’ heads twice and made three great defensive plays. Afterward, M told her coach, “I wish my dad was here to see it!”
Yep, it was a little tough keeping score the next half inning.
M continued to have a great season. She kicked better, and harder, than she’s ever kicked before. She often played Suicide, the spot next to the pitcher that has to be ready to field hard-kicked balls quickly. She threw out girls at first from deep down the third base line. She even caught a few popups, which she had never done before.
Her team did well. As I said, their division was rather interesting. There was one team that was almost all sixth graders. Another team had mostly fourth graders. M’s team lost just two games, both to the mostly sixth grade team, both times by two runs. In the second game they had a five run lead with two innings to play and let it get away. Their best kicker came up in the last inning with the bases loaded, and two outs, and made her only infield out of the year to end the game. Those two games were a lot of fun to watch. Where C’s games often took as long as 90 minutes, these two were both done in about 35 minutes. When the girls understand how to play defense to changes everything.
Then they also beat the poor team with fourth graders by 52 runs one night. In just five innings.
But the girls had fun. And I think Meghan enjoyed it more than every since she contributed so much more than in the past.
C had a good season, too. The third graders are mixed with fourth graders in the spring, so the games aren’t complete disasters as they learn how to play, and she got three of the best St. P’s fourth graders on her team. When they won, they won big. I think they run-ruled three different teams. But when they lost, it was always in frustrating manner. They lost four games, all by one or two runs, every time falling behind/losing in the last inning.
C’s performance fit her personality perfectly. Offensively, she was really good. She can kick the crap out of the ball, then fly down the line. Her problem was she often popped the ball up and the defense would catch it. But when she got on base, she almost always scored, as her coach usually had her kick right before the fourth grader who usually kicked 2–3 home runs a game.
In the field, C was kind of a spazz. If the ball was kicked to her, she was never sure what to do with it. Throw it to first? To the pitcher? To the nearest base? You could see her panicking as she faked herself out by considering every option. Then, after she got rid of the ball, she would turn, flip her hair, and act like nothing happened. Like I said, kind of spazz. Most of the first-year players struggle with that part of the game, so she was not alone.
She finished off her season well. In her last at bat of the year, she came up with the bases loaded, kicked the shit out of the ball, and got a grand slam. The first official B girl kickball home run!
My favorite part about that kick was her previous time on base, she scored from first and clearly missed touching third. I was keeping score and stand right behind third base. After the next pitch, I called her over and whispered, “Nice running! Make sure you touch the bases, though. You missed third.” She nodded and got back in order. She most definitely did not touch third on her grand slam, but luckily neither the other team, their scorekeeper, nor the umpire noticed.
L is again in the U8 league, again often playing against bigger kids. And she’s had another good year personally. But there was some turnover on her team’s roster. The two kids she played best with decided to play baseball and softball this spring, so for the first time in three seasons she was without them. The good side of that was they were replaced by St. P’s kids; seven of the eight on the team are first graders together. That meant there was a lot of silliness during games. And losing those two good players hurt the team. L had only lost one soccer game in her life coming into this season. With one game left to play, they’ve lost at least four times this year. Last year she and those other kids worked really well together. One would draw the defense and pass away to an open teammate. I’m not sure this year’s team has made more than five intentional passes all season. They all just put their heads down and barrel toward the goal.
She’s continued her goal-scoring. She has scored at least two in every game. One game she had 7 or 8. She is still really good at controlling the ball and at taking it away and then getting it up the field. But the second graders seem a little bigger this spring than they were in the fall, and her entire team has struggled at times to match up physically. Last Sunday they were getting shoved all over the place. L scored two goals but no one else could get close to the box.
After that game, during the handshake line, we noticed the other coach said something to L. We asked her what afterward and she said “She asked me where I went to school.” Was the coach just interested? Did she recognize L from somewhere? Or was she recruiting? I was taking pictures during the line and had to laugh when I was editing them because there is a series where that coach is clearly talking to L while she’s shaking other kids’ hands.
C is in her second season of softball. As expected, with the move up to kids pitch, it’s been a struggle. She can still hit the ball pretty well when she makes contact. But that contact part has been tough.
It’s not necessarily because of the speed of the pitches. I think it has more to do with the wildness that comes with kids pitch. One pitch is over your head, the next bounces home, then the third is right down the middle. I think C has had a hard time staying locked in when so many pitches aren’t worth considering. If you get to ball four, the coach comes in to pitch. All but one of her hits this year have come off the coach. She’s also got in a bad habit of bailing out on any pitch that is close to inside. She’s been called out on strikes several times this year when she’s had her front foot out of the batter’s box as she stepped away from the pitch.
On defense she’s spent most of her time in the outfield, so she hasn’t seen a lot of action. She’s complained to me about that, but when she’s been given a chance to play third or shortstop, she’s not always paid the closest attention to the game and let a few balls get by her.
Compounding all this is her team’s record: they haven’t won a game yet. A week ago they tied, with C standing on third with the winning run and one out but unable to get home. We had hit the time limit and it was about to start pouring, so we ended the game knotted up at 9–9. One lousy hit and C scores the winning run. She was excited about the possibility.
“Dad! I could have won the game!”
Monday she got a hit and stole second. She was standing there, not really paying attention, and missed a chance to steal third. After another passed ball she took off. Most teams don’t try to throw out the runner but this catcher pounced on the ball and made a really good throw to third. C was two steps away from the base but saw the third baseman reaching for the throw, so she turned around and ran all the way back to second. At least she’s fast.
She’s not been thrilled with this season. She’s not getting hits, she doesn’t like the long innings in the outfield, there’s only one St. P’s girl on her team, and losing sucks. She’s already told us she doesn’t want to play again. She wants to continue to run cross country in the fall, start track next spring, and do kickball both seasons. We’re fine with her sticking to CYO sports with their three-week seasons. But wish we wouldn’t have invested in a nice helmet for her before this season began. Oh well…