It wasn’t a mistake (whew!)
First off, I am not in labor. I did have contractions for 14 hours yesterday, but then, right after I decided to finally notify everyone involved in taking care of my other four children, especially since the contractions were increasing in intensity, they stopped. Of course.
Anyways. This post is about Little League baseball and my 9yo son Grant, who has Nonverbal Learning Disorder.
Over the years, my oldest son Ethan has been in tee-ball, then baseball… five teams total. Grant has been a part of no team sports at all. Part of this is because his fine and gross motor skills, for a long time, were greatly behind where they should be. Right now, in some things, he’s caught up with the norms for his age, and in others, he’s only a year or two behind. In other words, for a long time, he simply didn’t have the skills required to play a sport.
My husband has worked with Grant’s baseball skills a LOT, especially over the last year, and Grant has greatly benefited from Martin’s input.
Our plan, for the past year, was to put Grant in “Fall Ball” this season. Spring is “official” Little League season; Fall Ball is a smaller, more relaxed remedial/instructional league, with a shorter (two month) season. While competitive, it’s not quite as so as the regular Little League season. So, less is at stake. Grant has been greatly looking forward to playing Fall Ball for the last year.
But, as the months loomed closer, I still had some grave concerns. I even talked with Grant honestly about what was troubling me. I told him that, basically, I was not concerned at all regarding his skills. He can catch flies and field grounders. He can hit, he can catch. That is great progress, and I’m very proud of the efforts he’s made. However, my biggest concern was regarding Grant, socially — specifically his ability/willingness to listen to the coach and apply the coach’s instructions, and his ability/willingness to be a good teammate, and his ability to remember the technicalities, the rules of the game. A lot of baseball is… standardized. Things happen in a certain order, according to the normal plan. But, there are a lot of gray areas that are a lot harder to remember… sort of like “if, then” instructions. For instance, if no one’s on base, you field the ball and throw to first. But, if it’s a long fly, you throw to the cut-off guy, or in advance of the runner. Then, things switch up even more if there are already runners on base. That can be hard for a guy with motor-planning issues to keep straight. Much of being able to successfully play baseball requires quick, non-linear thinking, which Grant doesn’t have a strong grasp of (he has several kinds of apraxia/dyspraxia).
We also talked with Ethan in advance regarding this Fall Ball season. We told him that it was important that he be on Grant’s team, even though his skills are beyond Grant’s, and Ethan could play up at least one level from Grant. Part of that is just simple logistics — I am due with a baby in the middle of their season, and it might prove difficult to get the boys to ONE set of practices/games, let alone two. The second is just that Grant needs a big brother on his team. Thankfully, Ethan is very level-headed and understood our reasoning. Also, he is the sort that would rather be the oldest and best on a team, instead of being on a more challenging team full of older, more skilled boys. (That’s not necessarily a strength of his, but in this situation, the fact that we could cater to his preferences was helpful for all of us.)
Another concern is that Grant is a non-stop talker, which doesn’t work well in an environment where one needs to listen a lot, and speak very little. The first practice, both Martin and I were there, and more than once, Martin had to shout to Grant, “STOP TALKING,” or otherwise get Grant’s attention to tell him to shut the flow. Martin also, at the end of practice, released the coach to speak sternly to Grant, or apply reasonable discipline, regarding Grant’s mouth.
The second two practices, Martin was out of town, which pretty much meant that I spent 98% of my time watching Audrey and Wesley on the playground that adjoins the practice field, so I wasn’t able to watch Grant. But, it was reported to me that during both practices, the coach had Grant do push-ups as discipline for either not following instructions, not listening, not being alert, etc.
Ugh. That didn’t bode well for the future.
The coach is very hard, probably the sternest that we’ve ever had. He’s very regimented, very planned-out, and has high expectations of the 13 boys. At first, I was afraid that that would translate into him picking on Grant. Honestly, it’s easy for Grant to get under the skin of others, both kids and adults. Either people love his exuberance and uniqueness, or it drives them nuts. But, Ethan told me that Grant wasn’t the only one who had to do push-ups, and it seemed like the coach was dealing fairly with everyone, not just singling Grant out.
So far, the boys have had two games. Ethan has done well the whole time, which we expected, and has sat out a total of one inning, and that inning, he was actually warming up to pitch, so it wasn’t even like he was sitting out. The coach has sat Grant out a total of four innings, which is the max — two per game. So, I can see that he’s not greatly confident in Grant’s abilities. Still. When Grant has played, he has done surprisingly well. On defense, he’s usually put in the outfield, and it has just happened that no balls have ever come his way. But, he has backed-up plays — like if the first baseman is fielding a grounder, Grant correctly moves into position fairly close behind the play, in case the first baseman misses the ball. And so on. The first game, Grant had two at-bats, and got one walk, and was hit by a pitch. So, he got on base, both times. The second game, just this past Wednesday night, he got hits for both of his at-bats, giving him one RBI, and two runs scored. He also stole a base, and had a fantastic slide into third, just avoiding a tag. The hits that he got were… well, it’s hard to describe if you’re not into baseball. But, there are some batters that are described as “bad ball hitters.” That’s actually a good thing. It says that a batter can well see the ball out of the pitcher’s hand, and knows how to swing just to make contact, and put the ball in play, and has enough power to often turn that contact into something productive. So, the two hits that Grant got, he chased the ball out of the zone, but he connected for hits. And, his coach has been very encouraging to Grant when he’s done something well — given him a chest bump, or just calling out some praise across the diamond.
We’re not totally out of the woods yet — Grant had to be corrected by his coach after the last game for telling the other team that his team is now undefeated. Yes, that’s true. Two games played, two wins. But, that’s bad sportsmanship, and even if that sort of statement is said matter-of-fact, it’s still perceived as gloating, which is just not what you want to have your kid doing.
But, still, overall, having Grant on a team has not proven to be the trainwreck I feared. It seems like his coach is the right kind for him… tough, but fair. Grant appears to be getting along with his teammates, and does not appear to be subject to any bullying. And, by and large, he is an asset to the team, instead of a liability, which I was also afraid of. I was also concerned about the “trainwreck” factor for Grant, emotionally. He’s pretty emotionally immature, and I didn’t want his great hopes for this season to be crushed by bad experiences or disappointments.
So… We’re only a couple of weeks into the season, but it does appear that it was the right decision to invest the time, money, and energy into having Grant play on a team. ~big sigh of relief~