"Hey Stortz, I'll get you a copy of Baseball for Dummies next year" my coach -friend jibed. My son's last game of the season had just ended.
"Yeah, sure. Sounds good," I sort of half-way grinned. Like I need someone to tell me how much I don't know about sports. My glaring gaps in all things sports cuts me out of much guy conversation.
My son had a good season this spring. It was his first time on an organized baseball team. He had a good season because he had good coaches and a good team. He worked hard at practice and learned good skills. I'm glad he likes playing sports. I'm really glad he's pretty good at them. But it isn't because of me.
There was a time when I liked baseball. My second grade little league team was my first (and almost only) experience in team sports. I really did like it for a while. Until I realized how bad I was at it.
When I was a kid, nobody wanted me on their team- the classic last pick. And, rightfully so. I stank something fierce. I was an uncoordinated goof. There was a good reason they stuck me way out in left field on that second grade team. Baseball, basketball, football. You name it and I've botched it.
Later, my friends coaxed me onto the 8th grade softball team at my small Catholic school. It wasn't any better. Strikeouts, missed throws, dropped catches. It's painful to know that you are the worst person on the team. It's even more painful to not know what to do about it. I was bad. My friends knew it and I knew it. I figured out my suckage pretty early on, but honestly, it would have been nice if my dad would have helped me out.
This is my fear now that I'm a dad. I fear not being able to show my kids. I fear not being able to teach my kids. I fear not being able to help them out.
* * *
I remember the playground pissing contests between the boys about their dads:
"My dad drives a monster truck that goes a hundred miles an hour!"I wonder what my sons will say about me on the playground.
"My dad is over eight feet tall!"
"My dad makes a million dollars a year!"
"My dad shot three deer in one day!"
"My dad can throw a ball across two fields!"
"My dad can whip your dad!"
"My dad can wash the dishes better than your dad!"
I'm not a man's man. I can't teach my boys to fish or hunt. I can't teach them to ride a motorcycle. I can't teach them to change their own oil. I can't teach them to swing a hammer. I can't teach them to throw a fastball or punt a football.
About all I can teach them is love and encouragement. I hope that's enough. God, I hope that's enough.