We’re about to sign up our son for a kids’ league baseball team. Although he has always enjoyed playing catch and hitting balls with his dad, he hasn’t shown quite the same fervor for the game that my husband supposedly had at that age. My husband blames me. Because our son has spent most of his time with me, an indoor non-athletic mother who likes to read, he has turned into a kid who enjoys reading books and has to be cajoled into playing outside. I believe he has also overheard me complaining to my friends about the huge time commitment required by team sports. He has also noted that baseball has occupied his father for his entire life, and he’s a boy who enjoys having a bit of free time.
So maybe I did brainwash him a little. I feel a bit guilty, so lately I’ve been encouraging our son to give baseball a try. His dad says that he shows some natural talent, and who knows, maybe he’ll love it.
However my husband argues that at the age of ten, it’s already way too late.
“Too late for what?” I ask him. “It’s not like he has to become a professional. He can just enjoy playing the sport and make some new friends.”
When I heard that the kids practice Tuesday-Thursday, with games every Saturday and Sunday year-round, I said to my husband, “Promise me this. Promise me that if we want to take a family trip or do something special, we’ll skip baseball and do it. We won’t let it dominate our lives.”
Perhaps it’s too early to suggest to a recent high school baseball coach that all baseball all the time is not a good idea.
He cited Japan’s second World Baseball Classic victory, which to him, proves the superiority of Japanese baseball over part-time American baseball. He talked about Ichiro.
My husband is a big Ichiro fan, but to me, the poorly shaven Mariner is a perfect example of what happens when the work/life balance is totally askew. According to Robert Whiting’s book The Samurai Way of Baseball, from the age of seven, Ichiro practiced hard every day. His father left work at 3:30 every afternoon to take his son to a nearby ballpark where the boy threw 50 pitches, hit 200 balls, and fielded 100 balls. After dinner and homework, they went to a nearby batting center where Ichiro took 250-300 swings against a pitching machine. They’d often stay till 11PM. Whiting writes, “This routine went on every day for several years, regardless of the heat or cold, rain or snow…Once, denied permission to leave practice early to play with his friends, he sat down in the middle of the field in protest and refused to budge. The father angrily began to throw balls at his son…”
Ichiro is, undeniably a great baseball player, but is he happy? He always seems humorless on TV. He seems to have a great relationship with his dog, but he doesn’t have any kids and, if media reports are true, he cheats on his wife. His life is all about baseball, all about proving that Japanese baseball is the best. And now he has an ulcer.