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  • Writer's pictureAllan Shedlin

How Baseball Influenced My Parenting

Guest Post by Francois Bereaud

At the park with Nic and his half-siblings, spring 2018

When I told the wonderful poet, activist, and thinker E Ethelbert Miller that my interest in baseball, long dormant after a miserable Little League experience, had been rekindled by my son Nic’s baseball career, Miller immediately responded with the question that forms the title and subject of this essay.


A little background: I love sports. I was a mediocre athlete, but played every sandlot and league sport possible, and continue to play beer league hockey today.


As a dad, I got into coaching, mostly because other parents said no. First, I coached my stepson’s basketball team then was Nic’s soccer coach for four years. Nic was a big kid – he’s 6’4” as an adult – but wasn’t particularly good at soccer other than being able to kick it hard. He was objectively poor at basketball. I never brought up baseball, it was my worst sport and, given genetics, why should it have been any different for him?


At 10, he asked to play. We lived in a serious baseball community. Little League was an event. I knew he could be in for a reckoning. I bought him a glove and hit balls off his shins until dark. I found batting cages, loaded up on tokens, and graded papers (I’m a math teacher) while he hacked away. Then the season started.

I bought him a glove and hit balls off his shins until dark. I found batting cages, loaded up on tokens, and graded papers (I’m a math teacher) while he hacked away.

As described in a story I’ve already written, A Career, Nic’s career from the outset had elements of magic. He was good, more than good, a power-hitting first baseman who would smash towering, collegiate home runs. Once he started playing, my role was strictly as a parent, no coaching for me in this domain.


Baseball is slow. Very slow. Nic started in the (Little League) Minors, the first year kids pitched. There were painful innings where the ball was never near the plate. But as the season wore on, more plays were made, and the parents cheered appropriately.


At the end of the season Nic was moved up to the Majors for a few games. I noticed an immediate difference in the parent behavior. Instead of being happy when a play was properly executed, many were upset, sometimes to the point of anger, when it wasn’t. To this day, I don’t quite understand this attitude. Who cares if a 12-year-old shortstop overthrows first base at two in the afternoon in a San Diego suburb? Not me.


What does this say about my parenting? Am I not ambitious enough for my kids? Do I not value the ROI that should come from sports?


As Nic moved up the food chain into high-school ball, the players got better. I would have zero chance at making contact with a ball thrown by a high-school pitcher. In between paper grading, I grew to study the games and appreciate them for their subtleties. Should the infield be brought in given certain situations? When should a pitcher be pulled? What about stealing? Nic and I would discuss these issues driving home as he also loved the strategy of the game.


While Nic’s career was taking off, I became the dad to two more amazing humans, his half-sister and half-brother. I was an older parent to them – past 40 – and worried about that fact.


In certain ways, baseball came to the rescue.


Thirteen years after first being a dad to a newborn, I had to slow down again, appreciate the tiny. Baseball forces a parent to do that as well. Sometimes your kid doesn’t play. Sometimes your kid gets up to bat three times and strikes out all three and only gets one ball hit to them in right field. But then you hear them encouraging a teammate, or reflecting on laying off the curveball on the car ride home.

Thirteen years after first being a dad to a newborn, I had to slow down again, appreciate the tiny. Baseball forces a parent to do that as well.

Our lives are filled with social media images of the big moments – graduations, home runs, scholarships, school awards – but so much of parenting is appreciating the small moments. Your child clears their plate for the first time without you asking, they meet another kid at the playground and ask them to play, they finish reading a book you know is challenging for them.


Baseball also requires incredible patience. Gratification and redemption can take forever. After Nic starting hitting home runs, there grew to be an expectation that it would always happen. Down two runs in the eighth, two men on, Nic up, problem solved, he’d launch one. Except most of the time, he wouldn’t. Nobody does. Some parents would groan if he took a bad swing. I’d clap, and hope he remembered my game day exhortation: Have fun out there. It could take two more games before he had a similar chance, and no guarantees there.


As an older parent, I learned to be more patient, a trait which doesn’t come easily to me. I credit some of that learning to the long afternoons and evenings I spent watching their brother on the diamond.


Finally, as the saying goes, baseball is a game of failure. I’ve learned to give myself grace as a parent. I accept that despite my intentions, I won’t always get it right. The San Diego legend Tony Gwynn hit .338 over his career which means he got out, or failed, two times out of three.


Hell, as a dad, my average is way better than that.


 

DADDYING FILM FEST CALL FOR ENTRIES

LATE ENTRY DEADLINE EXTENDED TO APRIL 15th!



Attention all Dads/Dad figures, 1st-grade through college undergrad students, and other indie filmmakers, the D3F Call for Entries late deadline has been extended to MONDAY, APRIL 15th! That means there's still plenty of time for you to join our amazing and growing lineup of Official Selections by creating and submitting your own film or video – even if it's just a 1- or 2-minute TikTok or Instagram video! We're looking for more heartfelt stories that reflect what being or having an involved dad means to you and/or your child(ren).


Visit the D3F website for more award details, submission guidelines, and Atticus Award-winning examples from previous years. Or head directly to our FilmFreeway page to submit your films, videos, and music videos celebrating the importance of having or being an involved Dad or Dad figure:



SUBMIT BY APRIL 15th


 

Francois Bereaud is a husband, dad, full-time math professor, mentor in the San Diego Congolese refugee community, and mediocre hockey player. His stories and essays have been published online and in print and have earned Pushcart, Best of the Net, and Best Small Fiction nominations. He serves as an editor at The Twin Bill, Roi Fainéant Press, and Porcupine Literary. The Counter Pharma-Terrorist & The Rebound Queen is his published chapbook. In 2024, Cowboy Jamboree Press will publish his first full manuscript, San Diego Stories, which is the realization of a dream. Links to his writing at francoisbereaud.com.

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