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Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Win or Lose: How to Handle A Lopsided Score

Often playing baseball offers life lessons that are invaluable to my children.  More often than that, watching baseball offers life lessons to a mommy still learning.  Having watched 423 baseball games - give or take - in the past ten years, I have been on both the winning and the losing ends of a slaughter rule in a baseball game many times.  The key to handling both of those situations is to do so while maintaining as much etiquette, sportsmanship and composure as possible.  In layman's terms this would be referred to as being a bigger person, having grace under pressure, not stooping to a lower level and/or just in general, not being a sore loser or an obnoxious winner.

But in the words of my dear, wise friend, the lovely and talented Mrs. C. this is called:

Being a Delight Machine

I wrote last year about how to handle the losing when there are loud-mouthed, obnoxious unpleasant fans in the bleachers across the way.

Like I said, I have been on the winning side of a 25-0 score and on the losing side of a 27-0 score. (sorry, Husband, I know we aren't to speak of it.)

In both of those situations, no one was trying to run up the score.  No one was trying to humiliate or demean the other team.  I know the media is full of stories of whackjob youth coaches, but in my experience, I've most often seen coaches, after a certain point, holding up runners from stealing bases and eliminating the pick off plays.  There are always exceptions, but sometimes lopsided scores are just the way the cookie crumbles.

Fans, however, especially when they are watching little people fielding, throwing and batting and those little people happen to contain their DNA, sometimes get caught up in the win and/or the loss and let emotions get the best of them. It's hard sometimes to be delightful and humble, gracious and classy.  Especially when your kid is getting rocked out there or having the game of his life.  I am not Miss Manners and I am most certainly not perfect.  I have made some mistakes in the Be a Delight Machine area.  It's just that IN MY OPINION, there are ways to handle these situations so that no one is waking up the next morning full of shame and regret.  I'm sure we would all prefer to leave those mornings to our college days.

If you are on the big number side of the lopsided score, here is some advice:

1.  At a certain point it's time to keep your seat, Wilma.*
This is also known as:   Master the Golf Clap
If you are winning by 10 or 15 or 32 runs and the bases are loaded with no outs and your player comes up and hits a grounder and the poor kid on the other team makes yet another error, there is no need to whoop it up and cheer like it's the World Series.  If any team has spent a good hour out in the field trying to get an out, take it down a notch, sister.  If you must, just employ the calm and respectful golf clap.

2.  It is always, always appropriate to cheer a good play, no matter which team..
A catcher who is hustling after his 23rd passed ball and throwing his helmet off to try to catch foul balls, should be encouraged whether you know his name or not.  A kid who lays out to stop a line drive from getting to the outfield should be commended.  Giving him a "Good hustle, Catch" or "Nice play, #15" is always a good move.  If you love the game, you love a good play. 

3.  Bonus points: Kids should be taught to give respect for good plays as well.
To be impressed with an opponent's play is not to be soft or lacking in competitive spirit.  It is to be respectful and a student of the game.  One of the classiest moments I have ever seen was when Kyle was ten and playing left field in a Little League game.  A twelve year old we were playing against came up and hit the ball very hard and very far.  It was *this* close to going over the fence, but Kyle made a darn good play to rob the kid of a home run. Every twelve year old wants the chance to hit one out in Little League, but this boy did not hang his head.  He pointed out to left field and clapped his hands together, congratulating Kyle on a great play.  I'll bet his mom was prouder of that moment than had he hit it out of the park.  Again, loving the game also means tipping your cap when it is played well by anyone, no matter the team.

4.  Back off the umpire, Betty.*
I will take this opportunity to say that very recently I was frustrated with a strike zone and shouted, "That's ok, buddy, just throw a fourth strike." to our pitcher.  That would not be filed under, "How to be a Delight Machine" Did I expect the umpire to turn around and say, "Well, now, ma'am, come to think of it, you know, you're right! That was a bad call on my part.  Batter's out.  This young lady changed my mind.  Thanks so very much for your input."  Leave the discussions with the ump to your coach.  I know it's hard.  Trust me, I know.

5. Love the player, not the plays he makes.
The best advice I've read over and over and over about what to say to your kiddo at the end of the game is "I love to watch you play." Watching a kid hit a home run is amazing. A pitcher throwing a no hitter is remarkable. Sliding safe into home for the winning run? Incredible.

But this I know for sure. As a mama, I have spent a lot of time in bleachers. As a volunteer in the pediatric cancer community, I have unfortunately spent too much time in the pews of churches at the funerals of young children. If your kid pitches and walks the house? If your kid strikes out looking? If your kid misses the plate? If your kid is walking, running, succeeding, failing, or spilling a full red Gatorade in your car, you are blessed beyond measure. Your player is far and away the most amazing thing you will ever see in all your life. Don't forget it.

(*If you can't tell, we've been watching a lot of The Flintstones lately)

Happy Baseball Season, Mamas and Daddies! Be a Delight Machine!

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