Sunday, January 27, 2008

The First Day of Turtle’s

I always start to get a little anxious in January. Stir crazy.

Pitchers and catchers are scheduled to report to the Detroit Tigers spring training camp in mid February. In Lakeland Florida – where it will be nice and warm for those multi-million dollar arms and bats and gloves.

And that’s when spring would start, for me anyway.

That was until this year.

This year, my little girls are playing ball for the Turtle club.

Hey, laugh at the name all you want, but the Turtle Club is known far and wide for raising great traveling teams and running solid little leagues. The Turtle club is a club to be wary of. Named Turtle’s because the facilities – comprised of ten to twelve diamonds - sits along the Turtle creek.

Alannah will play T-Ball, and Ashley-Rae will play something called Blast-Ball. I didn’t know there was a level below T-ball.

My hope is that my girls enjoy playing ball this year, and so they can grow up as players in this organization. They can learn all that I learned from playing ball. Like teamwork. And learn the fundamental skills that will build their confidence.

Build a confidence that will carry over into other aspects of their lives.

I was not that surprised when we received a call – an automated voice message – instructing us that Alannah’s team was to start practice on Saturday, January 26. After all – I had taken them both in to register with the Turtle Club a couple of weeks before Christmas.

These are some serious Turtles”, I thought to myself.

I looked outside. The ground has six inches of snow cover, more to come that night, and the next day.

It’s January.

We arrived at the gymnasium. The room was full of six and seven year old girls. They all had running shoes and ball gloves. Some had hats. Some wore uniforms from years gone by. Years of Blast-Ball experience I guess.

Alannah wore her T-ball uniform from two years ago, with the huge Canadian Tire logo on the front and the number ten across the back. And her rival league shirt was noticed

Alannah had played T-ball two summers ago, for the South Windsor Fastball league. And that was very good – but it started in April. The last week of April. And the kids - boys and girls - all ran around, and had to be told every time that you run to second base after you run to first base. The accomplishment at the end of game was to get a juice box. Every game ended 40 to 40. Every kid (ten in all) hits every inning, and the last hitter runs all the bases. So there were ten runs every innings for both teams – for four innings.

And that was just fine.

This is where Alannah learned most of her glove-hand skills; such as how to put hr glove on her head, how to pick up sand and stones in her glove like an hourglass, how to catch butterflies with her glove. And of course, how to throw your glove in the air and catch it.

T-ball was secondary to having fun.

The Turtles might be a bit more focused than her previous team. But after watching the coaches run the six and seven year-olds through the drills in the gym, I saw that their primary goal is to let the girls have fun too.

I was very proud of how Alannah did this first day. She moved side to side well, catching the ground ball in her glove each time, stopping to turn and throw to the glove of the coach. But then she would do a spin and fall down – looking to see who would laugh at her joke.

In the batting area, she hit the ball hard off the tee, on a line into the net in front of her, just like my dad would have taught her. But then she would hit her helmet with the bat and stagger dazed like one of the three stooges – again looking to see who would laugh at her jokes.

And the coaches were great. They let her have her fun, but then they explained nicely that she didn’t need to make people laugh right now. She could do that later. And she smiled and said “ok”.

I think the Turtles will teach them that playing ball is more fun than catching butterflies and balancing the glove on ones head. Or hitting ones self in the helmet with the bat for a laugh.

I like this group. I am excited about the girls playing this summer. I can’t wait.

I am usually tempted - when I become fond of groups like this – to jump right in and help – to offer to volunteer – take on some responsibility. And I will avail myself to these guys if they would have me. But there seems to be a tried and true method to this group. A process that they have found success with. I think I will watch this year, and participate as a parent, to learn their process. Or maybe if need be I could umpire.

I don’t know.

But this year is not about my participation with the Turtle Club. This is the year that my girls will fall in love with baseball.

At least I hope they will. What do you think, Dad?

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