Quitting Baseball - How We Dealt With Our Son's Decision
Our Family's Love of Baseball
My sons were born into a house that loved baseball, so it's no surprise that they grew up on the baseball field. Each of the boys began their baseball careers with tee-ball at our local Little League field, just around the corner. Walking down to the field, bat bags bigger than they were slung over their shoulders, was a beloved ritual that played out in our family for many years.
Baseball Years - 17 and Counting!
Since I have three boys with an age gap of six years between my oldest and youngest, that adds up to a grand total of 14 years that I lived at that neighbor Little League field! If you're not familiar with the structure of Little League, you might find that hard to believe. Let me explain, in brief, the ranks of the National Little League: Tee Ball - ages 4-7; Farm - ages 8-10; Minor - ages 9-11; and Major - ages 10-12. There you have it, but wait, we're not done yet! After they progressed through the ranks of Little League, the boys moved up to the Babe Ruth League and then finally, on to their high school baseball team! We have an exceptional high school program that's equipped my two oldest with the skills to continue on and play college ball! That takes my family's involvement in baseball to the current, 17 years and counting (YIKES)!
The Younger Brother
Jonah is the youngest of my three sons; he's currently 16 1/2 years old and a junior in high school. Being the youngest of three brothers has its challenges to be sure! Thankfully, Jonah quickly and innately became equipped with overall superior survival skills skills that only baby brothers possess: heightened sense of sight, smell, taste and hearing; stealth-like maneuverability; invisibility, speed, agility, humor and a cuteness factor that's off the charts! Jonah provided countless hours of fun/aggravation/irritation/entertainment for his two older brothers - often, all at the same time! He excitedly followed his brothers every move and naturally joined them on the baseball field.
Jonah was a gifted baseball player, both in the field and at bat. He had a great work ethic - always the first on on the field and the last one off. He made the All Star team most years and, even though he took the game seriously, always seemed to have a smile on his face when he was on the field. His older brothers were his biggest fans!
Always Try New Things - Never Quit
We've always encouraged the boys to try new things. Unfortunately, the Arts were never a big hit even though I tried very hard. They will never let me forget dragging all three of them, straight from Saturday soccer games, to an audition for a local ballet production of Peter Pan. Their cleats stood out next to the neat row of ballet slippers - they were completely out of their element! Thinking back, that probably left some long-term scars along with a total rejection of anything theatre! We also tried music - the trumpet, trombone and the clarinet. Unfortunately, hours of ear-piercing practice never resulted in an invitation to join the Philharmonic Orchestra! We also explored wrestling, soccer, track, swimming, basketball, baseball, football, gymnastics, boy scouts, and continuous camping excursions (usually with Dad).
The boys were usually excited to try whatever new sport or activity I suggested. Now, this initial excitement didn't always last, however we had a rule in our house - No Quitting! They had to at least finish one season/session of the activity and then, if they didn't like it, they didn't have to do it again. Except for the ballet experience (this was a one-time shot), I don't recall any sport or activity that any of the boys absolutely hated. They were always good sports and stuck out the season and then, we would honor their decision to either sign up again or not.
The sports they ended up loving were basketball, football, soccer (for a while) and baseball. By the time high school came around this had narrowed down to football and baseball for each of the boys.
"I Quit" - The Surprising Announcement!
Fast forward to this past December, Jonah is a junior in high school now and his football team just wrapped up an exciting season. After dinner one night, seemingly out of the blue, Jonah made the announcement that he's decided not to play baseball this year. His dad and I weren't sure we heard him correctly. We just stared at him, so he repeated it again slowly, "I'm-not-playing-baseball- this-year". We were floored and totally blindsided. It took awhile for it to register, but finally we were able to speak. Our first question to him was, "Why?" That's when he told us that he hadn't really enjoyed playing since Little League - that he'd just continued to play because he knew how much it meant to us. This took us completely by surprise! Jonah has great friends on the team and always seemed like he was having fun to us. We quietly told him we'd support his decision and would never want him to play a game that he no longer loved. Our hearts were heavy as we tried to digest this surprise announcement.
Dealing With the Decision
We spent several weeks trying to lay out the pros and cons of baseball. We tried desperately to convince Jonah that he would miss the game and shared with him our fear that he would regret this decision later. We also tried to read more into the decision - was it the coach? the players? No, it was just that he was tired of making such a huge commitment to a game that he no longer loved playing.
I have to admit, we privately thought selfish thoughts. Thoughts like: what were we supposed to do come spring when, normally, we would be signing up for the snackbar, grill and announcing duties; attending team meetings; helping with the annual Spaghetti Feed/Fund Raiser; and getting the stands ready for the opening game of the season? Baseball had been a part of our lives for so long - 17 years - what would it be like for us without it?
It's now late January and we are slowly becoming used to the idea that Jonah will not be on the baseball field this season. Just today, he brought paperwork from a LaCrosse meeting he attended - looks like he didn't forget about the importance of trying new things!
All these years, I've tried to teach the boys to never quit, but now I see that there comes a time when quitting is, in fact, the right thing to do. It took a lot of strength and courage for Jonah to make this decision. I am so proud of him for his ability to stand up for what he feels is best for him, even though he knew it wouldn't be easy.
Thank you Jonah for teaching me a lesson that I will cherish - it's always OK to quit when you're following your heart. I am so grateful for your strong character, determination, and especially the love you have for us. As a parent, I couldn't ask for anything more. I thank God for allowing me the honor of being your mom - I love you!
Now its time that your dad and I sit back and follow your lead!