Contact Sport



A few weeks ago, I took Cayden and Hadley to their first tee-ball practice. It wasn’t just the first practice of the season; it was their first time ever playing. In the car, I pulled the price tags from their new mitts.

At the field, I thought I knew what to expect: bobbled catches, runaway grounders, whiffed swings… disorganized, distracted kids, more interested in horsing around than fielding or throwing.

But I expected something akin to baseball.

I did not expect a rugby scrimmage.

Practice began peaceably enough. Fifteen 3- to 7-year-olds, paired up with parents, practiced throwing and catching.

Then it was time for batting practice, which went as follows: A kid would tap the ball — usually a sluggish, slow-roller — toward the rest of the team…

…who clustered in the same placethe pitcher’s mound. Screaming, they’d dive for it, but the lifeless grounder always emerged unscathed from the matt of adrenalin-jacked children. Fourteen kids missed every time.

But they’d give chase. Rallying their cries, the kids would fight for the ball, tackling, pouncing and clawing each other, in a billowing cloud of infield dust.

The victor would rise from the scrum and, holding the ball aloft menacingly, run at the first basemen and hurl the ball at his head. Thankfully, the errant throw usually sailed into the weeds.

I just stood there slack-jawed. I had no idea that tee-ball would be so violent.

And so entertaining.

After a while, the kids recognized that the coach’s daughter possessed superior skills, so the team changed their tactics. They’d wait for her to field the ball, and then they’d tackle her, usually hooking an ankle and throwing her to the ground. To her credit she never cried, not even when she ate dirt.

Since that first practice, a few skilled players have surfaced… which means there are more tackle-worthy teammates.

I haven’t seen a real game yet, but I gather that the scene is similar — an hour of chaos and pileups, with uniforms.

I can’t wait.