Thursday, July 21, 2016
Jaden and the Angels wrapped up their season this past weekend. And what a summer it's been with this group.
Since April, we've been gathering together multiple evenings a week for practices and league games - as well as impromptu Sunday afternoon pick-up games with our teammates and friends at some designated playground ball diamond - simply because we all liked being together. It's been a time commitment, as is to be expected more and more as kids grow, but it's also been a huge blessing and something we've all thoroughly enjoyed for so many reasons.
There's so much I could say about these past few months and the joy it's been, but I'll start with the baseball itself and how this season went.
This was Jaden's first year playing AA ball - or what they call kid-pitch - and what a huge difference that is from the younger leagues of t-ball and coach-pitch. It's a lot more challenging in that kids really haven't learned proper pitching technique yet - and really have to learn as the season progresses. That makes most game outcomes dependent on how well - or poorly - each team's pitcher is doing. And eight-year olds are pretty inconsistent, of course! And since league rules only allow the same pitcher to pitch for three innings in one game, you could have three great innings and then a couple of not so great innings - whether you are the team in the outfield - or the team at bat. The strike zone is challenging at this age for both the pitchers and the hitters, and it was definitely a season for learning and growing - and patience. :)
Jaden had his ups and downs over the course of the season, including his first pitching experience - and his last of the season. He pitched in the very first game out - without pitching at all during practices the month beforehand - and struggled to throw the ball directly into the strike zone. The other team scored a lot of runs that game, just from getting a lot of walks, and he was pretty down on himself afterwards.
However, Coach put him back in to pitch again in the second to last game of the regular season, and he did great! He only allowed one run and struck out three batters quickly. People said after the game that he looked like a completely different kid out there pitching from the first game - and that made him feel very good. I was just relieved to see some improvement. It's not easy being the pitcher's mom. It's a lot of pressure for those kids!
But the highlights for him were definitely playing first and second base. Those are his two favorite positions, and he was successful there. He made some really good plays throughout the year, got some good outs and only made a couple of errors. He definitely has enough to build off of for the future, learned a lot, and was always anxious and excited for the next game.
Speaking of pitching, some of my favorite memories from this season will be the team meetings that would take place at the pitcher's mound in the middle of a game if Coach James had to stop play for a motivational talk or if he felt the need to switch pitchers in the middle of an inning. The kids would rally around that mound for moral support, and it was the cutest thing at their age!
And speaking of rallying, this moment was one of the best from the season. We were playing a really tough team that had only lost one game, and we beat them with a diving catch on the very last play of the game. It was a big moment, and these kids knew it as they piled on top of one another in the middle of the infield.
This was his successful pitching night when his best friend Jack was playing catcher for him. Emily and I have talked a lot about what the next 10 years might look like with these two. Though we plan on them playing sports together for years to come, we also have plans to make sure they aren't in the same student driver car during Driver's Ed class. That would not be a good idea for anyone. ;)
We were blessed with great coaches this year, that we also now call friends. They were patient with the kids, calm during frustrated moments, motivational and supportive, did their best to teach them while on the field and in the dugout - while also understanding that these are eight year olds, and it's all supposed to be fun. Their first tournament game ended poorly with some very controversial calls by the ump, the kids were angry and felt cheated at the end, and I love how Coach James handled things in their post-game huddle. He told them umps are people, too, just like they are, just like coaches are, and that everyone makes mistakes - but that they should hold their heads high because they played a really good game, forced extra innings, fought hard, and had a lot of fun doing it.
But besides the game of baseball itself, this season and these summer nights were made enjoyable because of the people, the families, and the sweet routine of it all. All the nanas and papas showed up night after night, Grandpa Don and Grandma Alda regularly drove two hours round-trip to be there, the siblings of the players made new and close friendships that will carry on, and us parents and coaches have bonded over beers, bags and bags (and bags) of sunflower seeds, evening bonfires and cheering on our kiddos together. Many of the games were played under the lights while the sun dipped lower in the sky and the air would noticeably cool around us, and we loved our late drives home towards the sunset - the windows down, music up, talking about the plays of the game and who our next opponent was.
Though the post-season tournament didn't go the way we all hoped it would, the Angels did finish the regular season with a winning record of 6-4-1, with a couple of games cancelled completely due to weather.
At the start of the season, all of us moms were quite worried about being the only team in an 18-team league that was assigned to all-white uniforms. But you know what? They were always the sharpest-looking team out on the field. :)
These were taken after their very last game of the year... but get used to seeing lots of pictures of these three together. Football is just a month away. :)
Final goodbye hugs in the dugout and one more team hug at home plate. No one wanted to leave this night!
Three full months of baseball in the books. Our bottoms may have gotten sore from spending so many hours sitting on those uncomfortable bleachers, but it's exactly how I would want to spend my summer. I love being a mama to my boys, and I continue to be his biggest fan.
And we're not even done with baseball for the year. Brandon's shorter season starts this week! Time to invest in more bags of sunflower seeds - and maybe even some stadium seat cushions. ;)
Until next season. Go Angels, Go!