“Dad … I want to pitch.”
It was as if Luke Skywalker had said, “Sure Pop, I’ll come to the Dark Side.” I ignored him. This silent strategy hadn’t panned out yet, but much like baseball, parenting is a game of failure, so I just acted like I didn’t hear him and pretended to read the paper. (Hey, look! There’s a sale at the Pottery Barn, honey–wanna go?)
“Dad … I want to pitch. I think I could be good.”
I knew from experience that he could make exactly that statement in exactly that tone of voice 6,000 times in a row without taking a breath. I’ve seen water torture scenes in World War II movies. It was time to Parent.
“They are not like us, boy. You are a catcher. I was a catcher. Your grandfather was a catcher. It is noble and it is good,” I began. “At some levels of baseball, pitchers don’t even play three days out of four. Heck, some places pitchers don’t even hit.” I spoke as if I were describing distant lands and faraway galaxies. I was sure the prospect of no at-bats would solve this problem.
“Dad, I’m 12. Besides, Mariano Rivera pitches almost every day and Mike Hampton is a great hitter.” I made a note to have the DirectTV Extra Innings package canceled. Major Leaguers these days are really setting bad examples for our children.
It was time to have The Talk.
“Son, pitchers are cheaters, pretty boys and glory hounds who are carried on the backs of great catchers and solid defense. If you want proof that they are not to be trusted, look no farther than this fact: They like strikeouts. And the LEFT-handers! Don’t get me started on the southpaws and their moves to first. It’s just plain cheating. I know you have friends who are pitchers, boy. Heck, some of my best friends are pitchers. But that’s not who we are. I wouldn’t let your sister date one, and I’m sure not going to let you or your brother be one.”
“I can throw a knuckleball,” he said. My eyebrows rose.
“Yeah, a pretty good one. And I think my change up moves away from right handers,” he added.
“You’ve got movement on your change?” I tried to sound disinterested.
“I think so,” he said. “And Coach Dailey showed me a two-seam fastball that I know moves well. I’ve gotten to where I can put it wherever I want. It’s a lot of fun.”
“Weeeeell. Your team could use another pitcher.” I could feel my toes grasping at the wet moss of the Slippery Slope.
Today we have a pitcher’s mound in our yard and a plate installed where grass used to be. I own several pitching books and three videos. I own weighted training balls and I have replaced or reconditioned much of my old gear so that I can catch him. I’m getting a radar gun like the scouts use as soon as my wife turns her back.