By Dom Cioffi
If you’re a parent and your son or daughter plays a sport, there’s a good chance that you’re going to find yourself involved in practice at some point.
I had already been coaching for years when my son began to enter the world of child athletics. He determined that baseball and basketball were going to be his main focus, which made me happy because they were mine as well (I swear I had nothing to do with that decision).
During this past baseball season, my son and I spent a lot of extra time at the local ball field working on his game.
We’d start each session by playing toss and catch before then moving to infield practice with me hitting him ground balls at every location. Later I’d hit him fly balls in the outfield and then I’d have him do a little pitching from the mound. And finally we’d finish off with batting practice.
Normally our batting practice sessions would occur in one of the several available cages, but if a field happened to be open, we’d usually opt for that.
Cages are easier for obvious reasons: you don’t have to walk far to collect the balls. However, this comes at the cost of not knowing exactly how well you hit the baseball. Sure, you can tell when you hit a ball squarely in the cage, but not being able to see its full trajectory certainly diminishes from the experience.
You do get that when you hit balls in the field. Unfortunately this also means that you have to shag balls when your bucket empties – and this is a bit time consuming. It becomes even more time consuming when your 10-year-old son likes to dilly-dally during the process.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve ripped into my son after I’ve shagged 90 percent of the baseballs littered throughout the field while he hasn’t managed to collect the eight or 10 that he whiffed at that are sitting 15-feet behind him.
Of course, my complaining generally has a humorous slant: “Don’t worry, superstar!” I’ll yell from the outfield. “I’ll get these. You just sign autographs.”
The ribbing is always good-natured because, quite honestly, there’s nothing else I’d rather be doing.
Over this past summer, my son and I often found ourselves on the little kids’ field. It’s just as nice as the Little League field – just smaller – with an outfield fence that varies between 260- to 275-feet.
One day I had pitched him about a half bucket of balls when I made the ill-fated decision to motivate him. “Listen, buddy.” I bargained. “If you hit one over this fence, I’ll give you a brand new $100 bill.”
Four pitches later, he crushed one over the right field wall. As soon as he hit it I knew it was gone. And even though it cost me a cool $100, it was worth every penny to see his excitement and to feel my own.
From that point forward, all he wanted to do was try to hit balls out of that field. We could finish up a regulation game and as soon as it was over, he’d ask if we could go to the small field to “hit homers.”
Obviously, for financial reasons, I had to alter the payoff. It now stands that he gets $10 for every home run over center or right field and $20 for an opposite field homer (he’s a lefty).
As of this week, he’s earned somewhere in the vicinity of $270.
I have to admit that I am a bit at ill ease paying my son to practice, but the motivation to see him reaching for the fences is invigorating.
He’s always had an issue with being under-aggressive, but now I find him putting his entire body into his swing. He may whiff at a few more than normal, but when he finally does connect, it’s a pure rhythmic and athletic motion.
I will also admit that there is a carrot at the end of this baseball stick.
Lately my son has been begging for an Xbox One. Apparently he’s the only kid in the world without one and because of this he’s left deprived from countless conversations at school and in the neighborhood.
So even though I was planning on getting him one for Christmas, I thought I’d utilize the baseball forum to make him actually earn it.
So after that initial $100 blast, I’ve told him that any money he earns by hitting home runs can only go toward an Xbox One. Subsequently he’s been relentless in his pursuit and I’ve been enjoying the best father/son time I could ever hope for.
And while being a dad is certainly the best job I’ve ever had, the five soldiers highlighted in this week’s feature claim that arming a US tank in Nazi Germany was the best job they ever had.
“Fury” is a World War II drama starring Brad Pitt and Shia LaBeouf that follows the heroism of one tank and its dedicated crew as they face an epic fight against catastrophic odds.
Check this one out if you like highly realistic war films that do not shy away from the horrors of battle. “Fury” does not hold back and as such features several stomach turning moments. However, wrapped around this ugliness is a poignant story of valor, commradare and heroism.
A sobering “B-” for “Fury.”
Got a question or comment for Dom? You can email him at [email protected]