Yes, I now have two little baseball players in the house. Who would have ever guessed? Let me tell you all about it. :-)
I have a friend I've known for a few years through homeschooling circles named Jacy. A few years ago she was teaching Jairus sign language and we've had lots of discussions both online and face to face about schooling choices, special needs and many other topics. Baseball has been one of those. I knew from her email signature and mentions on FB that Jacy was a baseball coach of various leagues.
At the end of 2013, Jacy and her kids moved to Caledonia and the next spring, I started hearing about her running baseball in Haldimand county. We talked seriously at that time about my kids joining, but between gymnastics and highland dance, our summer schedule was just too full. Baseball sounded fun though.
This year when she began talking about it again, I realized that we could possibly be involved. Add to that the recommendation from the sports psychologist to get Verity into other physical pursuits, and I was keen to try this out. I had enjoyed baseball as a kid in elementary school--always made the school team, and I was concerned that my kids master the basic skills of catching and batting. So near the end of May, we began coming out to teeball practices.
At first, Verity was not convinced. Afton was more enthused. Sadly, there weren't enough girls of Honour's age to get a team going and Jairus....well, we needed to feel out where a good place for Jairus would be. After a few practices though, and the awkward "I'm not sure what to do" phase passed, Verity was much more agreeable, and the day the uniforms came home, she was downright excited. James was also pulled in to assist Jacy with the coaching, as she needed base coaches. We really had no idea what this meant. :-) Both the girls developed some nice skills and Verity's athletic training was evident as Coach Jacy groomed her for 1st base. Being from a town on the Grand River gave us the name the Riverdogs. Their uniforms displayed a cute yellow dog on a navy background, cracking a bat in half with his teeth.
Our first game was played as part of a one day "Friendship" tournament in Hamilton. We showed up bright and early for the start of it, got one game played (lost), went to breakfast as a team at a nearby restaurant and watched the downpour begin. The rest of the day was called due to the rain. :-S
One of the teams we were supposed to play came out to Caledonia a couple weeks later though, and played us on a Sunday afternoon. We tied that game, but received the participation medal from the tournament at that time. The kids, (plus Jairus for being bat boy) were pleased with this.
We all knew that the BIG event of the season was going to be the World Teeball Tournament in Ancaster over the first weekend of August. As the weekend approached however, our numbers were low. Jacy had to reach out to some other players she knew of from other sources. It was questionable right up to the day or two before the tournament whether or not the kids would be able to play. Coach Jacy pulled it together though, and we had enough to go to Ancaster in the nick of time..
Meanwhile, in my house, things were getting chaotic. We had rsvp'd to a wedding over a month before for the Friday afternoon/evening, without realizing that the tournament would start on the Friday night. James ended up attending the 3:30 service with me, and then returning to Hamilton to get the girls and head over to the tournament while I went on to the reception. I got home that night to hear that they lost. Considering their track record, it wasn't surprising. Honestly, I think most of the team and their families felt that our little teeball group would barely survive a game or two. We had also scheduled ourselves to leave for Fair Havens, for 2 weeks of trailer camping that weekend. Sometime in the few weeks leading up to the tournament, we realized that we'd have to put off our departure. At first I figured it would be Saturday night, no biggie. Then that was adjusted to Sunday when we realized there was at least one guaranteed Sunday game. Again, our expectations were pretty low and we thought we'd be on our way after that Sunday game...
Saturday morning we were up at 6am to leave the house by 7 to arrive at the diamond for 7:15. Gametime was 8am and Coach Jacy wanted lots of time to warm up and mentally prepare the kids.
We were playing teams from all over Southern Ontario and Saturday morning was against a team from Windsor. I was shocked that teams had come a four hour drive for this tournament!
I sat with a group of parents who watched in surprise and amazement as the kids played, frankly shocked that they held their own so well against this very strong team. We won 31-17! A few hours later, they faced an all girls team from High Park in Toronto. They were a very good team and the Riverdogs lost by 8 runs.
As we packed up our camping stuff on Saturday between games and in the evening, we were sure we'd play our two scheduled Sunday games and be on our way by mid-afternoon. During that first morning game against another Windsor team, I sat with a set of now-familiar parents and marked the score as best as I could track on a piece of scrap paper. I wanted to know when I could start planning our departure. It seemed eminent when the Riverdogs lost by only one run. We still had one more scheduled game however, for 12pm. A loss here would have us on our way to Fair Havens...so of course...we won. This bumped us into another game at 4pm. Surely we would lose here and be on our way, right?
The first Monday game was at 9am, a welcome change from the 6am alarms we'd needed the day before. Still, I harboured the expectation that we would likely lose, and then we'd hit the road. I had already sent a message to the program coordinator at Fair Havens on Saturday night, letting her know that Jairus wouldn't be at his program Sunday morning (so that his assistant wouldn't be waiting unnecessarily) but assured her we'd be there for the evening. I had to message her again on Sunday night!
Good natured, even though she got out!
Coach Jacy instructing.
Best bat boy ever!
This series was an amazing play by Verity and the 2nd baseman. She described the whole thing to me--how she went for the pop fly and missed, but he was right there behind her to get it!
It was during this game that I started to understand some of the logic of teeball scoring. In teeball, every player goes to bat, so it doesn't matter how many outs there are (except that outs mean less runs, of course). It wasn't until one of the other moms came checking my scoring attempt over my shoulder that she started talking about how many runs we'd need to be assured of a win. At first I didn't get what she meant, but then as her and another couple talked, I began to realize that there would come a point when we'd be so far ahead that it would be physically impossible for the other team to bring in enough runs to win or even tie. Teeball games are 5 innings, but they can be cut short when that magic number is reached. During this game, it came down to a moment when the Riverdogs needed 3 more outs to eliminate the possibility of Ancaster even catching up.
And suddenly they had done it. We were in the semi-finals. When I met Afton coming out of the dugout, I congratulated her and gave her a big hug. She was pleased, and then asked if we were leaving for FH now. I realized that she didn't understand the significance of what happened....I explained with as much excitement as I could...and she started to cry. Oh no!
I had emailed my parents and sister the night before to tell them what was going on. They'd all been away that day visiting my brother in Parry Sound so I wasn't sure if they'd be up to coming out to the game, but it was so exciting that I knew I at least needed to let them know. My mom texted during that first game to ask if they'd be playing again at 11:30, the scheduled time for the semi-finals. As soon as the game finished, I confirmed that they would be playing only 45 minutes later. They arrived just in time.
Again I kept a rough score as the game proceeded, warning anyone around me who checked it that I couldn't vouch for its' accuracy...I found it too easy to get caught up in the game and miss some runs. It ended up being an extremely dramatic ending. It was down to the end of the 5th inning...the last batter, with one runner on base. If they both got home, we would be tied and have to go into another inning. Last batters are typically the strongest hitters and this was no exception...but the Riverdogs were ready. They gathered the ball and got it back into homeplate where our backcatcher was waiting. The runner already on base came in...that brought the score to within one run of each other. Then our backcatcher, with the pitcher helping, got the ball in hand and stomped on homeplate, well before the last batter got in. We had squeaked through with a victory by one run. I sat in shock and looked around at the other families of our team...no one was really celebrating...I think most of us were not quite sure it had happened! Slowly the realization set in however...we were in the championship game.
By later in the day, all the games had become delayed. The 3:30 championship game wouldn't be starting until 4:30 at the earliest. I took Honour and Tia (family friend) and headed home to get the van packed up. I was determined that we would be on the road as soon as the game was done. For us, it was a double win--either way, we'd be on holidays in our favourite place in the world!
Well, to make a long story short (too late!) the Riverdogs played valiantly, matching the championship team from Windsor point for point for the first 2-3 innings. Then slowly the other team pulled away for a final score of about 28-21. I have to point out, however, that we had played 3 games that day...9 games over the whole weekend...they were exhausted! The Windsor team however, had been "seeded" into the championship and hadn't had to play at all that day!
It was such an incredible weekend. I got to know a number of other team parents quite well as we sat chatting through the games. I watched both my husband and my daughters improve by leaps and bounds--James as he coached, and the girls as they played. All the children went through nearly a metamorphosis that was incredible to watch over the course of the four days. One of my goals in putting the girls in teeball was that they'd know what it was like to be part of a team and work together. They experienced this in spades. I can't say enough good things about the Haldimand Riverdogs and Coach Jacy!