Yer’re Out

2 Sep

Letterbalm Baseball Glove and BallDear LetterBalm: I’m lucky to have a good rapport with my 14-year-old nephew. He’s bright and funny and he’s big on several team sports, especially baseball. I’m his biggest fan and try to catch his games when I can. Over the years, I’ve coached many kids’ teams, including soccer, lacrosse and baseball and I have to say my nephew is only an adequate player. But he thinks he’s good enough to play professional ball, and his parents egg him on. It’s complicated because his older cousin is on an AAA baseball team, has real promise as a first baseman, and the whole family talks about him a lot.  How can I help my nephew realize that he may strike out on his dream? Should I even try?

–Pinch Hitting

This is quite straightforward. It’s one time when you need to button your lip. Neither your nephew nor his parents will appreciate the truth, no matter how gently offered and how much expertise you bring to the discussion. They’ll always resent you putting a damper on a boy’s dreams. They’ll always ask “what if.” And, what if, by some miracle, he does well enough to make a semi-pro team? Further, Ms. L.B. says, resist the urge to compare your nephew with his older cousin and stop talking about the older boy’s prowess, if you haven’t already done so. For now, offer noncommittal support and platitudes and offer to help him with particular techniques (baserunning, batting, pitching, accurate throws, etc.), mindful that if he tries out for the big leagues, reality will set in. Know also that you should call in a favor when that time comes, so a professional will take a look at him, at least:

  • I have some free time, Jake. What do you say we set up some practice sessions?
  • You’re doing better in baserunning/batting/fielding, Jake. Real improvement.
  • Let me take a look at your glove/bat. You might need to re-condition it/you might need a different size/model.
  • Oh, I don’t make comparisons between players because it’s unfair and discourages effort. So I won’t be talking about your cousin/nephew and how good or bad he is.
  • You’re working very hard on your game, Jake, and I’m proud of you.
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