I'm honored to have the opportunity to contribute to the American Travel Baseball Alliance site alongside so many impressive baseball minds from around the country. Some of you have found yourselves here through the columns I've written for the Northern Virginia Travel Baseball League. To those who are new to my words, you should note that yours truly has never connected a bat with a baseball. I have never caught a fly ball. I have never thrown a strike.
I am neither a player nor a coach nor an analyst. I have, however, sat at numerous baseball parks watching my three sons play over the course of the past 17 plus years. I spent many of those years racing around town from one game to the next to try to be present for each kid. And, in fact, a good portion of those years I juggled not only various baseball parks, but a whole lot of basketball courts and golf courses and even a few soccer fields.
Now with two kids in college and only one left at home, my days are a bit less frantic. In fact, the youngest is not only the last player standing in my house, but as of this school year, baseball is the last sport standing. Whether t-ball or Little League or high school fields; whether in my own county or across my state or along the East Coast, I have logged countless hours watching baseball. This game will forever and always be linked to my journey as a parent.
Now that you have a clear understanding of my extensive baseball "credentials", it behooves me to give you an idea of the content you should absolutely not expect to find from my column here.
This will not be a place where you can come to find out how to raise an elite athlete who has gifts the likes of which the world has never seen.
I don't have any of those kinds of athletes. (Side note for the Skinner boys: Sorry to break it to you.)
This will not be a place where I tell you exactly how to get your son to play on a D-1 College baseball team.
I've never done that.
This will not be a place where I will let you know which is the very best travel organization to join.
Among all three of my boys over the course of their years playing, I have experience with seven different travel organizations in my area. One might have been a good fit for one of my boys, but would not have been for another. One might have been perfect for a boy during a certain season, but not as he moved into the next. I know that there are many parents who would love to tell you that one specific organization is far superior to the rest. Alas, that person will not be me.
This will not be a place where I will tell you how to be the most poised, supportive parent in the stands so that your son will someday accept a Cy Young Award and end his speech with, "You're the real MVP, Mom!".
I have been poised. I have been gracious and humble after both wins and losses. I have said all the right things with love and wisdom to my children after victories and defeats.
Also, please be assured that I have said rude things - if not out loud, at least under my breath - about the mom on the other team ringing that God-forsaken cow bell. I have been a very sore, very bitter loser and an over-enthusiastic (i.e. obnoxious) winner. I have been completely unproductive and even unkind in my words to my very own flesh and blood child after a game. And, in one illustrious moment I was put in my place by a high school basketball ref who told me to "Zip it, Ma'am" while the point guard to whom I gave birth glared at me from the court. (I would like to reiterate that the call was objectively terrible. Just the absolute worst. I digress.)
I have done some things right. I have done many things wrong. So what can you expect to find here each month?
Second to a parent and wife, I am a writer - one who looks for beauty and meaning and the odd joke or two in the most mundane and ordinary of circumstances. As Frederick Beuchner wrote, "There is no event so commonplace, but that God is present within it, always hiddenly, always leaving you room to recognize him or not to recognize him."
My search for evidence of God - His wisdom, His humor, His conviction, His very presence in the smallest details of my life - has required that I do so on the baseball field simply by virtue of the fact that I have spent so darn much time there. I have been taught profoundly deep lessons in the heartbreak of an error or in the triumph of a homerun, in the disappointment of a rainout or in the blinding beauty of a sunset beyond the outfield, in the irritating voice of a fan on the opposite side or in the encouraging high five of a fellow Baseball Mom.
These lessons I've learned? These breathtakingly beautiful and hilariously bizarre stories that unfold in the most ordinary of moments? It seems I just can't keep from telling them.
I hope that you will read something here that resonates with you or makes you laugh or makes you think. I'm sure that at times you will read something here with which you do not agree. Still, I would bet that if you're a parent of a baseball player that has somehow found yourself in this little corner of the internet, we will have quite a few things in common.
I would bet that you, like me, love this game. I'd bet that you, like me, love the people it has brought into your life. I'd bet that you, like me, have experienced almost every emotion on the planet as you've watched a bunch of kids throw a ball around a diamond.
But mostly, I would bet that you, like me, have sat in the bleachers looking through the chain link fence and spotted hands-down the most special, most beautiful boy that God ever made. I'd bet you have prayed for him and hoped for him. I'd bet you have been frustrated with him and heartbroken for him. I'd bet that you have watched him make the error that ended the game or hit the walk-off to win it. Maybe you've watched both happen. Maybe more than once.
I would bet you've waited outside the dugout as that most special, most beautiful boy came toward you - all sweaty and smelly with blue Gatorade staining his upper lip. And I'd bet, if it hasn't happened quite yet, that you will look up one day to see that the Gatorade has been replaced by the beginnings of a real grown man's mustache. And I'd bet that your breath will catch in your throat and your heart will feel like it's going to burst out of your chest because you love that little boy-turned-man so darn much it's stupid.
If I'm even close to right, I hope you'll come back here each month. I am grateful to have a place to share my heart and I look forward to sharing it with you.
Jennifer is a Texas-native living in Northern Virginia with her husband of 25 years, Steve. A free-lance writer, most of her musings recount her 17 plus years as a baseball and basketball mom to her three sons, Joe, Kyle, and Drew, on her blog, The View from Behind Home Plate. Outside of racing between basketball courts and baseball fields, she spends her time as a Women’s Bible study leader, childhood cancer advocate, and rabid Texas Longhorn fan. Her writing has also appeared in columns for Arcola Methodist Church, the Northern Virginia Travel Baseball League, the Dadvocacy Consulting Group, Dysautonomia International, and the pediatric cancer advocacy organization, Kyle’s Kamp.