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It’s not a game now, it’s a competition

Although Olivia has been playing high school baseball since 7th grade, this year her school couldn’t field a team.  Her teammates on her primary team, The Cage Warriors, attend different schools than she does and as such, they were playing baseball.  The high school season has now ended and her competitive, travel season will begin in earnest. 

Friday night (May 31st) we had our season opener.  This is 16U baseball, meaning that the players competing are anywhere between 15 and 16yrs of age – they have to be within that age group as the baseball season starts (April).

The team that we faced looked very good.  Up and down the lineup, they didn’t have many weak players.  One of the things that stood out for me was the speed of the game now.  It is so much more exciting than anything that led up to this.  We were playing in Randalls Island, in the field under the lights, with the Amtrak railroad perched very high behind and down the third base line.  

One of the batters from the other team fouled off a ball and it actually hit the walls of the track!  I’d never seen a ball get up there.  But because the kids are stronger and the pitching is faster, the ball is carrying on much further than I’ve ever seen.  

The second instance where I realized we were playing a different game is in what happens around the bases.  When a team has a good catcher, a good lead isn’t enough to guarantee a steal.  You need to be very fast and have a great slide into 2nd.  Third base steals are a rarity unless the ball gets way past the catcher.

But the most significant takeaway from this level of play is that the days of overt instructions are behind us now.  There is the occasional instruction given to pitchers when they are struggling or repositioning an outfielder, but in general, everyone is expected to perform.  The routine plays are now just that.  There will be mental lapses here and there, but overall, this is now a competition as opposed to just a game.

Like most parents, I was more nervous for my daughter than she was for herself – and she wasn’t at all.  It is so exciting and immensely rewarding to see her not just hold her own, but actively competing and contributing to her team when a lot of these boys are much bigger and stronger.  But baseball is a game that rewards those who have put in the work – and she has.

In baseball, there are streaks.  You can be hot for a while and then go through periods of exactly the opposite.  Sometimes being consistent is the most important.  While every game won’t provide great highlights, when they do happen, you have to celebrate them. 

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