Two gloves, a ball and a connection

July 7, 2008

by Jenni Sebora

When I think of summer I think of baseball, hot dogs and apple pie – among other wonderful summer things.

Whether it’s watching a game of ball or playing yourself or with your children, baseball is a summer icon.

It is a summer tradition, not merely because it is an American summer sport, but because of what is gained and shared in the process. It is about conversation, cameraderie, and connections.

Attending a baseball game on a warm summer day, eating peanuts and Cracker Jacks, singing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame,” helps us connect with other fans, friends and family while enjoying some relaxation and fun.

Playing catch with your children not only is good exercise, but it provides a forum for communication and fun between child and adult. When I drive past a yard and see children playing catch, whether it be with a friend, sibling or an adult, I smile with feelings of memories shared.

I remember as a girl playing catch with my dad. I remember how he taught me how to pitch the ball, but most vividly and fondly, I remember the cameraderie we shared between father and daughter.

It was just the two of us, sharing simple yet special times together – just my dad and I, two gloves and a ball and a connection. And sometimes we wouldn’t even say much to each other, but there was something about throwing the ball back and forth to each other that was the essence of a back and forth reciprocation of sharing.

My dad never had harsh words for me when he was teaching me the skills of baseball, and that is probably why I still enjoy the game today.

And now, I, too, enjoy the game with my own children, grabbing our gloves, the bucket of balls and heading to the front yard for a game of catch and maybe some hitting, too.

I try to remember to keep the fun in the game as I am teaching my own children about the game of baseball.

So as the tradition of playing catch continues from one generation to the next, it is the conversations and time shared, the connections, that mean the most to me as I am now a parent playing catch with my own children.

When we are teaching our children the skills of baseball, we want to remember to keep it fun as well, and not take that element away. So while we teach them developmentally proper techniques, remember to make practicing fun.

Here are some tips to remember when teaching your children about throwing.

An accurate throw begins with the right grip on the ball. Children should hold the ball across the seams and bit out on the fingers, not too tightly or too loosely.

An article, “Play Ball!” in FamilyFun, July/August 2005, by Margaret Muirhead, notes that the strength of a throw comes partly from shifting weight from the back foot to the front foot. As your child’s arm motion begins, she should take a small step toward her target and follow through across her body.

Sometimes my eight-year old daughter will shot-put the ball as many children will. The article noted that this is because her throwing arm is not sweeping up behind her body and coming over the top.

Tip: Child’s elbow should be as high as her shoulder and bent roughly at 90 degrees as the arm comes over.

You should also begin playing catch with a softer ball. Remind your child to make eye contact with the target, use two hands to catch the ball and keep their eyes on the ball.

The rules for the k-ball team I help coach: Listen to your coaches, keep your eye on the ball, and as always, have fun.

As you may go out and play catch with your son, daughter, niece, nephew, grandson, granddaughter, etc., remember that you are sharing not just the reciprocation of a ball but the sharing of conversation and connection.