I didn’t know it was co-ed.
She didn’t know it was co-ed, and I didn’t know that it’s typically not. A Mom that happened to be passing by the baseball game today saw the pink helmet up to bat, and was quite surprised. As I have learned in the last 10 weeks, there are many surprises in baseball, and in community team sports.
We moved to Dos Vientos, a small community in Newbury Park (Thousand Oaks) and we wanted to get the kids involved. Sports are big around here, and even though the twins had zero experience playing or watching baseball, we decided to enroll them. The four-year olds are in the Newbury Park Pony Baseball League. Their age group (4-6) is called “Shetland”. The Shetland Pony teams do not keep score. They play to learn and to have fun.
Moving here has been quite an adventure for our family. The change has been good for us, and there has been a lot of growth. None of us knew what to expect when we signed up for baseball. I was nervous for the twins, because we had never exposed them to baseball. Because I didn’t know what to expect, I also didn’t think twice about signing our daughter up at the same time as our son. I honestly had no idea that baseball was typically a boys’ sport.
We went to the first practice and they learned some basics. They honestly knew nothing – they didn’t know to drop the bat and run to first base. Jayden would hit the ball off the tee and then try to run and pick it up. Claudia didn’t want to drop the bat and run – she wanted to pick it up and put it against the fence before casually trotting to first base. It was a pretty fun first practice.
Half the kids on the team of 10 were returning players, and half were new. Our coach, Joey Pagano, had a son on the team who was a first time player. Joey was not a new coach, and he was truly incredible. He picked the kids he had from prior seasons, and then was probably handed over our crew to take on. He never ever EVER made us feel bad that we had no experience.
Newbury Park Pony Baseball is volunteer-run. It cost us $100 per child to play 10 weeks of baseball. Joey was our head coach, and we had Matt, Michael, and several other parent helpers coaching our kids. We also had a Team Mom, Nicki. Everyone involved here is doing it for the love of the game, and for the love of the children. You can FEEL their love coming off the field.
Each week we had an hour-long practice and a real “game”. The twins learned a lot in the 10 weeks but were still probably the two weakest players on the team. That’s also an opportunity for growth for the parents, because it’s hard on your ego to stand there and watch your kid not really “get it”. It’s downright painful sometimes!
When I got mad because I felt like one or both weren’t really trying, I tried to remember the sign posted on the fence. “He’s Just a Little Boy”, which meant two things to me. First, it meant give them a break. This is new, it’s hard, they’re FOUR and they’re doing it because YOU signed them up for it. Second, why does it say Boy???? I still don’t know the answer to that. Claudia asked me many times why there were no girls. I Don’t Know Why. But that didn’t stop her from prancing from base to base in her pink helmet and pink cleats, gingerly tapping the ball with her pink Hello Kitty bat.
Tonight after the last game we had a team party at Magoo’s. The kids ran around, played video games and ate pizza. Coach Joey honored the players one by one in the most incredible way. He had saved game balls, one from each game, and marked them for specific players. He called each child up to present them with their ball and tell the story of why that ball was for them. Each child got to stand there with their Coach’s hand on their shoulder and listen to what made them special on the team. Are you crying yet? Every player got an “award”. Claudia was “Most Improved Player”.
Jayden won “The Valor Award” for not missing a single practice or game, and for always getting out there and trying.
When we signed them up we wanted them to have the experience of being part of a team. We constantly impressed upon them that they needed to be there every game for their team. What I didn’t know was that the team would be so special. Everyone involved, but especially Joey Pagano, made an impression on our children that we will never forget.