As a veteran baseball mom and blogger, I’m always trying to think of helpful things I’ve learned along the way to pass on to fledgling sports parents.
This morning, as my 42-year-old eyes strained to read the constantly decreasing font size of the newspaper, another of these nuggets of wisdom popped into my head. This one is still kind of embarrassing, but if it saves even one kid from an unnecessary lecture or punishment for being off his game, then it’s totally worth it.
Gather round, moms and dads, it’s story time.
It was May, 2010. My older son Andrew was “Captain of the Outfield” for Dublin, Georgia’s beloved and highly respected Full Throttle Baseball travel team. While other kids considered being sent to the “back-40” as a punishment or insult to their talent, Andrew reveled in his ability to sprint across the vast outfield acreage to rob the batter of what should’ve been a double. Time and time again, Andrew made can-of-corn plays out of balls sailing toward the gap. He took great pleasure in pretending he was Middle Georgia’s 9-year-old version of Mike Trout.
But then one day, he missed an easy play. Just ran right past the ball.
Surprised and a little taken aback, we chalked it up to the sun being in his eyes as the runner trotted to second. Heck, even Mike Trout misjudges things once-in-a-while.
It happened again the next day. Twice!
No one said anything to Andrew, but I could tell he was more upset by this sudden lapse in accuracy than his coaches, parents and teammates combined.
The following two weekends saw five routine fly balls evade my son’s glove as he scrambled frustratedly to control the scoring damage.
That Sunday evening, as the sun faded from the sky and our boys were packing their bat bags and trophies, coach Allen* approached my husband and me.
I wondered what fielding exercises he was going to suggest for Andrew to do during the week. The question he asked instead nearly knocked the wind out of me.
“Has Andrew had his eyes checked recently?”
“What?” I asked, feeling as if my parenting skills were in question. “Of course he has! We do that every summer just before school starts. And YES, he’s still 20/20, just like his dad.”
Wait. Was it this past summer? Or was it the one before that? I did remember the eye appointments, didn’t I? My defensiveness was replaced by a sinking feeling as I realized that in the midst of life’s constant hurry, I’d neglected one of parenting’s most basic tasks.
But even if we had accidentally skipped a yearly vision check, wouldn’t Andrew have complained about not being able to see the board at school? Wouldn’t I just automatically know by some inborn mom instinct that my kid’s eyes weren’t working as well as they always had?
First thing Monday morning, I made an appointment with Dr. Clark for the old eye chart reading and annoying air puff to the pupil.
Sure enough, my once eagle-eyed center fielder was near-sighted. 20/140, to be specific. This wasn’t something that happened overnight. I felt like a HORRIBLE parent. We’re still not sure how he went so long before it started to affect his performance.
The next weekend, Andrew took his position at center field, sharper than ever in his new contact lenses. He’d even packed an extra case and bottle of saline solution in his bat bag.
Our 9-year-old Mike Trout was back in position, catching fly balls, scooping up grounders and robbing batters of extra bases.
Moral of the story. If your kid starts missing plays that were once routine, hold off on the extra drills until he or she has had an eye exam. It may be that simple.