It's about the fun


OK, so my grandson Jake isn’t going to be able to support his Papa Rich with all the millions he’ll be making from a Major League Baseball contract. In fact, there is serious doubt the 8-year-old will even make it to the bench in Little League.

But he loves the game. And that, as my Old Man used to assure, is the most important thing.

I’ve never seen a little guy so excited about a sport for which he clearly has shown very little talent.

It wasn’t all that long ago that, while playing catch, I hit the kid with a hardball and was just sure ‘d ruined any chance of turning him on to the sport.

There’s some work to be done on his hitting. I have to admit he is still a ways from making anything resembling regular contact. And, yes, he is still trying to get his little psyche around the concept of coming toward the ball when he’s supposed to catch the thing.

However, he has one of the best attitudes I’ve ever come across. Much better than my own at that age.

The other night, he was so impressed with the fact that he was able to hit a ball foul.

"I came awfully close to getting a hit, Papa," he said, running over to me right after the aforementioned at-bat, which ended in a strikeout. "You sure did, little guy," I noted, completely disregarding the fact that he went 0-for-3 while his team lost something like 25-10. But what struck me was the fact that he was really having a great time, something we grownups seem to have truly lost in the sports we’re so wild about.

But, isn’t that what they tried to tell us all when we were kids? "It’s a game."

"Have fun."

"It doesn’t matter if you win or lose."

That was before we started paying a .240 hitter $2 million a year to sit on the end of the bench.

And the most fun little Jakey has is when he’s able to hook up the catcher’s gear and squat behind the plate.

I remember when we were kids that nobody wanted to play catcher. Actually, that’s how Jimmy Sundberg wound up with a fairly impressive Major League career, which included a World Series stop with the Kansas City Royals. The coach asked who wanted to catch. Well, of course, nobody raised his hand and Sunny’s dad – one of the assistants – blurts out "Jimmy will catch." A decade or so later Sundberg is receiving for the Texas Rangers. And the rest is history.

Anyway, Jake can’t wait to strap on all that equipment, despite the fact it takes forever each and every time he’s called upon. And you can hardly see him for all the plastic when he’s done with the chore. My daughter tells me that, after every one of his games, he never stops talking about catching.

He puts on the "tools of ignorance," as we used to call it my day, and then gets down on his haunches in the dirt behind the plate and situates his glove up in front of his face waiting for each pitch. Despite the fact that only about one in every 10 tosses ever bounces into that glove, Jake is just having the time of his life.

But one thing is for sure: It’s all about having fun. Or at least it should be. And my grandson is having plenty of that. You know, the kid could well be teaching me a lot more than I’m imparting to him during those fleeting moments in the back yard, playing catch and throwing soft-toss batting practice.

You don’t suppose this catching thing could turn into something, do you? You know, maybe his love of the position could lead to a career? Forget I said that.