Little League season started in earnest last week and to my surprise I am once again sitting on the sidelines with my folding chair and alcoholic beverage of choice. Despite my best efforts to discourage Chase from moving from the minor to the major leagues, he is fully embedded with a team of 11 and 12 year olds, enjoying our national pastime.
I had offered all sorts of alternatives to playing baseball this year including investing in weekly golf lessons. Chase said he wanted to play ball.
I explained to him that he would be one of the youngest on the team which could mean batting last and an entire season in right field. Chase said he wanted to play baseball.
I casually mentioned to him that his teammates this year might have facial hair and prison records and that I would seriously consider buying him a Camaro if he sat this season out. Chase said he wanted to play baseball.
At this point, I realized I was engaged in a psychological behavior pattern called “projecting” and signed him up, steeling myself for a long season ahead.
Longtime readers of MoB know that I have gleaned a ton of writing material from watching my boys play baseball, not because of their outstanding athletic prowess, but actually from a lack thereof. While Chase is not a complete lost cause, he is decidedly average in skill. And the major leagues are populated with kids who are decidedly above average. If I could have avoided watching him struggle this season, I would have – even if it cost me a Camaro.
Thankfully, Chase had different ideas. And this weekend, he found himself on second base after connecting his bat with the ball and taking advantage of an overthrow to first. Statisticians classify this as an “unforced error.” Moms classify it as a FREAKING DOUBLE.
The smile on my face was only out shined by Chase’s. Despite his instincts to remain cool, unbridled joy radiated out of my kid and lit up the field. One of the parents captured the moment with his camera.
During the same game, I watched our coaches try to calm another child – one who was very athletic – who became distraught after failing to perform at his usual stellar level. As I watched this boy struggle with his disappointment, I began to appreciate the Law of Average.
Every child on Chase’s team – or any team for that matter — has the opportunity to perform above or below expectations.
The best scenario the strongest athletes can hope for is to perform at the high level that is expected of them. If they always exceed expectations, than that level of performance becomes the norm and the only direction to go is down.
However, the average performer has a far greater upside and, (most likely) reasonable expectations when it comes to an average performance. This is why Chase doesn’t cry and slam the bat when he strikes out – and it’s why his smile could power a night game when he gets a hit.
Ironically, I thought Chase’s potential for disappointment this year would be higher than the other boys because of his average ability. Admittedly, it’s why I didn’t want him to play. But, in fact, the opposite is true. The kid has no where to go but up – and if he doesn’t perform in every game, he is still meeting the reasonably average expectations set for him. He wins no matter what.
As for the best kid on the team? We are so happy to have him on board. But I’m thinking of offering to buy his Mom a Camaro.