Sports Dad: What a parent sits with when a kid is on the field

Other fans can enjoy the game, but athletes’ parents are playing out countless scenarios in their heads.

Cory Armstrong-Hoss

By Cory Armstrong-Hoss / Herald Forum

When other kids are pitching, I’ll sit next to you on the bleachers and cheer for our team. I might ask about your kid or if you have any tips on managing a new teen driver, or ask for your help with the New York Times crossword.

But when my son is pitching, I sit, stand or pace somewhere outside the fence near the first or third baselines. When I’m out there, I’m not alone.

I’m sitting with the last 15 years: with that 2- or 3-year-old who always wanted to play catch or hit a ball, first with the jumbo plastic bat for toddlers, then the tee, then coach pitch, then kid pitch.

I’m sitting with the hundreds of hours my wife or I have driven him to practice: at Lynnwood Little League fields, Willis Tucker Park, Meadowdale Playfields, Rage Cage, Base By Pros or all the other fields; with all the trips to the Y to do his lifting routine; with the tournaments in Spokane or Arizona or Utah.

I’m sitting with the thousands of dollars we’ve spent on this sport — on this kid who loves this sport – and with the realization that most kids from the other side of our district couldn’t afford to be here.

I’m sitting with the possibility that he’ll get shelled today, giving up hard grounders between the gaps, line-drive triples or homers that clear the 375-foot fence. Or that he won’t have his command, and he’ll walk batters or bean one or two. These scenarios end one way: with his coach’s long, slow walk to the mound, his hand out for the ball, the Kid getting pulled mid-inning because he doesn’t have the stuff.

I’m sitting with the hope that he’ll dominate today, striking out batters or coaxing them into weak grounders or pop-ups, easy outs and quick half-innings for his team.

I also sit with the truth that, for my son to do well — to give them four or five solid innings, before Coach calls on a closer — and that many other sons have to fail.

I sit with all the things that I have no control over. And that list grows.

I sit with coaches who pull pitchers too quickly, after one or two batters get on base. And coaches who pull kids too late, when they’ve filled the bases and walked one or two in, when they’re struggling past the point of growth, when their velocity and control have long ago abandoned them.

I sit with knowing that, even if he does well, our team could struggle at the plate, could fail to score any runs, or commit errors in the field, and we could lose 0-2.

I sit with umpires with unpredictable strike zones, or umpires who, tired and cold in the later innings, start calling anything close strikes, eager to get in their cars and turn on the heat.

I sit knowing my 15-year-old would love to keep playing ball after high school. I understand what a foolish and fickle thing it is, to bet on that dream, yet it captures my imagination.

I want the Kid to experience all the joy of spots, and to protect him from the pain.

But that is not my place. It hasn’t been for a long time.

My place is down the first or third baseline, pacing and sitting and standing up, clapping and cheering when he strikes someone out or pitches out of a jam, gets their clean-up hitter to pop up with two runners on base and two outs. To be there for all the moments.

My place is to wait for him after cool-downs, to offer to get him some food after the game, because he doesn’t eat much before.

My place is to sit next to him in my truck while we wait for his chicken strip basket and lemonade in the Dairy Queen drive-through line and say: “I thought you played great. What did you think of the game?”

Cory Armstrong-Hoss lives in Everett with his wife and three kids. His kids have played a number of different sports. He’s a lifelong athlete, and he’s served as a coach, referee, youth sports administrator and post-game snack coordinator. His column, exploring youth sports in the county, will appear monthly in the Herald Forum.

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