OK, so as Blue Jays fans, opportunities to teach my boys about handling disappointment abound. The same can be said for any team a fan chooses to support; each year, no matter the sport, generally at the end, there is only one victor. That leaves the fans of every other team feeling some degree of disappointment. The additional hype that came with the overhaul to the team during the offseason simply made every loss that much more pronounced.
But we're beyond that now. Losing, just as winning is a part of the day in and day out rhythm of sports and in particular baseball, with it's 162 game season. So we've had time to talk about that. Especially since, so far this season anyway, we had only attended games that the Jays coughed up. So we've been working on that lesson. A lot. But again, this past weekend we had a new opportunity to address the idea of disappointment. And we combined it with some other tangential issues.
We headed down to the park early to catch batting practice. We've done this before and it's always a bit of fun for the boys (and me). We're hanging out in left field right above the Toronto bullpen. There are a couple of Texas players fielding balls and they will occasionally toss one of the balls into the crowd of fans trying to catch the balls that the batters inevitably crush into the stands. That's us. My two young sons and I. We're front and centre against the rail above the pen. Nobody in front of us.
One of the players, I think it may have been Tanner Scheppers, points to my kids and double pumps a ball to indicate he's going to throw it to me. So I nod to him that, yes, he has my attention and I'm ready for it. He uncorks and sails it over my head. I extend and the ball deflects off my fingertip, ricochets of the seats two rows back and rolls down the row. A young girl quickly scoops it up and dashes off with it. The people around me put up a small fuss but I don't chase the girl down for the ball. What am I going to do, pry it from her hands and tell her it's my ball?
My boys are disappointed but they take it well. We talk a bit about it at the time but not more than a couple of quick words. There's no pouting. We move on. After ten minutes or so the same player makes eye contact again. I nod. He throws it straight to me. I reach straight ahead. I don't need to lean over the rail or reach up or to the side. It's coming straight on. And then a glove slides in from the side and snatches the ball just before it reaches my hand. The guy beside me shouts triumphantly and passes the ball to his daughter who is at his side and probably the same age as my youngest. More disapproving murmuring from the crowd. The guy turns and looks at me, sheepishly smiles and tells me the rest are for me. He takes his daughter by the hand and quickly leaves the area.
So now the conversation I have with my boys goes beyond straight disappointment and we begin to explore the idea of fair play. We discuss the fact that not everyone choses to play by the same rules as us but that in the end we have to be comfortable with the choices we make. And we are. I don't begrudge that guy the ball. He's there with his daughter and for them that was a moment. I get that. I do question the example he is setting for her. But I also know that there are plenty of people out there that live that way. You get what you go after. You look out for yourself. But that's not my style. And so that's what I'm teaching my boys.
We didn't let that episode bring us down. We had fun at the game. And we learned some lessons too. The first one is that we won't be going to batting practice again unless I have my glove. I would have had that first ball. The second was that not everybody plays fair; the key is to not let that change the way we act ourselves. And last, the Blue Jays bullpen is pretty solid - they held it together and got us the win.