or, Everything I really needed to know I learned back at Tri-Valley Baseball Camp on the West side of Taunton.
Maybe its because my mother went to college to be a gym teacher, or because like most other white suburban kids, I was the heir apparent to an athletic throne that never existed. The prodigal son returning home to reclaim a lost glory for every adult male who never played D-1. But I spent my summers learning "fundamentals" for any sport that would offer a camp. Fundamentals, by the by, is Orwellian for child-labor drills. There is nothing fun about them, and to further turn the screw, you are barked at constantly until you perfect things like "the crow hop" or where the correct location for a layup to hit the backboard is. As any good prodigal knows, the backboard is the root of good fundamentals. Swishes are mistakes or arrogance displayed by hotshots.
Because of my brutal conditioning, I moved over to a-traditional sports as soon as I hit high school. And while Kickball is certainly a-traditional, and could be one of the most subversive sports in america (can you really contort the American Game so brazenly on public property?) the basics are too close to baseball for me to not get all Manchurian Candidate on people when they make mistakes born form a lack of brutal discipline.
I was once told by some military buff that untrained armies will retreat after only 10% causalities incurred; the nerve! I don't know if those figures are exactly right, but the point there is fear and adrenaline will fuck your ass up, and if you don't have a Pavlovian response to a grounder coming at you with a man on 1 & 2, you're likely going to make a mistake.
For kids fundamentals, like beatings, are necessary. Kids are dopes and if it isn't instinctual, it probably isn't done. What 9 year old in their right mind powers through a gnat in the throat while chasing a fly into right field? Exactly. But adults have the ability to internalize things they should be doing. Heres a list of the top X number of mistakes I see on the kickball field that, If I were 9, I would be screamed at for. There would also be laps...fatty.
1. Don't throw the ball before you have the ball in your hands.
I can't tell you, if you're looking at it analytically, how stupid this makes people look. The balls making a bee-line for them and they're trying to arrange themselves in such a fashion to get the ball to an appropriate base before they even have it. WTF are you doing?
If you don't have a secure hold on the ball you are either bobbling it or throwing it into the weeds. Both are shitty responses to a grounder and you ought to be benched. Yes, waiting for the ball to come completely into your paws does waste valuable second (not pluralized intentionally) but thats life. If the ball didn't get to you quick enough, you should have either charged it, or you settle for the defensive holding. Now, people are going to read "settle" as pejorative. It should be taken that way only in the event your offense sucks. Holding the line is often better than an out. In the long haul, you maintain a lot better stats than the goofy, bobbled throws that might make it. This isn't Fievel, quit dreaming.
2. Back up your base
The outfield for new kids is scary. The kickball, the last time you played, was your size, and catching a pop-fly meant taking it in the teeth and a possible nurse visit. But you're an adult now, so sack up and get after it. Once you've achieved dignity again, your next move is to start backing up the bases. As I've shown above, you already have some idiot on third throwing it 45 feet over the head of the first basement. I know the position in right field is cushy, but jog over in preparation. You know who's playing third, and he's a train wreck as is, never mind the 5th he had before the game. Make moves.
Same goes for everyone else except first base who really should not go anywhere.
3. Know where the play is
You should always assume its coming to you. Because it is coming to you. And not the easy way, the "everyone's going to tell you 'its ok' but we all know they think you're an asshole" way. When you get it (because you knew it was coming to you) and you wait until you actually have it (because we do not throw early) you should know which base the ball ought to be thrown at. Don't over think it. In kickball, if you threw it where it should have gone, and by some odd aberration things went awry, those issues are settled in two ways:
a. rethrowing, which is achievable because you got the throw off early and didn't dally with it and...
b. arguing with ref's/rock,paper,scissor. The captains handle this, you don't need to worry about it.
If you were caught sleeping, throw it to first. Great news, theres always a play at first. But you should not be sleeping.
4. Saccing it in.
By the Top of the 2nd you know who you're playing. If its going to be a low scoring game, don't shy away from the sac runs. If theres someone on 2nd or 3rd, you have no to 1 out recorded, launch a fat one out as far as it can go. If they catch it, you still get a run, and thats harder to recover from than an out. Which brings me to my final point.
5. Tag up. This is not a joke.
Kickball is a lot of fun. Unless you don't tag up and fuck things up for everyone. This is not a joke. If its in the air, and you leave the bag before its caught, when its caught, you have to come back and touch the base again. This is easily solved by not leaving the bag until its caught. That can confuse some folks so I'll write it again. Don't leave the bag until the ball is caught. I hope we're clear on this. Its not a joke. The guy just sacced it to the outfield so our children could eat tonight, and you're pissing on their cornmeal. No one is happy.
I hope you found this lesson interesting and informative. If you don't have the time to read it, don't worry, 25 other people will be screaming these lessons at you as you play.
Posted by Brow at Friday, April 22, 2011