Here is my submission to be considered for a Dad of the Year award:
Following on our successful outing to the batting cage a week previous, I decided to redeem a coupon to let Scotty hit some more balls. We were in the area for a picnic with visiting cousins and family members on R's side, so it seemed like no big stretch to head down the street to hit a few.
Being a Saturday afternoon, the place was much busier than it had been during our previous weekend visit. Instead of having our choice of cages (we used #7 the first time), we had to wait for a slow-pitch slot to open up. We got #3, as a threesome of college-age kids took a break at the picnic table behind the cage.
I sent Scott into the cage and told him to stand on the white line that marks the batter's box. He bats lefty, although he is right-handed, so from the door on the rear left side of the cage he had to cross over the strike zone to reach his starting point. I put the token in the machine and closed the gate.
At that moment, the guy running the place asked me how old Scott was. I turned my head to reply and then I heard one of the kids at the picnic table say, "I think he needs to move." I turned my head back to see Scott perched perilously close to the strike zone, his heels just touching the white edge of the batter's box.
Then he got hit in the thigh with a ball.
It's hard to say whether I deserve the Dad of the Year award for sending my 5-year-old son into a batting cage or for the way I handled things after he got hit by a pitch. He turned to look at me with a pained look that promised tears. However, he also stepped fully into the strike zone, his back towards the launcher. I had to point to the door and shout for him to move, to run, RIGHT NOW.
As everyone else stopped to watch, I held Scott on my lap on the bench of the picnic table while he cried, eventually accusing me of sending him into the fastball cage (#3 is slowpitch, but it is right next to fastball cage #4). The guy at the counter was nice enough to give us a new token, so I asked Scott if he wanted to go back in. "Not into #3!" he said.
The guys hitting balls in #7 were nice enough to let us use the cage to hit our balls. To his credit, Scott got back in there and took 40 pitches. It seems like the earlier incident rattled him a bit, but he eventually started connecting with the ball again.
I felt like one of those crazy sports dads who browbeats their kids into a sport to live out their own childhood dreams. I'm sure that's what I looked like. The thing is, I don't really even care about baseball. I swear. Just give me that award already.