So, last Saturday, this happened.
And then there came this most recent Saturday.
Alex's game was in the morning, which is nice because then the game is over and we have the rest of the day to do whatever needs doing. So we got there and Bill and Alex went into the outfield with their gloves so Alex could practice catching fly balls.
Each Saturday morning, before the games start, the Rookie league kids have skills tests – each week a different skill is tested, and at the end of the season the team with the most improved skills wins a prize of some sort. So this week the skill is catching fly balls with two hands on the glove.
Bill and Alex had done some practicing during the week, and Alex was doing very well. A lot of it is just getting past the fear of being hit, especially when the ball is coming down at you from above and you need to get your glove up there in between the ball and you.
So Bill and Alex were throwing the ball back and forth – Bill would throw high, Alex would (99% of the time) catch it and then hurl it (100 mile an hour fast ball) (or close to it) (for a 7-year-old) back to Bill. Other fathers and sons were doing the same thing, and the coaches were throwing to the kids who didn't have someone to throw to.
Julia was making friends with another little kid nearby – the younger brother of a kid on Alex's team – and I was doing the usual back-and-forth watching between Julia behind me and Alex and Bill on the other side of the fence.
And then Bill threw one straight instead of a pop up, and Alex caught the ball with his face. He had the glove up, ready to catch, but either he moved the glove a bit or moved his face, but whatever he did, the ball just glanced off the edge of his glove and hit him. He dropped right to the ground and for a very tiny fraction of a second I thought he was unconscious. But no, he was moving, holding his face, lying on the ground. Bill ran over to him and I saw there was no blood, and Alex was getting back to his feet, his hand cupped over the right side of his face and that same look – lips pressed together, eyes ultra-focused, almost glaring in his determination NOT to cry. Bill tried to look at Alex's face and when Alex took his hand away it was red and a bit puffy, but not as bad as I was imagining. Bill told Alex to just sit down and hang out for a minute, but Alex shook his head and had his glove on and clearly wanted to keep going. Bill tried the caring, sympathetic parent thing again, but Alex was having none of it. I said to Bill to just go ahead and throw to him, since that was what Alex DID want, and so the game of catch resumed.
At first, Bill tried throwing underhand, or rolling ground balls, but Alex glared at him and insisted on REAL throws. Overhand and hard. He'd blast the ball back to Bill just to show what he meant. And so Bill gave in and threw the ball as he'd been doing before Alex took one in the face. A few minutes later the coaches called the kids into the dugouts, and as Alex ran in I told him I was proud of him. Again. Bill came out through the gate in the fence, shaking his head, smiling a little.
We called to Julia and went over to watch the game from the bleachers near home plate.
And we sent little prayers to the baseball gods asking that they keep the ball away from Alex's face for the rest of the game.
He did well in the skills test before the game – caught the ball with his glove and not his face.
And then the game? It was a great game to watch. And Alex hit a blast straight up the middle that landed well past 2nd base and rolled to the fence, or very close to it. He was clearly having a wonderful time out there. He played first base during the first inning, and while he was waiting for the coaches to adjust the pitching machine so the first batter could hit, Alex was jumping up and down with excitement. I said it before, and I'll probably say it again and again; he LOVES the game.