The Beauty of Tee Ball

Former Mets infielder Gregg Jefferies never lived up to his superstar billing.Barry Colla

By Ray Kuhn

There is nothing like the first time. At the time it might feel like nothing, non-descript even, but it most certainly has meaning and is a rite of passage.

The conditions are currently a lot different than they were over 30 years ago when I took the tee-ball field for the first time, but everything else is the same.

After three plus years of watching baseball on TV, lightheartedly playing catch, and hitting off the tee in the backyard, it was now time for my daughter, and 23 of her new friends, to begin their careers in Organized Baseball.

Whether this is the beginning of a lifelong stint of playing organized baseball (more that shortly from my daughter’s perspective) or softball, or it is simply a passing phase, it is an occasion that is deserving of some level of attention.

At the risk of sounding like someone who yells at kids to get off my lawn, back in my day playing tee ball meant showing up for the first time at four years old on a field that did not look anything remotely close to the beautifully-manicured Shea Stadium. The next step was fighting for your preferred number, and then getting out there on the field.

Other than that, all I remember from that entire season was throwing a temper tantrum; after all, I was 4, at not being able secure Number 9. That was the point in my life as baseball fan when I didn’t know that being a Mets’ fan would only lead to disappointment (the jury is still out on 2022) and missed expectations of top prospects. 

All I cared about then was being referred to as “Gregg” as Gregg Jefferies, who happened to wear number nine, was going to be the next superstar wearing the blue- and-orange.

It is not surprising that things did not really work out for Jefferies and the Mets, but I continued to play organized baseball all through my youth, which then transitioned to slow-pitch softball. While my memory is quite fuzzy from those early years, it must have been positive since nothing traumatizing happened that caused me stop playing.

The good news is that I now get to live through my daughter in her first foray into organized baseball. Instead of cleats and a dirt/grass field of questionable upkeep, tee-ball now means getting to play on a pristine turf field. That means the rite of purchasing new cleats before a season does not apply here, but as I replaced my softball cleats this spring, my daughter proudly declared that she needed new sneakers for tee ball.

If there was any doubt as to whether or not it was a frivolous expense was quickly erased at the joy my daughter had at putting on the new shoes as we headed off to the field for the first time. When we arrived the field, my daughter was given a Lindenhurst American shirt with the number 17, and while the first thing I thought of was Keith Hernandez, what the number was, was meaningless. The fact that she and her new friends all had matching jerseys was all that mattered.

At this point, they are not even playing games, and instead it is just a coach-led clinic with parents assisting on the field with their children. To be honest, I am not sure which one of us got more joy out of it, and that is what this process is all about.

Through our new Little League affiliation, we are attending the Long Island Ducks game in a few weeks and that is notable for multiple reasons. Not only do we get to go on the field and have a catch before the game and then run the bases after the game, but it is significant based on the opponent.

The Ducks will be taking on the Staten Island Ferryhawks, which means we get to see Kelsie Whitmore take the field. Being able to see a female take the field playing baseball in a professional baseball league just pushes the impact of the day to the next level.

Next month I will report back about our experiences at the game, but it’s clear that this it is the beginning of something special.

Ray Kuhn can be found writing on Fantasy Alarm and podcasting at Friends With Fantasy Benefits after previously covering the Houston Astros as part of the FanSided network at Climbing Tal’s Hill. Reach him at @ray_kuhn_28 or as he is always interested in talking or writing about our great game.

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