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Lower your expectations ... and don’t forget the treats

By: Tony Overbay, Special to the News Messenger
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The greatest piece of advice given to me before the 2009 Lincoln Little League Tee Ball season started was this, “Before you get to your first practice, lower your expectations. And then, once you get to practice, lower them again.” This Yogi-Berra-like wisdom was imparted to me by my good friend, Nathan Oates, pastor of Lincoln’s Emmaus Church. My guess is that after his stint as a tee ball coach last year, he prepared more than one sermon on patience, long suffering and wondering whether or not practices were necessary when getting the kids to stand up for an entire inning was truly goal No. 1? But with all of this said, and at the time of this writing, we are a mere nine or 10 games into what feels like a full, Major League 162-game season. I am having the time of my life. As a father to one son and three daughters, none of whom have quite taken a shine to team sports, I’ve longed for this day since playing catch with my own dad some 30 years ago. And now that I’m here, it’s far exceeding expectations. My son and I just can’t quite play catch yet, well, we play throw, drop and chase. Just who would have thought the actual playing of baseball itself would have very little to do with the experience? Put aside for this year and next (and probably the year after that, too) are my diagrams of the hit and run, the suicide squeeze or whether or not to leave a pitcher in so we can save his arm for the next game. Now the question is whether or not to let a kid leave in the middle of an inning to go potty? The answer is yes, by the way, or else watering the field takes on an entirely different meaning. Now the most important document I carry to games is the snack schedule. You think losing a big game is bad? Try telling a team of 5- and 6- year-olds that somebody forgot the Capri Sun and granola bars! Hitting the cutoff man is replaced by not hitting each other when fighting for who gets to overthrow first. Anxiety over whether or not we can pull off the double steal is replaced by the anxiety that the coach manning the tee is going to take a bat to the midsection when a budding Barry Bonds (pre-steroids, the name was used purely for the sake of alliteration) tosses the bat backwards like a Frisbee. Forget teaching the finer points of fielding ground balls; we’re busy trying to keep track of where everybody’s hat and glove disappeared to. I want to tip my increasingly sweat-stained cap to my assistant coach, Heather, the true brains behind the team. I showed up to the first practice thinking I was going to take the team solo, and thankfully, Heather knew that playing catch the first practice was akin to asking the kids to basically throw rocks at each other’s heads. She was hired. The same can be said for Jen, my team mom. Another position I was unaware of. Without a team mom, you don’t have a float, banner, trophies and snacks, which, as I stated before, are truly the lifeblood of the team. But I especially want to thank the tee-ball kids and parents of the 2009 Mets, a word that none of the players can read, mind you. To Jake, Max, Kyle, Carson, Connor, Colby, Christian, Jackson, Dante, Tyler, Braeden and Brandon, you’ve easily made this the most fun year I’ve ever had in baseball. I just need to make sure I don’t forget the treats to the end-of-year party. – Tony Overbay is a 16-year Lincoln resident and father of four. He can be contacted through his Web site at www.tonyoverbay.com.