Category Archives: Baseball

Pick an after school activity and stick with it

[I wrote this post at the end of June, but I didn’t get around to posting it at the time. I suppose it’s fortuitous because as the year starts and parents start looking for activities for their kids, I would like to think that this will resonate more right now.]

The dance recital

My daughter (middle, green dress) in her dance recital

June 22, 2014: Last night I watched my 10-year-old daughter perform in her fifth annual dance recital and she was sensational, as were all the other dancers. Last week I watched my son playing in the championship game of his baseball league and he’s getting ready to travel to Italy to play on the Israel National baseball team.

As I sat last night and watched the girls from 12th grade bidding farewell to the dance studio where some of them had danced for 14 years, and had performed magnificently last night, one thing became clear to me: Kids must carefully choose an after-school activity when they are young and stick to it for as long as they can because it’s a precious gift that will shape and change their lives in a way that no school subject can.

As someone who is deeply involved in Israel baseball, and having been through many years of dance with my daughter, I have identified two types of participants: There are what I call the “testers”, kids who float from activity to activity each year, trying each one out like they are small dishes on a tasting menu in a restaurant. They never develop any real skill or ability. Instead of sticking with it, they give up and move onto the next activity without a thought. Sadly, often their parents encourage this flitting, and don’t see the disservice they are doing in not encouraging their children to keep going until they reach a level of expertise that the kids (and their parents) will be proud of.

baseball pitching

My son pitching on the Israel National baseball team

Then there are the “perseverers”. These are the kids who find something they enjoy and instead of just getting a taste, they joyfully gorge themselves on the entire meal and are the more fulfilled for it. These kids are opening up new worlds for themselves. Whether it’s baseball or dancing or karate or chess, these kids learn so much and blossom into human beings who exist on a level above the mundane.

I see the dancers who, even at a young age, realize that the hours and hours of extra rehearsal pay off in professional-looking shows that wow audiences. When the older dancers help the younger girls with their make-up and costumes, even though they also have to make sure they are ready for their own dances, they understand the value of leadership and become role models for the young girls to look up to. And the younger girls in turn strive to become those older, more responsible dancers.

I watch the baseball players, who have committed themselves to what started as an after school activity, coming out virtually on a daily basis to practice, to hone their skills, to become better players and to help each other succeed. They’ve developed their own community of players who understand the value of hard work, discipline, and commitment. Their coaches develop not only their sports skills but also instil in them the values of team work, responsibility and sportsmanship. This dedication not only turns them into outstanding sports-people, but it sets them up for life as conscientious young people who understand the value of hard work, commitment and being a good person.

While after school activities (unfortunately) aren’t mandatory, I feel militant about the need for every child to make this commitment because I’ve seen from up close how much value this seemingly innocuous choice can have. So pick an activity, stick with it, be the best you can be. These will be some of the best days of your lives, these memories will last forever, and you will be a better person for it.

 

Related articles:

14 Reasons Your Parents Are Lucky That You Are A DANCER!!

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From Quiet Canada to Israel Under Fire

Filling a secure room with sweaty baseball players

Filling a secure room with sweaty baseball players

When the first missiles were fired into central Israel on Tuesday, my family and I were coming to the end of a short trip to Toronto for a family wedding. News from home, which first came in via What’s App messages to my daughter telling her that in our small town there had been an unprecedented air raid, was gut wrenching. We had just short of 24 hours to digest the awful news that no area of the country was immune to the rockets being launched from Gaza. The thought of flying into Israel, particularly into a Tel Aviv that was being targeted rather effectively for the first time, made me more than a little nervous. An online message from a friend slightly eased my fears – “You know the news is always darker from far”.

So true. In fact, the closer I got, ironically the less I feared what we were returning to. At the El Al check in counter at Toronto airport, I asked the attendant if there were a lot of cancellations. Her answer, in a heavy Russian accent: “No-one has cancelled. Very brave people.” That already made me feel better. Then I spotted a family of 6 who were clearly making aliyah, given away by a massive pile of baggage, punctuated by a large Mac computer box (no-one goes on vacation with such a piece of hardware). All I could think was this is the best and the worst time to make aliyah – the worst, well that’s obvious… missiles aren’t the greatest first impression; the best…things can only get better.

The mood on the plane did little to bring me down again. One tourist, about to spend three weeks in Israel, smiled broadly when he told a fellow passenger that the situation didn’t deter him because he likes a little action in his life. All around me, Canadian tourists were looking forward to spending time in Israel, undeterred by the less than sympathetic welcome they were surely going to get in Tel Aviv. Canadians, ey?

We landed, and Ben Gurion Airport was decorated with signs pointing the way to the air raid shelters. This was the only clue that something was amiss. Everything else was plain old normal – just the way we like to keep things as best as we can when the going gets tough. The nasty traffic on the way home was caused by our “normal” traffic accidents – five of them in total. And while the news stream was confirming many of my fears, and detailing the truly horrendous situations facing almost all residents of the South, life all around was going ahead as usual.

This morning, when the sirens went off while my son’s baseball team (that I manage) was in the middle of a pre-tournament practice game, we all quickly obeyed Homeland Security instructions and trooped off the field into the shelters. The experience of being in a small stuffy room with a team of very sweaty baseball players was far more unpalatable than the thought of missiles (no offense guys). We waited for the required 10 minutes, by which I mean an abbreviated 2 minutes, and returned to the field under the clear blue summer sky. The only hint of chaos was three tiny white puffy clouds in the distance – the last vestiges of the three missiles that had been intercepted by the Iron Dome minutes before.

One player commented that this was probably the first baseball inning ever to be ended by a missile attack. But I’m sure there were other moments in history that involved baseball and missiles. Either way, this was one moment that made me realize that hearing about an air raid from across the ocean is far more terrifying than being in one. In the midst of the chaos, I felt so much calmer. It really is less dark here than there. Still, I’ll be very happy when it’s all over and the only booms we hear at baseball are the sound of the ball cracking on the bat.

 

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Filed under Baseball, Israel, Israeli politics

Team Mom: A Really Comfortable Hat

I’ve worn many baseball hats over the past few years – IAB Secretary General, IAB board member, town coordinator, coach, umpire – but none has given me more pleasure than the most recent – Under 16 Israel National Team Mom.

Team Israel

Team Israel

We landed from our trip to the PONY Tournament in Prague at 4:00 this morning, with the silver medal trophy in tow.  After getting a little sleep, it’s now time to share the 13 reasons that this hat was a particularly comfortable one, and here they are (in alphabetical order): Adam, Assaf, David, Ely, Ethan, Hadar, Jacob, Michael, Noam, Omri, Yoav H., Yoav M. and Yotam.

These are the 13 members of the U16 Israel National team that I’m bursting with pride to be associated with. Not only are they incredible ball players with guts and determination, they’re also respectful, considerate, and courteous. I often had to remind myself that they are only 15 and 16-years-old because they’re mature beyond their years. They’ve all clearly been raised well by great parents. On the baseball field, they are committed, determined and exceptionally talented. They’ve been coached to be the best players they can be, not accept failure, push through disappointment, practice until they can’t stand any more. But their coaching doesn’t end there: They’re also coached to be the outstanding people they are; to take responsibility for themselves and their team; and to behave the way representatives of the State of Israel should when they are serving as ambassadors of our country. Bravo parents; bravo coaches!!

Being team mom isn’t a bed of roses: It involves running around from Czech supermarket to supermarket, with no local language, trying to find essentials for the team (e.g., a pot – it was Pesach); it includes being mooned by team members on a Prague highway and having no recourse whatsoever (!); it involves hearing the very gory details (including photographic evidence) of pranks the guys play on each other after the games (TMI!); it involves constantly having to nag kids to take food to the field, so they won’t starve because it’s Pesach; it involves being photo-bombed by a large group of players, while taking a post-game picture with my son; and more.

But here’s where it’s all so very worthwhile:

When the players do something great on the field and come over and make sure I saw it. (I never miss a second.)

When a player sends me a note in the middle of the tournament saying that “everything has been great and a lot has to do with you,”… instant lump in throat!

When a player says: “We need to count how many times Margo says ‘No thanks, it’s OK’.” (The boys offer to help me with so much so often that I really constantly had to say it.)

When, during an exchange of 16-year-old off-color banter, a player says to my son: “I would start cursing your mother now if she wasn’t so awesome.”…Ego explosion!

When dinners with some of the boys at Chabad, instead of being eat-and-run affairs, turn into long and interesting chats about everything and anything, and I have to remind myself again that these smart, mature kids are 15!

When every car trip ends with “thank you”s, and every effort I make is acknowledged and appreciated.

When a player, after asking a particularly stupid question in the car, reminds me how much I like him and as such, please not to put the incident forward for Kangaroo Court.

When my own son gracefully deals with the fact that Team Mom is his real mother, and doesn’t cringe at the fact.

And mainly, when they all go out there, play like superstars wearing Team Israel jerseys, support each other from the dug-out loudly and proudly; and do it all with poise and respect for the game, their opponents, their coaches and each other.

To my 13 baseball “sons”, besides your real parents, I am your biggest fan. You warm my heart. I so look forward to seeing you all take your next steps both on and off the baseball field, and to the successes you will surely achieve. To each and every one of you, thanks for being so awesome and keep it up.

See you at practice!

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Take me out to the (Israeli) ball game

If you had told me three years ago, that I, a born and bred in South African, was soon to metamorphose into a die-hard baseball fan living in Israel, I would have laughed. But three seasons after my 10-year-old son started playing baseball in our small town in the Sharon region, I’m a huge fan. Not of the New York Yankees, the Boston Red Sox, or the LA Dodgers (and I actually had to Google that!), but of the Tel Mond Nationals.

Nationals? Yes, you read right. An enterprising father/coach organized sponsorship from the “mother” team in Washington and the local boys are making their big brothers on the other side of the ocean proud. On Friday June 19 they play the Ra’anana Jumbo Pretzels (actual name) in the championship game of the regional juvenile league playoffs.

I love it that this true-blue American sport is being played all over Israel with huge enthusiasm. In their classic baseball pants, helmets, batting gloves, baseball mitts and Nationals team shirts, the boys play on our weedy, sandy, uneven field, where horses, donkeys and goats frequently roam free, bringing cricket in the times of the Raj to mind.

My son on third base

My son on third base

We’re a stalwart group of parents – Israelis, English, South Africans, and even Americans – who support the team, home or away, often arguing about baseball’s tenuous connection to the British pastime of rounders and constantly complaining about the intense heat (Raj again?). We heckle and cheer and enjoy every minute of watching the kids playing their hearts out every Friday afternoon.

I have to give credit to The Israel Association of Baseball (IAB), which has been active since 1986 in promoting and developing baseball in Israel and ensuring that the rule book is adhered to in good Anglo-Saxon fashion.

Now, not only is my half-South African son on his way to becoming a pitcher, and can actually hit that little, painfully hard ball with that narrow sliver of ash, but I am also proud that I have learned about RBIs, line drives, pop-ups, foul balls and strike zones so as not to embarrass my American-born husband too much.

Go Nationals and go Israeli baseball.

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