My son is due any minute. He’s in the right position, things are happening… and yet nothing is happening. While my wife and I play the waiting game, all sorts of silly thoughts run though my head.
Like what sport should he play.
The easy answer is, of course, any sport he likes. I hope not to push my dreams on to him, and honestly, did I ever dream of being a professional athlete? I suppose in maybe a very abstract way. Being a writer on the other hand…
I joke that I will put a baseball in his left hand as soon as he can grip it and rip it — Lefty One-Out GuYs (LOOGYs) — get paid handsomely, and if he ever ended up a left-handed version of Felix Hernandez, or even the next Cliff Lee, well, that would be a thing. Throwing left-handed and being able to play baseball puts you in a great position, considering that only about 25% of the baseball population are southpaws.
But ask any Minor League farmhand, or a scout, and he’ll tell you that there are a lot of bumps on the road. Swingman Dirk Hayhurst has an excellent book called Out of My League, which is described as being about “what happens when a ‘dream career’ collides with reality” by Keith Olbermann. Watch Sugar, an excellent movie about a Dominican trying to make it as a baseball player in the American heartland, and you’ll see there’s as much heartbreak as there is happiness on the road to the Majors.
Even if you’re drafted in the first round, you’re as likely to not make it as make it. You have to show that you can handle A-ball. And then the leap to Double-A is the biggest leap in baseball. Once you’ve shown you can dominate in Double-A, you’re virtually assured of a big league career — but not completely assured. If you happen to have one flaw that glares too loudly — say you can’t play defense well, or have trouble making contact — that may keep you out of the game until you debut in your late thirties. Somehow, you made it that long despite Minor League salaries that threaten the poverty line.
So baseball’s a tough sport. At least it’s not football. They’re uncovering statistics that show that high school football concussions are a scary thing. Playing high school football can be detrimental to your health… thirty years later. It would be a surprising thing to me to have a son that loved football more than me — I’m a lame sort of 49ers fan, and made it to my first-ever pro football game for the Giants-49ers debacle last year — and the injury thing scares me to no end. Then there’s the fact that there are maybe two Minor Leagues (with no international leagues) and the average career of a NFL player is three (maybe six) years long. Let’s just cross fingers and hope he doesn’t like football.
But soccer WAS and IS my thing. I played soccer badly for a long time, and went to a couple World Cups. Now concussions are on the rise in soccer — mostly from the violent action of heading the ball. At least, if he’s good at soccer, he can use it see the world. It’s the most-played game on the planet.
Basketball is the sport I play when I play for fun. I am a decent fan — nothing like my rabid baseball fandom — and watch it enough that it might be a natural thing for my son. In California, it’s pretty easy to pick up a ball and play the game outside most days. It doesn’t offer as many injury issues. Or, let’s say the injuries are mostly to the knees and backs, and it leaves that precious noggin alone.
But the basketball draft is two rounds. Two rounds. Sure, those two rounds are full of players that end up with careers, but it’s only 60 players a year. There are only 12 roster spots for the 30 teams. That’s about half the possible jobs that baseball offers. There are some players making decent money playing overseas, though, so the backup plan is not terrible. We’ll see if my 6’2″ is enough to power him to those kind of heights.
The easy answer is still the right one: whatever my son wants to do with his life will both infuriate me and, in the end, make me proud. And when it comes to what sport he plays, as long as it’s not football, we’ll be gravy.