“Dad, can we play catch?”
While my son, Noah, repeated these words thousands of times, they never stopped being anything less than music to my ears. When my son was young, he never grew tired of throwing the ball back and forth with me. Whether talking about our day, answering his questions or just listening to the sound of the ball hitting the glove, I treasured these times. Just thinking back, brings a smile to my face. The ritual brought us closer together.
There was one game of catch that made an indelible mark. It was the first time that Noah and I played catch, wearing our baseball gloves and standing as far as 20 feet a part. He was 5 years old. At this age, we usually tossed a tennis ball or whiffle ball back and forth. On this day, when he asked me to play catch, he wanted to do something different.
As I put my shoes on to go outside, he asked if I could bring my glove, he was already holding his, as well as a baseball. I approved with a little hesitation. I suggested that we stand very close to start, only a few feet apart. We under handed the ball back and forth, catching the ball in our gloves. This was huge progress. He like most kids his age, were not totally comfortable catching with a glove, instead opting to use the bare hand. Noah was having success using his glove, not giving in to instinct of using his bare hand. As he seemed to have this down, he was ready for the test.
I backed up about twenty-five feet, waiting for Noah to toss me the ball. He wound up and made a nice accurate, looping throw that landed in my glove. As I got ready to throw the ball back, I prompted Noah that the ball was coming, so get ready. He had his glove open and outstretched toward me, waiting for the arrival of the ball. I hesitated, thinking for a moment about how angry my wife would be if Noah got hurt playing catch. Then, I softly launched the ball on a looping path toward Noah.
As the ball left my hand, I could see his eyes open wide. He tracked the ball with his eyes as the ball flew toward him. He outstretched his glove hand toward the incoming ball. Just the way, he was supposed to do it. Then something strange happened. While bracing to receive the ball in his glove, his non-glove hand circled behind him, eventually resting on the side of his head. From my view, his hand resting on his head and elbow locked out formed a triangle. This unexpected arm motion distracted me somewhat from watching him catch the ball. Seeing the way he caught it made me chuckle and feel great pride. My son caught the ball!
We continued to play catch without saying anything to him about his actions with his non-catching hand. He had never seen anyone catch a ball in that way. I wondered if he knew that he was doing it. So I asked. He was not aware of it. I demonstrated what he was doing when receiving the ball. At first, he didn’t believe me. Not until I told him to take pay attention to his movements when catching the next ball.
As Noah does with most things, he saw it as a challenge, which he was going to attack and overcome. We continued to play catch. He became more aware of his action. About a half hour later, the arm motion was less pronounced, he was aware of it. He refused to stop playing until he stopped the non-throwing arm motion.
This was so Noah. He was determined. He wasn’t going to stop until he was successful. An hour after we started, his non-throwing arm rested at his side when receiving a ball. He did it!