I have spent the better part of a decade cheering for my three sons from bleacher seats, making seasonal adjustments to the volume and verbiage of my encouragement. Though my cheers betray my athletic incompetence, many of my sideline cohorts know the sport(s). Years ago at a t-ball game, a friend explained the technical inaccuracy of my “Good hit!” comment when the player was subsequently tagged out at first (not a hit). So I began to watch – and listen.
Seven baseball seasons have since allowed me to witness the wisdom of the peanut gallery, and the comments that originate there are surprisingly insightful. Mere baseball-isms, maybe, but I think the real-life relevance is remarkable. In fact, I hope that the kind words shouted from the stands resonate in my children’s minds throughout their youth – on and off the diamond. Here are six standouts.
1. “Good look.”
This expression is offered when a batter watches a pitch go by, and the pitch is ruled a ball. The batter has wisely chosen not to swing. I like this because it praises discretion. It applauds assessment. Kids face countless tough choices in their youth, and sometimes the best action is no action at all. It is an accomplishment when a young child standing at a curb decides not to give chase into the street. Imagine a teenager approaching a party, registering that it is unsupervised or out of control. If that teen were to assess the scene and walk away, he would earn a “Good look!” from the virtual bleacher seats.
2. “Now you’re ready!”
This one comes after a failure to swing, and it gently prods the batter to act. I like the way it affirms without judgment, suggesting that a little hesitation is acceptable. This wisdom applies outside the batter’s box as well. A student may choose to wait a year before auditioning for a school play. Or he might postpone his driving test, allowing more time to practice and prepare. That is reasonable. But show time looms, and at the next opportunity, the family and fans are wise to declare, “Now you’re ready!”
3. “Way to go after it!”
This phrase compliments a batter’s swing-and-miss attempt, just like “nice swing,” or “good cut,” and it is shouted with enthusiasm because it praises effort. Every parent loves to see a child exert effort, especially when it requires the vulnerability and determination of a swing at the plate. Hours at the batting cage transform into confidence and action. Parental hearts swell when a child tries out for a team, reaches out to a new friend, applies for a challenging job, or simply makes a concerted effort. Success is just a footnote. I hope that my kids are lucky enough to hear this tribute to initiative echoing through every chapter of their lives.
4. “Way to battle.”
This accolade is for batters who repeatedly deny a strikeout by making contact with the ball. They swing and foul, swing and miss, swing and foul again, and then brace for another opportunity. This is when my seasoned bleacher-mates shout, “Way to battle, kid!” in celebration of tenacity. The tenacity that keeps a player alive at the plate will serve him or her well elsewhere – even in science class. One of my sons recently encountered a rocket project in which a parachute was expected to deploy. His first attempt did not succeed; nor did his second. He then ripped out the parachute, exiled all helpers from his room, and began again with a new design. He kept swinging (it worked!). In the end, the seeds will not always sprout, the boats will not always float, but the battle deserves a cheer.
5. “Gotta protect!”
This suggestion demands action. Nervous fans shout this to two-strike batters, reminding them of their duty; protect the strike zone; protect the plate. Protect. This phrase is perfect for academics, too. Okay, you forgot a homework assignment. Okay, you did poorly on a quiz. Wait, gotta protect! Whether a grade point average or a friendship, a class rank or a teacher’s respect, young people have many assets worth protecting. These are wise words to heed.
6. “I see you!”
This sentence is the kindest utterance a baseball player can hope to hear from the stands. Fans shout this affirmation to their favorite players to let them know someone is watching. It is the Norm-from-Cheers recognition that most every human craves. I love it when a friend yells this to one of my boys, “I see you working out there, number three!” It’s such a validation! Kids do not have a bleacher full of witnesses in life,
but hopefully they feel this sentiment when they make wise choices. If a child chooses to be kind to an outsider or to offer help to a friend, I hope he feels the support and approval of some imaginary fan declaring, “I see you!”
I’ll be in the bleacher seats many times this summer, anticipating the thrill of baseball action under the lights. I can’t wait to hear what the fans have to say!