At 18 months old, she can already throw like a 3-year-old. We hated to give her back because Gramma had just pulled the catcher’s mitt out of the shed while I was digging up the yard to make a pitcher’s mound and plant the rubber and home plate into the ground.
Then I remembered that the pitcher’s mound in softball is actually flat. So for about 30 seconds I was deciding whether I should teach her to throw underhand or let her continue with her own instincts and perhaps develop her into the first female Major League pitcher.
But my son was pulling into the driveway and soon our little Gabby would be strapped into her car seat and asleep before her overnight bag could be rested beside her.
One sleepover is hardly enough time to evaluate the talent of a budding 18-month-old hurler. Gramma and I wondered if we could somehow get her for a month, maybe during the summer.
By then the kids are out of school, the fields are empty as the youth baseball season has come to an end. And out there somewhere is a high school pitcher waiting to make a few bucks on the side.
Gabby has the attention span of a child twice her age. And THAT is critical at this age if she has aspirations of becoming a star athlete.
But for me personally, I believe that her willingness to ignore the other sporting items in the shed — the hockey sticks; the lacrosse sticks; the football and soccer ball — is a sign that she has chosen baseball.
Funny the word sign should come up in this conversation. Gabby’s brilliant parents have been teaching her sign language since she was young enough to realize that nobody understood a single thing that came out of her mouth.
Sure she talks all day — nonstop — and very soon it will turn into real words. But the sign language is adorable and since she is my first grandchild, I thought she was amazing even before she signed baseball to us.
Gramma and Grandpa didn’t teach it to her. Her parents never mentioned that she knew it either. I believe she is trying to tell us something, through her chubby little hands. She has chosen baseball!
I know! I know! This goes against everything I’ve written about in this column from day one. But that was when it was your kid or grandkid. I am not passing up the chance at being the grandfather of the first female Major League pitcher because of some dumb articles I wrote when I didn’t know any better.
That wouldn’t be fair to Gabby.
So forget what I said about letting children play multiple sports. Forget what I said about those select/elite/travel teams. Forget what I said about equal playing time and spending thousands of dollars on private lessons.
Look, a kid like this doesn’t come along often. She was hitting the same spot on the sliding door from across the room every single time! Five in a row. Twenty-five in a row. Fifty in a row. If Gramma and I didn’t step in to stop her she’d still be nailing that target with just as much pop as her first toss.
How do you ignore that?
We haven’t told her parents yet, but we found a pitching instructor that will take her on as a client as soon as she turns two. Saying that I’m a little upset would be an understatement.
Somewhere, someplace in this world there are coaches working with kids younger than that. So Gabby will already be behind them a bit when she starts in the fall. The instructor has guaranteed that with complete dedication, she’ll be on that same level before she turns three.
Gramma and I are cautiously excited to say the least!
So there you have it. I’ve given in. Maybe I never knew what it was like to have a true sports prodigy in the family before. Maybe that’s why I never understood the mentality of that parent or grandparent.
And I apologize right here, right now, for my narrow-mindedness.
So beginning in October this column will focus on Gabby’s journey. I’ll take you inside her training camps, her private lessons, her games, and yes, her head.
Our family was given a wonderful gift in this child. And to think that if I’d turned my head at the wrong time or glanced at the TV for a second longer, I could have missed the sign.
Not this Grandpa! The signs never change: 1 for curveball; 2 for fastball; if she puts three fingers up to her mouth it means she wants … oh, who gives a hoot anyway?
Don’t you worry sweet little Gabriella. Grandpa Ron has it all figured out.