Benton and Baseball

Date July 10, 2008

I’ve had these pictures for a while and just haven’t managed to cull them down to a manageable subset. Benton is playing “Big League” baseball this year — it’s a league that fits in between “rec league” baseball (“we’re just out here to have fun”) and a select/travel league (“we’re going to spend every weekend on the road at a tournament”). The format works out pretty well — one two-hour practice each week, and one doubleheader of games each week (against two different teams).

Benton’s team — the Dublin Indians — is made up almost entirely of kids from his school. It’s mostly kids who just wrapped up third grade, as well as a couple of kids who just finished fourth grade. The coach moved here from Seattle at about the same time that we moved from Texas, and he’s the one who did all the work and pulled the team together.

I’ve locked myself in as the official team scorekeeper, and I probably go a little overboard. But, Benton is interested in the statistics, how they’re calculated, and what they mean. So, I’ll justify it that way. For a while, it looked like we were going to be without a team photographer…but then it turned out that the uncle of one of Benton’s teammates has the equipment, the skill, and the interest in filling that role. He took all of the pictures below.

Benton’s batting started out a little iffy, but he’s worked his way up to where he is batting .400 through the first 13 games of the season (which isn’t quite the accomplishment that such a batting average would be in the majors).

He’s no slugger, but he’s got pretty good plate discipline, so doesn’t strike out very often. And, at this age, dropped third strikes are not uncommon, and Benton has actually managed to beat out a strike-him-out-throw-him-out a couple of times, as he is doing here.

On defense, he’s moved around quite a bit — first base and third base are his favorite positions, but he also gets to play outfield a bit (typically when he’s pitching in the same game).

I think this is pretty much textbook form for fielding a grounder:

And, he’s got a pretty accurate arm with as much power as he can muster. Trust me, it doesn’t look this unnatural in full speed (I saw this picture and thought, “Ouch! Really?!”):

Benton also tends to pitch in at least one of the games of each doubleheader. He is very accurate, in that he seldom walks anyone. He doesn’t have an overpowering arm, but the “throw ’em strikes and let your defense handle the hits” seems to work pretty well. He has told me that he not only tries to pick where in the strike zone he’s trying to pitch, but he also decided on his own that he would have both a fastball and a change-up. His change-up is really slow. But, he’s figured out that a slower-than-normal ball can be just as hard to hit as a super fast ball.

He’s also pretty determined to not let baserunners take overly generous leads (in this league, stealing is allowed, and stealing second is pretty much expected of everyone who gets to first). It’s pretty much a given that he will try to pick off runners at first, second, or third at least once each time they arrive on the base. He hasn’t gotten a pick-off yet, but he also hasn’t made any bad throws over in his attempts.

In short, neither one of us is looking forward to the end of the season. The team started out getting thumped pretty badly, but has actually come back and won a few games so that they are now just a bit under .500 for the season, which is just about perfect when it comes to the kids experiencing good competition and how to both win and lose gracefully.

The good news is that most of the kids seem to be having a great time, it’s a great group of parents, and all indications are that the bulk of this team will be back playing together next year.

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