SIDELINE SLANTS- Kids’ ‘Blastball’ may be too much too soon

If it?s true that too much pressure is put on children to participate in an adult-organized sport at an early age, then a case could be made that the Hillsboro Recreation program for 3- and 4-year-olds called BlastBall is unnecessary or at the least, premature.

Count me among those questioning the need for this summertime offering.

Nevertheless, I enrolled our 4-year-old son, Nathan, in the program to see what BlastBall was all about.

I figured he?s young enough to overcome any emotional scarring that may result.

Following an up-close and personal view of BlastBall, my conclusion is that it won?t significantly help or hinder the development of any child desiring to play baseball or softball in the years to come.

For the uninformed, BlastBall is an elementary form of baseball and softball. Players hit a soft baseball off a tee, like in T-ball. After hitting the ball, players run to first base, the only base used in the game besides home plate.

At least, they?re supposed to run to first base. The first time Nathan took his turn at bat, he not only hit the ball, but ran after the ball to field it before running to first base. He would have beaten the players in the field to the ball if not for the number of people yelling at him to run to first.

I feel compelled to share this story now while my son is still too young to read and understand what Dad is writing about him.

When the batter makes it to first and steps on the bag, the base makes a honking or beeping sound, hence the name BlastBall, I guess.

I?m not sure why the game uses a honking base, although maybe it?s meant as an incentive for children to run to the base.

Personally, I think candy would work better. Some children were hesitant to step on the honking base, and I don?t blame them.

On the other hand, honking bases might make baseball more entertaining. Can you imagine a manager arguing with an umpire saying, ?Clearly, the honk occurred before the ball hit the glove. If you can?t hear the baseball hit the glove because of the honking base, it?s a tie, and ties go to the runner.?

If you?re like me, you might think it?s challenging to manage 3- and 4-year-old children playing BlastBall. Wrong. In fact, I?ve seen statues that move more than the kids playing defense.

The defensive team spreads out across the infield from first to what would be third base, if the game had a third base. The players stand, or sit playing in the dirt, waiting for the ball to be hit.

In the games I watched, if the ball was hit in their direction, most players generally ignored it, treating it as the plague. Once the ball was picked up, it was thrown in the general direction of first base.

The throw either hit a teammate, or bounced and rolled to the adult at first base.

It was astute on the part of the adults to play first base. Otherwise, the game might last into infinity.

According to the official BlastBall rules, a player fielding the ball yells ?Blast!? rather than throwing to first. The yelling rule would restore some competitive balance between hitter and fielder.

If nothing else, we?ve inadvertently stumbled on a way to improve the behavior of restless children in church. Just tell them that they will play BlastBall during the service and action will cease.

On the plus side, it doesn?t cost much to play BlastBall. Very little equipment is needed and, in fact, baseball gloves apparently are worn merely for looks, because rarely did players use them.

The greatest improvement I witnessed was that batters hit the ball more often than the tee later in the season.

Players also got more aggressive on defense. Occasionally three players would simultaneously chase after the ball, nearly resulting in some concussions.

Another positive is that parents and grandparents have a good time visiting with each other and on cell phones during games.

Best of all, no one yells at the umpires, because there aren?t any.

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