Baseball Column

COLUMN: Emotional Seeing Kids Back on Field

When my son lays out his shirt, pants, socks, and underwear before he goes to bed, I know he’s excited for what the next day is going to bring. He did it last Saturday night, and to be honest I was so excited for the next morning that I almost did the same.

Sunday morning at 8:30 a.m. was his first time on a baseball field as part of a team in more than six months. It was actually his first time doing anything organized with other kids his age in that time, an unfathomable stretch for our highly social seven year-old. He was so happy to be on a baseball team again that he didn’t even complain about being woken up at 7 a.m. on a Sunday, which is also an unfathomable thing for our sleep-loving boy.

It’s still not “normal life,” obviously–we are a far cry from that. This was the first day of the Los Altos Youth Baseball and Softball’s Fall Development League, and the kids wore masks throughout practice and practiced social distancing, as did the team’s three volunteer coaches. The field was in pristine condition, but the squirrels the kids chased off the field looked as confused as they did scared–there haven’t been children on that grass in so long the rodents probably thought it belonged to them, now.

The practice was happening as part of a city-wide restart to modified youth sports and other programming over the last week or so. The parks and recreation department has been working with leagues on guidelines to allow kids to exercise and socialize with each other while still putting virus-related precautions in place. 

For the 90 minutes that the kids practice hitting, catching, and baserunning, parents ringed the field, watching, some with tears in their eyes. We weren’t allowed to sit on the bleachers, but still, very few parents took advantage of the rare opportunity to run a few errands without having young kids in tow.

It was a special time, getting to see kids being kids. In our city, there have been 459 children under the age of 10 who’ve tested positive for the coronavirus. But every child has born the burden of the pandemic, with their entire daily routine and life upended. Unlike adults, many kids don’t have the ability to fully comprehend why these changes are happening, or to find new outlets to deal with the stress and anxiety of such major disruptions.

Our son has handled it admirably, even though he expresses jealousy from time to time that his little sister (who is enrolled in preschool) still gets to play with other kids regularly. He’s handled the start of virtual second grade like a champ, and has generally been as sweet and supportive as he can to the other members of his stressed-out household.

That’s why I was so happy to see him get a real reward for his resilient attitude. On the way back to the van after he hugged me and thanked me for taking him to the park. He said he had fun and that he wished his next practice wasn’t a whole four days away. I smiled and agreed with him, and when he asked me to take him for a post-practice snack I didn’t even pretend to deliberate before saying yes.


Mike Guardabascio
An LBC native, Mike Guardabascio has been covering Long Beach sports professionally for 13 years, with his work published in dozens of Southern California magazines and newspapers. He's won numerous awards for his writing as well as the CIF Southern Section’s Champion For Character Award, and is the author of three books about Long Beach history.