Let kids blaze their own path to sports

Published March 12, 2014

Major League Baseball is right around the corner, and I'm thrilled.

No more torturous evenings apathetically filled with flipping through channels. No more half-heartedly paying attention to basketball and hockey. And, egad, no more Olympics.

The night in our house officially gets under way around 7 p.m. when the Tampa Bay Rays' game comes on. I played baseball in college and my wife has learned to love the sport as well, constantly impressing me with her understanding of baseball's subtle nuances.

My 3-year-old?

He has his moments.

I marvel at the expression on his face when he crushes another Wiffle Ball over our fence and into the neighbor's yard. I have nearly been reduced to tears when he randomly yells out, "Go Rays!" And there are moments when I see the game light up his eyes, like it has always done for me.

Other times, it appears he finds picking his nose far more entertaining.

As Justice approaches the organized-sports age, of course, I want him to play baseball like his daddy. I want to play catch with him until the sun goes down and talk strategy from the stands. I want him to love the game like I do and reap all the benefits baseball has given me.

But I don't want to push too hard.

I had a conversation last year with a friend of mine who played professional baseball. One of his sons enjoyed Little League while the other wrestles. I wondered aloud how he was taking it.

He said it was a little strange at first, but didn't want his wrestling son to feel obligated to play baseball just because his dad did. His point to his son was I don't care what you do, but you're going to do something.

And along the way, he's committed to learning more about wrestling and supporting his son's passion. He even got him a personal wrestling coach.

This was a great approach and a reminder to pump the brakes when it comes to pushing kids too hard in a particular direction. The process needs to be organic. Let them find the path and be there to support the journey.

What I most want for Justice is to have him explore different sports and discover what suits his taste. It might be golf, it might be basketball, it might be swimming.

But that doesn't mean my fingers won't be crossed for baseball.

Brandon Wright is a married father of one who lives in Seffner.