By Oscar Wolfe
When I was about 3 years old I tried t-ball. I loved it! And when I say that, I mean it. I played it at least once a week. That was a lot for a 3 year old. I kept playing t-ball, then baseball, when I was 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8. But when I turned 9, I started to have doubts. I had started doing theater and that had become a real time commitment. Baseball had become even more of a time commitment. It was five days a week! It was ridiculous! Also, the other kids that played baseball were getting more and more competitive. The kids that didn’t really want to play five times a week started to get tired of it. However, there were kids that did want to make the time commitment. Those kids started to exclude kids like me. I was starting to get really really mad. The competitive kids were not only excluding, they were just being flat out mean. They would say things that obviously suggested that I was not as good as them. Once, when I was going out to dinner with my family, I told them how distressed I was with baseball.
Since I was so upset about baseball, I started to go more and more to acting where I was treated very well. The director was amazing, the other kids were amazing, and the program in general was amazing. Finally, the baseball season ended. I didn’t know it at the time, but that last game would be the last baseball game I ever played in a league. After many talks with my family, I had only gotten more upset. I felt like they were trying to get me to play more baseball. They were actually neutral and supported me with whatever I chose but I was too upset to see this at the time.
In the end, I chose acting over baseball. I felt like I had a better chance to become great in acting than baseball. I still look back on my baseball vs. acting decision and wonder if I should have done something different and what would have happened if I had continued with baseball. Would I have become great? Or would I have simply been ignored? I don’t quite know. But right now, having just finished up a summer youth theater production of Guys & Dolls in which I got to play Benny Southstreet, I think I made the right decision.
I hate that kids are pressured to specialize so young these days. It’s hard to believe how quickly sports get serious—to the point that, if your child isn’t passionate about it, or isn’t—let’s face it—great, they start to feel marginalized even in elementary school. Oscar’s Dad and I knew he wasn’t having a great time his last season of baseball, and that mattered a whole lot more to us than his performance. We were proud of his good sportsmanship: he never once suggested quitting, and never asked to skip a practice or a game. He made a commitment to the team, and he saw it through to the end of the season. My main concern when he decided not to return to little league the next spring was that he stayed active, and kept trying lots of different things, even if acting became more of a focus. Oscar plays some tennis, and he participates in a youth wrestling program—which I’m guessing he’ll tell you more about when it starts up again in the winter! As a family, we take a lot of bike rides, go on hikes, and evening walks. This summer, Oscar discovered ultimate frisbee, and he’ll be playing more of that. And, as his little brother is getting more involved with baseball, Oscar has returned to the fields this summer to help him practice. Hitting a few line drives in the back yard has been a great reminder that you don’t have to be on a team to play ball. It can still be a whole lot of fun.