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A proud member of the lawn chair army

They’re as noticeable at a youth sporting event as the aroma of popcorn being dumped from a hot kettle in the concession stand.

They gather in bunches; their brightly colored lawn chairs arranged in neat rows at the edge of the playing field. There they sit, waiting for the opportunity to offer words of encouragement for tiny members of their family, or perhaps share some well-timed strategy.

They are the mothers, fathers, grandparents, older brothers/sisters, aunts and uncles of children involved in youth athletics. After covering hundreds of such games over the course of several decades for this newspaper, I now find myself a part of the lawn chair army.

Yep….my grandson Brody is now at the age (5) where he is involved in athletics. He is currently in the middle of his first season playing youth soccer, organized though the Bertie County Parks & Recreation Department. Meanwhile, practice has opened for his inaugural year playing T-Ball in Ahoskie.

And, yep, I’m one extremely proud grandfather.

I made a vow before witnessing Brody’s first soccer match not to become an obnoxious, overly zealous fan. It’s not like he’s playing in the World Cup finals….rather, he’s just learning the sport.

He appears to be very defensive-minded in soccer. Despite being the smallest kid on his team, Brody isn’t shy about “mixing it up.” He’ll stick his foot in and attempt to dislodge the ball from an opponent.

His coaches are wonderful. They lean heavily on teaching the basis fundamentals as many children on this particular team, like Brody, are first-year players.

In only his second game, Brody’s coach told me and his Nana (my wife, Deborah) that he is a fast learner. That tells me, as a long-time sports fan, that he’s listening to his coaches.

The same thing is occurring in T-Ball. In his very first practice last week, the coaches spent the entire hour working on throwing and fielding skills. That included how to use your throwing hand to help secure the ball once it is fielded in the glove.

That advice worked wonders for Brody. After several failures to properly secure the ball, Brody used the fundamental fielding technique shared by his coach to successfully secure six in a row. On each, he turned to me (as I was standing outside the fence down the first base line), his eyes as big as half-dollars and a broad smile on his face, and said, “Pop Pop, I got it!”

We’re already working with Brody on hitting, to include proper stance at the plate and proper grip on the bat. He’s right-handed, so swinging that way would appear to be natural for him. However, on his own, he’s taken a few swings from the left side of the plate. If you do that with equal success in the sport of baseball, they tend to pay mega bucks in the Major Leagues.

Yea, I know….I’m getting way ahead of myself with that statement. But baseball has to run in his veins….his dad, Brandon, was pretty good at it; his Pop Pop could only dream of being good; and his late great-grandfather, Ray Bryant (whose name has been passed down to Brody) was really, really good at it…..so much to the point that the St. Louis Cardinals gave my dad a try-out when he returned home after World War II.

For now, I’ll just stick to being a member of the lawn chair army and let Brody’s coaches (in both sports) work to develop his skills.

Who knows….he may wind up losing all interest in sports and choose to learn how to play a musical instrument or become a member of his school’s Debate Team.

Whatever path he chooses, Pop Pop will drag up a lawn chair and offer my full support.

Cal Bryant is the Editor of Roanoke-Chowan Publications. Contact him at cal.bryant@r-cnews.com or 252-332-7207.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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