Twice a week I gather nine little ballplayers together for some target practice.

And I am the target.

It’s a complete blast and bit infuriating at the same time.

The ages range from 5 to 7 and their abilities are much more wide ranging. Some are playing for the first time while others had a bat in their hand since the age of 2.

The level is coach pitch so I am a target at all times. There are screamers from the sweet-swinging left-hander and little dribblers from the youngest on the team who we can’t find a batting helmet to fit his little pea head.

My 6-year-old daughter is the only girl on the team and I cherish the chance to share this time with her. During the middle of the game, while other team was putting the ball in play (infuriating), she turns and tells me I am best coach ever (a blast).

That makes up for the times when the players are lying down in the outfield, asking what treat are they having after the game, have their mitts on their heads or dancing to the music in their little noggins.

I yell at them to stay focused and get in their defense stance and they do just that.

For one pitch.

Then it is back to Imagination Ave. or wherever else their little minds take them.

The best moment of the year so far came when my daughter volunteered to be catcher, meaning she had to put on the full gear, which weighs nearly as much as her.

She got it on, somehow made her way behind the plate, and proceeded to watch every ball bounce off her or go past. Finally a batter put the ball in play, I turn to watch where the ball went and when I turned back around she was flat on her back not moving.

Startled and wondering if she got hit by the bat or something, I ran over to her, stood over her and through the catcher’s mask she says “It’s too heavy.”

It was adorable and pathetic and possibly the last time she ever plays catcher, but something I won’t forget.

Contact writer: (480) 898-7915 or Follow him on Twitter @JSkodaAFN.

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