Last May 10th Douglas was pitching a game when he took a line drive to his right shin. The thunk was so loud all the parents heard it in the bleachers. Never in my years of coaching Little League Baseball have I seen a pitcher take a shot like that. The Doctor diagnosed a fractured Tibia and put a full leg cast on for 6 weeks. His season was over.
Douglas was 10 years old at the time, playing in the Majors division. The Division was made up of 10-12 year olds, with league age being determined on May 31st. The batter that hit the line drive was turning 13 the following month. He had 6 inches on Douglas, and nearly 3 additional years of development.
This year the Atascadero Little League re-aligned the division to be more in line with Babe Ruth Baseball. The Majors now moves to an 11-13 year-old bracket. That meant Douglas would be playing with 8th graders. Douglas is in 5th grade.
Two years ago Douglas was one of only two 9 year-olds pitching in AAA. We won the district championships that year. Last year he moved up into Majors. He was the only 10 year-old actively pitching in the division. At the time of his injury, he had the lowest ERA on the team. Yes, he’s that good.
Douglas is still feeling the effects of that hit. He’s a little scared of the ball when I throw hard at him during catch. I though about him, a 5th grader, playing against kids that are nearly in high school. I thought about sending him back down to AAA level, and how that would dull his love of the game. I thought about him playing well above his age level for the last two years and how he was always intimidated in the early part of the season.
I made the decision to sit him out for this season. He took the news hard.
My thinking is that he would have a tough year in baseball. He’s not over the fear of being on the mound and facing batters. The difference between an 11 year-old and a nearly 14 year-old player is more pronounced that the the differential on a 10-13 year-old pairing.
I gotta admit that I have some parental self-interest in this decision. Never again do I want to witness the pain that Douglas incurred on that day nearly a year ago. I hope I made the best decision for Douglas.