Fear of Fastballs Lingers Long Past Little League

Charlie Sheen in Major LeagueConfession time: My two-year Little League “career” didn’t end with a serious injury or sudden move to a new neighborhood. I became fearful of the fastballs heading my way, so I quit.

It’s something I’ve never told anyone. The shame of it still lingers into my 45th year.

I’m reminded of it every time I see my four-year-old waver at the top of a slide or shoot me an anxious look when he’s about to make a modest jump.


There’s nothing wrong with it, and we want our children to have a healthy fear for anything that can cause them harm. Parking lots. Knives. Sketchy uncles. It’s still disconcerting to see the fear cycle play out in my son, particularly when the fears in question are so easily brushed aside by his little brother.

Watching Eli attempt to jump off a 1-foot curb is like seeing Evel Knievel assessing how many bones he’ll break by jumping Snake River. My two boys couldn’t be more different, and while I spend much of my time dragging lil’ Ben away from crazy stunts Eli avoids them at all costs.

Should I let my fear baggage dictate how I parent my son?

Eli already shows signs of bringing fear into sports. When we play catch he threatens to quit if the ball misses his glove and hits his body. I can see the trepidation on his face, all the while I caution him that sports are full of “owees” and that’s simply part of the game.

My parents likely had no idea that fear played a role in my Little League retirement. How could they? I kept the emotions to myself, and I did a darn good job of it.

That gives me an advantage as Eli enters the world of sports. I’ll be looking for every and any sign that fear is keeping him from lashing a single down the third base line. And I’ll do all I can to help him manage his fears. The rest, I fear, is up to him.




  1. says

    I wish my boys were more fearless. My older boy is afraid of the ball. I had a talk with him and told him he can never be good at baseball if he is afraid. I also said he could get hurt but the best way not to is to not be afraid.

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