How I struck out 18 7-year-olds yesterday.

Twins Giants Baseball

I manage my son’s baseball team.

We’re the Oakland A’s.



I picture myself as Billy Beane, the Moneyball puppeteer, but technically I’m Art Howe – the manager of that team no one remembers.

Anyway, it’s a baseball league comprised of 7-year-old kids. Given the customary Chicago spring peppered with more snow days than 60 degree days, we only had 2 hours of practice prior to our first game.


As the manager, I pitch to my team.

I wasn’t too worried about my lack of preparation for this activity.

Last year the Coaches/Pitchers lobbed balls from one knee 15 feet away.

Kids rarely struck out.


Surely this league would be the same, right?

Surely I wouldn’t be responsible for striking out all my kids by pitching from the mound, 46 feet away, right?




I struck out my entire team… multiple times.

I couldn’t find the strike zone and 7-year-olds have a hard time with the check swing.


During the game I heard fathers mumbling about my bumbling.

After the game, my wife informed me I was throwing significantly harder than the other Coach/Pitcher, who had no trouble. His team was a youthful Murderer’s Row.


They were a bunch of miniature Roy Hobbs out there.


During the game… after the game… and up until late last night… I felt terrible. Striking out kid after kid (my own son twice) with seemingly no alternative yet to return to the mound the next inning and do it again.


But then, last night I put my 7-year-old son to bed. With the game still weighing on my mind, I asked him what he thought of the game.


“Oh, it was awesome, dad! I can’t wait to play again Friday!”


Being one who occasionally employs sarcasm as a learning tool, I was prepared to acknowledge my son’s mockery.

But he wasn’t mocking.


My son’s memory of the game was much different than mine.

In my mind I ruined the Season Opener.
In my son’s mind… he got to play baseball.


He got one of the few hits off his ole man and made a real baseball play at first base.
(Those don’t happen much with 7-year-olds.)


I was unprepared.

We were unprepared.

We lost 20-0.


So what?

Shit happens.


When learning a language – and practicing a language – you can’t wait til you know “enough to speak.”

You’ll never be “ready.”

There is no such thing.

You simply go out there and you try.


You go to the mound and you pitch.
Sometimes it works… Sometimes it doesn’t.


You learn.

You keep practicing.

You get better.


This evening my son and I will work on our pitching and hitting together.

Our next game is on Friday.

I’ll do better on Friday.

The team will do better too.

And life will go on.


In baseball, language and life – there will be strikeouts.

And you’ll remember them.

But keep trying, keep practicing.


Know that you’re harder on yourself than anyone else.

Otherwise, you’d simply quit trying to learn a 2nd language; you’d quit pitching.


In baseball, language and life – the goals are the same: get better, build relationships, and have fun.

So get back out there and pitch.




Bradley Hartmann is founder and El Presidente at Red Angle (, a training and consulting firm bridging the English-Spanish (and a bit of Polish…) language gap in the construction industry.

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Categories: Construction Spanish

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