It was only a matter of time before Natalie's blossoming t-ball career caught Diego's interest. So I got him a baseball mitt and took him in the backyard to see how he responded to engaging in scooping up some grounders and playing a game of catch with his sister.
Not surprisingly, he very quickly invented his own version of the venerable game that Abner Doubleday supposedly laid down the rules for in Cooperstown in 1839 (like most received wisdom this commonly held truth has been pretty thoroughly debunked but persists nonetheless).
Diego liked the mitt and the ball, but he wasn't that interested in putting them to traditional usage. As far as I know, spinning hasn't been considered an essential part of the sport until now, but Diego's first move, which I have dubbed here The Roman Candle, was to place the ball in the mitt and hold his arms out in a cross and spin faster and faster until the ball rocketed out of the mitt in whatever direction it was pointed when the centrifugal force took over, shooting out like a roman candle firecracker, most often into the bushes where Natalie and I went to retrieve it.
The second spinning move he discovered was a bit more tried and true - holding the ball in his free hand and whipping his arm around in windmill fashion until once again the ball popped free in whatever random direction his arm was pointing when he let go. It was unpredictable to say the least, like a Hoyt Wilhelm knuckleball back in the days!
When it came to ground balls, I encouraged him to hold his mitt close to the ground and scoop them up in the open mouth of his glove - like an alligator. Quickly tiring of my tried and true instruction, he found some wildly imaginative poses to strike that involved twisting the mitt backwards while snaking his arm around and through and behind his legs and body like a contortionist from the Cirque du Soleil. He didn't manage to collect many balls this way, but that was hardly the point.
By far his favorite part of the sport was one of the most conventional and familiar to any fans of perennial last place teams like the 1962 Mets or the 1899 Cleveland Spiders (at only 20 wins holders of the worst season record in baseball history) - the old "throw it where they're not" trick.
I'm looking forward to taking the kids to the park for another practice session. It's time for baseball to reinvent itself for the new generation, and I have a feeling that Diego's innovative and unorthodox style might just catch on!!