Little League season is just starting. My middle son, playing in the Majors for his second year, has had a few practices already. One of the recent practices was a scrimmage game, and he was inordinately excited about the first game of the season, official or not. The sun came out, and it was a great day to play baseball.
Apparently, someone else thought it was a great day for target practice.
My son, warming up for his game on the Little League field, was shot. That's right; shot. On his right arm, his pitching arm. Luckily, he was shot with an airsoft gun and not a regular gun.
I didn't find out about it until the next morning when he showed me the bruise.
It is an understatement to say I was furious. I was enraged. My son got SHOT ON HIS LITTLE LEAGUE FIELD?? And he was so focused on starting as pitcher in a scrimmage game that he didn't think to tell anyone about it right away?
Our Little League field is at our local middle school, in the back behind the gym. On the other side of the field is the rarely-used railroad track, where a train goes by about once a week on it's way to or from a quarry in the hills. There is a fence separating the field from a hilly dirt area and the tracks. The shot came from this dirt area.
My son didn't think it was a big deal. And he didn't want anyone to get in trouble. My husband didn't think it was that big of a deal. But I did.
I fired off a letter to our Little League president, and then I called a friend, who knows everything about what's going on in our league. She was shocked. I called the police department to report the incident, and was satisfied to hear that the officer I talked to was concerned about this and urged me to call something like this in and they would respond immediately. I looked up the municipal code and found that discharging a firearm, including an airsoft gun, in public is illegal in our city. I drafted and emailed a notice to all the parents of my son's Little League team, and the team we played, about what happened.
The problem is, I don't know whether my son was shot by a middle-schooler out playing airsoft-gun-wars out in the dirt, or by a sibling of one of the baseball players participating in the game. I don't have much experience with airsoft or any other sort of gun, but I know that my son getting shot while playing baseball is wrong. Wrong in a big way. If the shot could cause a bruise that size from that far away, it could cause much more serious damage at closer range. And a child who would aim at and shoot another child snipper-style is headed down the wrong path. What can I say about a parent that permits or facilitates this behavior? Not much.
Two incidents involving professional sports and guns have been featured in the news recently, one with NBA star Gilbert Arenas of the Washington Wizards suspended indefinitely after he displayed several handguns in the Wizards' locker room. See this article titled Guns At The Game And Lessons In Sportsmanship. Then just this week Major League Baseball decided to ban guns, long knives, and explosives from the clubhouse. (Article here).
Really? So now it's the popular thing, bringing weapons to your professional sports job? I suppose I should feel lucky that we encountered an airsoft gun and not a firearm at the Little League field. The trickle-down from professional players to the Little League field is in so many ways an unfortunate thing. It really does make me sad that my son wants so badly to be a baseball player, and there are precious few people in the sport at a professional level for him to look up to. What mother wants her son to hold up as a role model a person who abuses illegal drugs, lies about it, then attempts a PR-event mea culpa? I encourage my son's interest instead in the history of the game and the great players of the past. His favorite movie is Field of Dreams, where great baseball players emerge from the past and talk about their passion for the game. My son probably doesn't realize that Shoeless Joe Jackson, portrayed in the movie, was banned from baseball for participating in a conspiracy to fix the World Series in 1919. Or that he was illiterate. OK, now that I think about it, these historic players weren't so great either. But at least they weren't shooting at each other!