Little League Lessons
Looking at sky today, it struck me that today would be a great day for baseball. Looking at the calendar today, it struck me that today would be a great day for baseball. Looking at the thermometer—39°, it struck me that today would be a great day for football or hockey or skiing or anything but baseball.
Memories of my little league career flooded my head. I decided early in my youth that I could play baseball. I watched other sports on TV and ruled them beyond my capacity. Baseball, however, was a game for me. I loved every aspect—practice, playing, cleaning up after the game, going to Deano’s Drive-In for ice cream. I loved the comradery. I loved the competition. I loved the smell of the dirt.
When we moved to Sister Bay, Jackson and Harrison had already played some baseball and I had coached. We missed most of the practices in 2010, but Jackson played our first year here. I eventually coached the Sister Bay Bays. Karen helped as my assistant and every year shocked a bunch of prepubescent boys in her ability to hit the ball…hard.
This renewed my love affair with the game—especially little league. The game overflowed with lessons. On one fine early May day, much like today, we gathered for practice. It was cold and threatening snow. We huddled in the concession stand. I gave a great speech about not quitting. I could not emphasize enough that we would not quit. We took the field as the flurries fell out of the dark gray sky. We quit. Some lessons are not worth frostbite.
In 2012, Bo Johnson died from AML leukemia. He was thirteen years old. Bo would have been on the Bays in 2013. He probably would have been our best player. We sludged through that season. Each game was a reminder of who was not pitching or playing third base and how important it was to not quit.
At the end of the season, the league (all five teams) held an All-Star game. We had Bo as an honorary member of the team. I remember the game as a close affair. I really wanted to win this game. We had several talented catchers on the All-Star team. Our usual catcher had experimented with pitching a little, but he was too good as a catcher to put him on the mound.
Except for this night. In the last inning, with a small lead, Seth stepped out to pitch. He pitched a perfect inning—nine pitches, nine strikes. Game over. It was one of the greatest things I’ve ever seen in my entire life. Perfection soothed the brokenness. It didn’t fix everything. It was temporary, but for a few minutes, it made everything better.
I celebrate the perseverance of that kid, of that team, of all the kids in the community that lost a friend and a schoolmate.
It feels strange to drive past the ballpark these days. The ballfield yearns for the kids to return. The lessons accumulate there like springtime snow. They wait for kids—and adults—to come and learn them and relearn them if necessary.
Karen and I adopted a motto for the Bays while we coached: “Work together. Play hard. Have fun.” These lessons apply both on and off the field. Cooperation defeats individualism. Determination overcomes surrender. Fun…I believe we all need to be reminded to have fun along the way.
I love you.
I need you.
I hope for you.
Please be safe.