The little league baseball season is winding down, following a frenzy of games during the month of June. Hats off to the volunteer coaches, parents and players, all who put in a great deal of time and effort during this season. In Le Mars, we are fortunate to have a well organized and well supported little league program.
Baseball is one of the games that requires a great deal of practice to become really good, as is the case with nearly anything in life. Like any team sport, it teaches the value of individual achievement, as well as the necessity for teamwork. These are timeless lessons that will help our children throughout their lives.
One of the harder lessons to learn is how to win and lose graciously. Sportsmanship is a character trait that is, in my opinion, undervalued in our society, even though every effort is made throughout childhood to instill the value.
I have nothing but admiration for the athletes that go out and compete. I had a very short lived baseball career in little league. Never quite got the hand-eye coordination down when it came to batting, and fielding, well let's just say it wasn't my strong suit, either.
Back in those days we sold candy door to door to fund the little league program, which taught us another valuable lesson -- how to deal with rejection and not to pre-judge who would or would not buy the candy. Some of the people that I thought would be big spenders turned out, for whatever reason, not to buy anything at all. Others that I thought would not buy at all bought a box or two, mostly out of kindness.
After selling the required amount of candy and getting assigned to my team -- I was a Cub -- it was time to begin practice. Batting practice, fielding practice, sliding practice, you name an aspect of the game, we practiced it. Due to the sheer number of children involved, there was little time to spend additional time with the ones that excelled or the ones that needed help. It was a production line, and it kept moving.
When it came time to assign positions, I was named shortstop. This is an important position, one that requires a good field of vision, awareness of the runners and the ball and the various scenarios and the best responses to them.
I was doomed.
Thankfully, the coach saw that if his team had hopes of winning, he would need a different shortstop and I was moved to the outfield. I began in left field, and was soon moved to right field DEEP right field, the place where Babe Ruth might hit the ball, providing he was alive and happened to stop by and pinch hit.
Thankfully, the Babe was dead and I didn't have to worry about fielding anything, unless the unthinkable happened and a ball would get by two other players, which it didn't.
Deep right field is a peaceful place. Not much happens, and the mind of a young boy does tend to wander. It's difficult to stay involved in the game when, if the wind is in the right direction you can't even hear what's going on. I did remember to come in to the dugout when the other team came out to field.
Batting, as may have guessed by now, wasn't my strong suit. I would swing on pitches that I shouldn't, pass on ones that I should. This is not a recipe for success at bat. I may have gotten on base on balls by accident once or twice.
Despite my less than sterling contributions, the team went undefeated. Sometimes, the remainder of the team can pick up the slack and carry a clueless member. The Cubs that season were such a team.
There's a special place in heaven for little league coaches.
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