Little league baseball is more than a game to struggling community

Published 8:05 am Wednesday, June 23, 2010

I began my involvement with Little League baseball in 1975. I was a Courtland Peewee at that time, and then moved up the Midget ranks as I got older.

As I look at the league today, I see tremendous growth and expansion. We now have five levels of baseball as well as girls softball.

More important are the effects I see this organization has on the community.

The past two years have been economically challenging to say the least. With job layoffs, transfers and overall pressures from the economic downturn, we have seen firsthand the effects on our friends and loved ones.

Each one of us personally knows someone affected directly or indirectly by the nation’s economy. However, there is a small glimmer of light in this period of trials and tribulations.

As a parent and coach of young kids involved in this league, I have the privilege of working directly with our next generation of leaders through Little League baseball. Over the course of this season, I have seen parents and fans come to the ballgames with looks of worry and uncertainty about their futures.

However, once the umpire calls out “play ball,” a transition occurs.

As I watch from the dugout, a group of people become enthralled in watching our kids participate in our nation’s pastime. Parents, grandparents and other spectators engage in conversation about the game and reminisce about their childhood time as a player, usually remembering they were better than they actually were to see the world as kids do.

They are always looking for the positive in things and not allowing worry to cross their little minds. We could stand to take a little of this into our daily lives as adults.

As we have completed the 2010 season and are about to move on to All-Stars, I encourage each of you to continue to support this program in years to come as it has supported us to this point.

I will leave with a couple of thoughts.

First for the kids, don’t focus so much on the wins and losses; it is far more important to focus on the manner in which you play the game.

For the adults, as you think back about your time as a player, do you really remember the wins and losses? Or do you remember the lifelong friends you made at the time? Do you remember a coach who said or did something who has stayed with you through your adult life?

Whether it is Friday night under the lights or Saturday or Sunday, this league provides a few hours of relief from the pressures of the challenges that face our community.

I see kids enjoying the game as I once did and learning the valuable lessons of teamwork, sportsmanship and character. We as coaches and fans constantly have to fight back the urges to allow our emotions and passion to cloud our views of the ultimate goal of league.

Our goal as the current administrators of this league is to ensure we are teaching our kids the values so they can become positive contributors to their communities in years to come and have fun doing it.

Sometimes I find myself fuming over losses for days, sometimes weeks. “What went wrong?” I’ll ask. “What could I have done differently?”

Recently I observed our kids after a tough loss, as we lined up to shake hands; our kids were visibly down. However, 10 minutes after the game, I see those same kids from both teams walking side by side, laughing and sharing a hot dog and soda.

This is where the students teach the professors a valuable lesson. When it is said and done, this is only a game. We as parents and coaches must allow our kids to enjoy and learn without our emotions getting the better of us.