Saturday, May 29, 2010

More Thoughts on Little League Baseball

Last night our team lost 13-12 in OT.  But it was a great game.

What made it great?

  • The kids were smiling
  • The kids played hard without being pushed to do so
  • Nobody was injured
  • The umpires were awesome
  • The coaches on both sides were in it for the kids
  • The weather was nice
  • The parents were supportive and behaved on both sides

A note about the umpires:  We typically have the same 5 or 6 officials at our field every week.  But this week we had visiting officials from Umpire Heaven (a fictitious place I refer to as being where awesome umpires come from).  These 2 guys knew the rule book cover to cover.  I’ve never seen that.  They applied the rules thoroughly, but without sacrificing the goal of the game: to have fun and compete.  They took time to inspect the equipment for both teams before the game: bats, helmets, catcher’s gear, balls, even shoes.  Never once showing any signs of nit-picky attitude or resentment.  Their calls were clear and direct.  When a player slid into home, the ump cleared the area with his entire being focused on the action in front of him. A plane could’ve crashed in the next field and exploded and this ump would not have missed the call.  It was professionally done.  Kudos!

I’m an assistant coach, so I spend a lot of time on the field with players and other coaches and officials.  I absolutely love it when the atmosphere is positive and coaches joke with each other on both sides of the field.  When coaches joke and laugh with officials.  When coaches loan other teams a helping hand.  It’s what the game is all about.  And it rubs off on the kids.  This is more true in the 9 to 12 year old range than younger or older kids.  It’s a special transformational age range when they’re seeing beyond the casual attitude of T-ball and Minor leagues to the game itself and what it means.  They start to understand the importance of how they work together and they see what the league above them does and it drives them to push themselves to be better, work harder and enjoy the good times more.

Best moments I’ve experienced yet:

  • When the shy-est kid on the team hits a home run for the first time
  • Umpiring a game and telling an obnoxious parent to behave or be ejected along with forfeiting their kids game, and the parent settled down.
  • Watching the 4-5 year olds chase down a foul ball to get a free drink
  • When a player shows up down and out and makes a great play and turns their whole day around
  • Watching a group of kids show up on day 1, struggling to make things work and figuring out what to do, and at the end of the season seeing them work together as a team and gain confidence and self-realization
  • Being a base coach and hearing the kids joke in the dugout (ok, well, sometimes)
  • When a runner is laughing and talking with the baseman during a game.
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