In it for the Long Ball: Little League Baseball 2017
Little League baseball season is a special time of year. The smell of freshly cut grass, brick dust, and line chalk bring a nice aroma to the nose. The sounds of the PA system crackling to life for the first playing of the National Anthem and the greatest words “PLAY BALL!”. The clink of bats making contact and the excitement as the games begin makes Little League baseball season all the more worth it.
This year was our third year with Little Dude playing baseball. One year in coaches pitch and two years in the 9-12 division. He has been an All-Star player twice and even played in an inter-league game this season. In the spring, we eat, breathe, and sleep baseball. Well, baseball and dance but dance is a post for another day. This is about baseball.
Love of the Game
I have long loved the game of baseball. The Atlanta Braves, South Carolina Gamecocks, Capital City bombers, and of course, the Dispatch News Little League team of 1991 (the year I played). I have experience baseball in all of its glorious forms. Going to games, watching on TV, watching from the parking lot, listening on the radio. I have seen all from Little League baseball to the MLB and everything in between. Now, I get to make sure my son does the same.
I took Little Dude to his first baseball game 3 years ago. We went to see the Bristol Pirates, the closest minor league team we have. This was after his first season in Little League Baseball. The thrill he showed on his face was absolutely priceless. We got a foul ball, he got to meet some players and even run the bases. He has also spent two summers now doing a week-long camp with the Lexington County Blowfish in South Carolina. We still have to hit a college level game and an MLB game to complete the series. We go often to root on our town Lebanon High School Pioneers.
But there is more to Little League Baseball than just watching Little Dude go out there and slug it out. We get to watch him, and a lot of other kids, grow as friends, as teammates, and as young men. We live in a very rural area. A in, our town had a population of less than 3500 as of 2014. The kids who play sports in their younger years mostly go to school together and grow up together, and we get to know them and their families over the years.
Watching them transform in front of us is an amazing experience. I have volunteered with all of Little Dude’s teams and helped where I can. These young boys have had some amazing coaches who love the game and love the kids they are mentors to. Little Dude has been blessed with amazing coaches who teach the game well, but teach the important lessons of baseball even more. Persistence, determination, camaraderie, and sportsmanship. Four important qualities of a good gentlemen can be taught through baseball, and other sports too.
Coaches deserve endless thanks. They work tirelessly and voluntarily to be not just a coach of the game, but a mentor of good values. The coaches lay aside their time that could be spent doing countless other things to be with other children. They endure the hardship of tough parents and tough team losses. They organize and adapt and press on when things get tough. Little League baseball coaches are the unsung heroes of the spring. ‘
2017 Little League Baseball Season Wrap-up
Our 2017 Little League baseball season was absolutely phenomenal. Little Dude’s first time working the infield mostly at second base. He learned a lot about fielding and had several run saving and inning saving plays. His batting suffered a bit this season, mainly due to lack of practice in the off-season. However, he ended his season with a bullet of a double to left field in his final All-Star game. He would score on the following play, and return to score from first in his next AB after being hit by a pitch.
What I’ve enjoyed the most is watching him grow as a leader, and as a good sport. Losing is tough. And in Little League baseball, those losses can be brutal at times. He learned to not be quick to blame others for the loss. He learned how to help keep his teammates lifted despite the odds against them. Little Dude has learned that as he gets older in the league, he is going to be looked at by his younger teammates on how to act. They will look for guidance and leadership from their peers, and he wants to be that leader.
The off-season has now approached us and we look to a summer of growth. Little Dude has decided to join a local baseball academy to work on his form throughout the summer and fall. Pitching, batting, fielding. He wants to return next year as “the man” on the field. Undoubtedly, we will once again watch as he transitions not just as a player, but as a leader. After all, he’s going to be a big middle school kid this coming fall. We will look forward to seeing the other kids and how much they’ve progressed.
I’ll wait again for the smell of grass, the dust of chalk and bricks, and those oh so sweet words of “PLAY BALL” next spring. The PA system will lay silent until then. The flag will fly despite the lack of a crowd singing to it. And Little League baseball will be the countdown in our minds.
Until next season fellas