I had previously mentioned that I had been watching the Little League World Series. It has been very enjoyable. As of today it is over for another year and the winner is
As you watch these youngsters on the field and at bat it doesn’t take much imagination to see big league ball players. They emulate all of the mannerisms you would see in their adult counter parts. They scratch and spit just like the big guys. Their uniforms betray their young years. Some of the plays I have seen on defense would be the envy of any big league team. I have seen home runs, sacrifice bunts, lay out catches of impossible line drives, and double plays. Sometimes I had to blink and remember that I was watching twelve and thirteen year olds. The pitchers were throwing curve balls as well as fast balls. Many also had change-ups in their arsenal. What’s more, the kids could hit them.
I tried, as I watched, to recall when I was twelve or thirteen. It is hard to imagine that I had this kind of maturity or prowess. I might have still been trying to tie my own shoes.
Little League is for a certainty a marvelous way to bring kids together for a team sport. It teaches team concepts. Everybody has a job and success is dependent on everybody doing their job well. Little League teaches respect for rules, authority, and the opposition. It teaches sportsmanship.
Little League also teaches how to win but more importantly, it teaches how to lose. Remember the old Wide World of Sports slogan “The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat”? I saw both at these games. As a father and a grandfather I must admit I had a difficult time watching young kids crying their eyes out when their bone-headed play or pitch caused their team to lose. Such is the agony of defeat.
I am sure you are aware that there is within this country a group of people who don’t believe in competitive sports for youngsters. They don’t believe in keeping score or having winners and losers. They think that these kids would suffer irreparable harm to their psyches if they didn’t win every time.
This then is the issue of this essay. Childhood is training for life. Little League is a school for adulthood whether as a ball player or as an engineer. I have this information for the group who would deny these competitive lessons to youngsters, sometimes you win and sometimes you lose. Sometimes you commit a bone headed error that loses the sale or the account. Life goes on. You may recall as a youngster when you made mistakes during a game and when your screw up cost your team the game. How did you handle that then? You probably survived the event and went on. That lesson may very well have been the spark that caused you to do better the next time.
I mentioned how it affected me watching kids cry at a loss. I wanted to cry with them. Then I remembered that some day those kids will remember not the loss, but the experience. They will remember their teammates. They will remember their coaches. They will remember the pizza they had after the game and how it all washed the tears away.
Life and a baseball game are full of uncertainties. We have no guarantees of success. What we have as Americans is opportunity.
Contrary to the line once uttered by Tom Hanks in a movie, there is sometimes crying in baseball.
Ron Scarbro August 25, 2008