For the love of the game

People ask me what I do in the winter when there is no baseball. I’ll tell you what I do. I stare out the window and wait for spring. – Rogers Hornsby

There are 93 days until pitchers and catchers report for Spring Training. However, our Little League is way ahead of the game. We had our first team meeting and from what I understand other teams have actually had a practice. It may seem a bit ambitious. A touch over-the-top. But that’s how they roll and I guess we will roll with it.

I’ve always enjoyed baseball. I don’t understand every rule and I’ve been known to switch my allegiance to teams based on the city I am living in, but there is nothing better than sitting in the warm sunshine watching a ballgame. I love the sound of the ball hitting the bat. I love the excitement of a great catch or play in the field. I love the sights and smells of a ballpark. How I love the boys of summer.

I bought the boys their first Spiderman bat and ball when they were about 2 1/2. I remember a colleague asking me what I had planned for the weekend and I said batting practice. “Too soon?” I joked.

Aiming for the fence since age 3

Aiming for the fence since age 3

Luckily, the boys have developed a love of baseball, too, as well as having natural talent (which they didn’t get from me or their father so that’s a genetic mystery). Watching them play has been a true joy for me. But here’s the thing…

There are actual politics in Little League baseball. And parents that take things WAY too seriously. And the need for signs like this on ball fields:

290We’ve been really lucky for the last few years. The boys have had teams filled with great kids and parents. Wonderful coaches who have been firm, but kind; who always seem to give a little extra to my boys, perhaps because I’m a single mom, but mostly I think because my boys are pretty great.

Last year, they had the chance to try out to “play up”. I declined that opportunity for them because they were only 8 and I really felt like they needed another year learning in their 7/8 division. Why go be a little fish in a big pond when you can be the big fish for a change? It was a good decision. They played on a great team, learned and honed their skills, and went on to win the championship.

But now it’s a whole new ballgame (see what I did there?). And I listen to the parents talking amongst themselves about the coaches and managers and administration and the drafts and how it all works. It seems to strongly favor those kids who have connections to the league and my kids are just never going to be those kids.

I’m a competitive person. My boys have inherited that trait. We play to win. But we also play to have fun. And at this age, it should mostly be about fun. We would also like to believe that when we play hard, we will be rewarded. Unfortunately, it sounds like regardless of how hard we may play, some players are just going to be rewarded for being the Coach’s son or for knowing the right people.

And as much as I hate to admit it–this is life, too. It’s not always what you know, but who you know. In fact, a lot of the time it’s like this. I guess it is a life lesson that is best not put off forever, but I wish I could shield my boys from it for a little while longer. Especially since they won’t ever be the Coach’s son.

On the other hand, my boys do have some pretty big advantages; talent, drive, spirit, and a mama who will make sure they are always supported. I will make sure that they continue to know that as long as they do their best, it is good enough. And regardless of winning or losing, regardless of which team they get picked for or if they get picked at all, that there is something to be said for playing for the sheer love of the game.

If they get that and nothing more out of the season, I will consider it a success.