What the boys taught me by playing baseball

This weekend marked the start of the Little league baseball season here in Seattle. A sport like baseball is hard to play in the spring here in the northwest, given the amount of rain we have and very few covered indoor baseball fields for children. In fact, all the practices the boys have had thus far have been in the rain. We had great weather for the season opening Jamboree. I was impressed by the quality of the little league baseball fields, which included dugouts, bleachers, outfield fences, an electronic scoreboard, real grass fields, a concessions stand, clean restrooms, and loud speakers. While I will always prefer the crack of a wood bat on the ball, the aluminum pinging sound accompanying the laughter of children and cheers of the parents created a wondrous cacophony on a beautiful Saturday afternoon. Here are some of the things I learned by watching the boys.

The Clothes Make The Man
When the day started, the boys were just wearing jeans and long sleeve tshirts. Once they put on their uniforms, they transformed into ball players. They way they wore their hats, rocked the gloves, and tucked in their jerseys made them look legit. I was reminded that looking the part, and having confidence, takes you a long way.

Ritual Matters, as does Pomp and Circumstance
Before the games, every player was announced by name and number, then ran out to the pitchers mound to stand and receive applause from the crowd. This reminded me of watching the World Series, when all the players are introduced. I’ll admit it, I was jealous and wanted to be out there myself. My oldest told me afterwards that his favorite part was the pre game ritual. I find that when watching groups do ritual, there is a clear feeling of belonging, as being part of the team. I’m going to try to not find ritual annoying anymore, but recognize it as a powerful binding of groups to a shared identity.

Baseball is still America’s Pastime
Here in Seattle, we have a fantastic soccer league and community. Over the last few years, I have been impressed with the coaches, uniforms, and organization. However, little league really blew all that away. I already mentioned the wonderful status of the fields, and the crowds were easily double or triple the size of the soccer games. After the game, my oldest had a quick practice across town. Despite being at the field for a couple hours watching the game, all of the parents and kids made it to practice. During the scrimmage, there were parents acting as umpire, pitching, coaching the infield, coaching the outfield, and managing the dugout. It was impressive. While the Mariner’s may have been lackluster the last few years, little league baseball is very strong here in the northwest. A game that was custom built for radio is still the king of the internet age.

There is always summer better, and always someone worse
It was very clear to me that some of the kids on the field are naturals, future monsters dominating the diamond. Many of the kids had a hard time paying attention, and a handful got hurt (though nothing serious). My boys, and pardon the pride here, had both hustle and good attitudes. I’m not naive, and I know that talent takes you far in this world. It was good to see that my boys were able to compete by running harder than most kids on the field, willing to try new things, and were mentally engaged in the game. I’ve achieved some decent successes in my life, and while I’m smart I’m not the smartest person in the room. Watching them play reminded me not be afraid to ‘challenge the experts’ and that ‘chance favors the prepared mind.’

For a variety of reasons, most of them failures on my part, this is the first year I’ve been able to get the boys into baseball. I am coming into this season eager to introduce the boys to the sport that connected me to my dad for a lifetime. I am also looking forward to experiencing the cliche that I will learn more from watching the boys play, then they will learn from me.

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