Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Little League Baseball

This year marks the fifth year that our son has played little league baseball for the town.  Every season has been distinctly different on different levels, from coaching to getting to know the players to the families that sit out watching each and every play.

Last year, our son's team won the division championship.  His coach taught them the game.  He would not only instruct them how to do something, but explain WHY they were doing what they were doing.  By the 3rd or 4th game, all the parents knew who all the kids were and knew who each other were.  Games, no matter how good or bad they went, were fun for everyone.  The boys on the team would cheer each other on, they would call out plays to each other and were involved.  For us families, we would laugh and commiserate with each other.  When a kid would get hurt, and it happened, everyone was worried about everyone else's kid.  At the end of the season, when we were going to the championship round, the league scheduled practice time at one of the fields.  Instead, our coach opted to have a pool party & cookout at his home for the boys and their families.  He felt that would be more of a team building experience for everyone, and it was.  The boys who were already close, had a great time playing, joking and being kids with each other.  A few days later, they would be celebrating with shouts, excitement and yes, happy tears with one another.  We as parents all clutched each other in the final innings of the season, agonizing over plays, but all the while, remaining positive of the team and of individual players performances.

But as many professional sports coaches will say when a new season starts, "Last season is history.  Now it's about THIS season."

This year is decidedly not the same. It's a different division first of all.  The coach is a nice guy, but he doesn't seem to really be into his role as coach.  He tells the players what positions to play and what batting order they should be in, but there is not a lot of coaching going on.  He isn't really interested in getting to know the kids or what they can or like to do.  That's disappointing.  He doesn't get the kids excited to be playing baseball.  By the end of a game, they all walk out of the dugout with their heads hung and not saying much.

Moreover, the parents aren't all that interested in being cheerleaders for the whole team.  They will say something loud when their kid comes to bat or makes a play.  There is no camaraderie among families and players.  What there is, however, a lot of negativity. 

The other day I listened to a mother expounding on how these boys aren't trying hard enough.  She was loud and I know a couple of times players looked over at her, and the people she was talking at were embarrassed.  Sadly, none were so embarrassed to correct her or stop her diatribe, or even ask her to keep her voice down.  I thought about saying something, but decided to focus on being that parent who cheered the kids on, loudly.  Yeah, I'm that mom.  Yesterday, our son got to play his favorite position, catcher, for the first time this season.  He's a bit rusty, no doubt about it, but he was giving it his all because he was happy.  He didn't throw a cut-off ball quick enough in the mind of another parent.  She proceeded to start talking smack about my kid.  I would like to see her make that play as fast as she thinks it could be made.  I sat there with my fists clenched in my lap with my back to her and biting my tongue.  I knew if I turned around and said something, it wouldn't end well and I would be that parent on the evening news being banned from the little league fields for life.  Another mother whispered, in a fantastic stage whisper (and I'm sure with a gesture in my direction), that I was the catcher's mother.  I turned and gave the woman a huge smile.  The kind of smile that says, "I heard you.  And if you open your mouth again, I will cut you."  Needless to say she was not negative about my kid again, sadly she was about other plays and players.

I found this picture on the internet and truly believe that it should be posted on every little league field the town has.  Change Cardinals to Major League Baseball and the sign would be perfect.

It saddens me that people can't enjoy this for what it is, a game and do everything in their power to make it a positive experience for everyone.  I can't do anything about the coaching.  But I can be a positive force from the stands.  If more people acted that way, a loss wouldn't be such a devastating thing for these kids and everyone would have a better time for a couple of hours out of their day.