If you give a kid a ball, you know s/he is going to want to throw it. If s/he throws it, she or he will want someone to catch it and return the throw. Kids are like that. Then, those kids will want to hit it with something. They’ll need a bat. If they’re going to keep hitting and throwing balls, they’ll need a glove. If they have someone to play catch with, hit the ball to (and return it), they just might want to join other kids who do the same. Now, you’ve created a league of little kids. Let’s call it Little League.
This bunch of kids will want uniforms – at least a T-shirt and cap with a cool logo or name. Inevitably, there will come cleats (everyone wants the best traction available when running the bases). Then, they’ll want to play other kids and maybe trade hats or T-shirts as souvenirs. You’ll end up buying two or three shirts and/or caps. You might even get into pants, stirrups (if “old school”) or stirrup socks, belts, button shirts and fitted caps. Special bags for bats, batting gloves, water bottles and snack bars are close behind…
You will drive these little players all over Creation. Your season is likely to start with wind chills hovering near freezing, perhaps even with a few snowflakes. It will end in sub-tropical Sahara-like conditions at a ball park just outside a place called “Nowhereville.” After so many games and practices, you’ll understand why your children are curious about the table and chairs hiding beneath laundry in that room just off the kitchen as you finally sit for a family dinner shortly before school starts.
And you will do it all again next year. Some reasons will be obvious; your kid loves the game, has had some success at it, like the others on the team, thinks the Coach is God, and carrying around a bat bag is pretty cool. Other reasons are compelling as well. You notice your kid has a respect for others, knows how to get along with most everyone, has learned to tolerate unevenness in things like umps calling balls and strikes and – best of all – has absorbed the practice of giving Little League Affirmation like it’s a part of breathing. Baseball players practice grace, forgiveness, flexibility, tolerance and affirmation – constant affirmation – more so than anyone I know.
Working hard for the sake of the team, those who count on your kid to show up, dig in and suck less, becomes second nature to your baseball/softball player. Your player learns that s/he matters because the team matters. Your player takes batting practice, infield drills, hundreds of fly balls and plays catch for hours. This work ethic, coupled with this view of community, will serve your child well – no matter where they go in life. You will see hardworking, tolerant persons taking on challenges at school, work, and in their own communities down the road. You will see people who work to improve their neighborhoods, celebrating the “good” that holds us together; rebuilding the Commons. You will see new parents who learn flexibility with your grandchildren.
And perhaps they will give those kids a ball…..