In the Spotlight

One of the great advantages of batting left-handed in Little League is not having to stand in the two potholes on the side of home plate made by right-handed batters “digging in” – literally. A batter always wants to get a solid footing so s/he can be ready to swing at pitches from the best possible position. The potholes make one’s feet anything but flat. One’s toes are pointing down, up, sideways, making a solid base for hitting very difficult. When a pitch comes in, therefore, and the batter swings, s/he slips on the dirt, making contact with the ball very uncertain; power lacking. Being able to stand on a (mostly) flat surface, from the other side of plate, means one has a better platform from which to get a (potential) hit. There are disadvantages, too. 

Batting left-handed may offer a somewhat better platform from which to hit for a batter, but it also has the distinct disadvantage of making one a target. Little League pitchers have not yet developed the ability to throw strikes when someone is standing on the other side of the plate. They get distracted. That distraction, in turn, causes some pitchers to throw wildly at the plate – missing the strike zone by a mile (therefore, walking the batter) or oftentimes hitting the batter. Often, because of their distraction, the Little League pitcher is actually drawn to the left-handed batting form on that side of the plate. Either way, walking or getting hit by a pitch, sends the left- handed batter trotting to first base. So, that’s why I had a really great “on base” percentage and scored a number of runs. It’s also why, late in the season, I was covered with bruises on my right side (the side closest to the pitcher). 

Once, because of my batting “advantage” – as I liked to view it – I was the only kid in the entire town to hit a home run on a particular day. Hundreds of kids. One home run. Me. It was so unique that I made the sports page of our little town’s daily newspaper. And because it was an evening newspaper, it was that very day that I got to re-live my unique accomplishment! I was in the spotlight! For one brief moment. On one particular summer day. But over 50 years later, it’s still a source of pride and excitement for me. I can still see the newspaper article, even though I have long since lost the original clipping. 

It’s really a small thing, as important events in a child’s life usually are. But it’s my small thing. It was my moment in the spotlight. Every kid needs a moment in the spotlight. A chance to feel important, special, unique in some way. Just because… They matter. They each matter to someone. Being able to call out that uniqueness, that specialness, in each and every kid is what I see the best of Little League coaches and players doing every day. Joey Hale from Goodlettsville, TN is one of the very best at this. He’s coached Little League ball for years, long after his own kids have grown up and moved. He’s taken teams to the Little League World Series, winning the whole thing a couple of years ago. Every player knows how special he is to Coach Hale, and it means something. What an important gift that is to a young person and his future. Thanks to Joey and all the many others out there for doing the hard work of growing tomorrow’s leaders and citizens. It’s really no small thing….

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