Little League Is Pure Joy
It’s probably the pure glee and enjoyment of putting on the uniform, and carrying their brand new glove and shiny aluminum bat onto the field. For a young baseball player, few things in life will stand out more than being on a Little League team.
Of course, most will finish high school, some will attend college, and many will be successful in their chosen fields, but the memory at that age is lasting.
To this day, Gary Sheffield, who makes his living playing for the New York Mets, still remembers the agony of losing in the Little League World Series.
Sheffield has enjoyed a spectacular big-league career, including a World Series title in 1997 with the Florida Marlins, and recently reaching the 500 home-run mark.
But Sheffield still talks about that game in which his Tampa, Florida team lost in the finals. I think it’s because they’re so vulnerable at that age.
My nephew Alex loves sports and baseball in particular. He’s now 12 years old and lives in Texas, but played for Jewel City/JWV in Southern California. At the time, he was one of the better players on the team, and his coach Jim, liked him because he always worked hard, did what he was told, and was a team player.
In Little League, youngsters play multiple positions, and Alex was no exception. He played third base, shortstop, and pitcher.
When Jim asked Alex if he’d like to be a catcher, he said sure, but wasn’t positive he’d be any good.
The night before, I told him not to worry, and that he’d do a fine job. Just relax and have fun. I attended that game, and he seemed a little nervous on the drive to the field.
It’s one thing to have an infielder’s glove on your hand, and it’s another matter to have a catcher’s mitt. They’re somewhat flat, and there’s not a lot of give to them. Plus, you have to wear shin guards, a chest protector, and a face mask. And you have to make sure the bat doesn’t hit you when the batter swings.
And if there are men on base, you have the added worry of them stealing, thus making you look bad. Then you need to block the plate if the pitcher is wild.
In a word, it’s a lot to think about, even for a major leaguer, let alone someone 10 years old.
Still, I told him not to fret, and that everything would work out. Once the game began, he seemed to grasp what was going on, and had a cool head.
A batter did reach base, and he stole second, but the second base runner who tried to steal was nailed at second, and Alex’s teammates and coaches were full of encouragement.
Overall, Alex had a good day behind the plate, and told me he considered himself a catcher. It was a day he’ll never forget. Nor will I.