A Sign of the Times  

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I guess that I grew up a child of the 70's. Although I was born in the 60's my childhood until teen years was spent in the 70's. I have so many great memories of playing sports, riding bikes, catching pollywogs at the pond. We would get the wrist rocket (slingshot) and go out shooting cans. There were the occasions with the bb guns as well. All in all we had a great time. In my town there wasn't a great fear of many things happening. No worrying about the crazy guy in the van stealing kids, or gangs. We worried about getting sick sometimes when a bad flu season came, but other than that life was pretty simple.

My first big baseball game was in 1977. I was in the Little League City Championship. This was my first year in little league. Back in those days you played tee ball through 8 years old. Then you would try out for Little League. If you were good enough at 10 you could play major league. If you weren't you played minor league. ALL 9 year olds played minor league. It gave them a chance to learn the fundamentals of the game, and to grow up a little bit and see how the game is really played when not using a tee.

Now everybody on our team was not 9 years old. There were some 10, 11, and even one 12 year old. The important thing was they played at the same level as us 9 year olds. It wasn't a matter of holding someone back to win the minor league games, because kids our age wanted to be in the major league. They wanted to hang out with their other friends that were also on a major league team. So here we were a group of 12 kids. I was the smallest, but I understood the game fairly well. Unfortunately one thing that hasn't changed is the smallest kid usually ends up in right field. Let me correct that statement. The smallest, worst or second left hander on the team. The bigger left hander would be the first baseman. I had two strikes against me. I was the smallest and the second left hander. I didn't care though I loved the game and would play anywhere the put me WITHOUT an argument.

So there I was playing my heart out. Surprisingly enough a good amount of action happens in right field when you are in minor leagues. A lot of the players swing late and hit quite a few balls onto the right side of the field. Needless to say with two good teams we had a busy day in the outfield on both sides.

My coach was a fair man. His name was Harry and his assistant was named Mike. They were both HUGE men. Not just to a kid either. Harry was 6'3" and Mike was 6'4". They both had a number of years playing and coaching baseball and we listened to every word they said. The equalizer on our team was a 10 year old named Brian. He could hit.....HARD! So many homeruns it was crazy. We loved having him on the team and he was a humble kid with a good bat, and even though his glove was only passing good, it was good enough.

So the rules say that every kid plays a minimum of 2 innings in the field and one at bat. I had 4 innings in right field and I must say I had a good day. Two base hits, and I caught a few fly balls and even threw a kid out at second base. The coach told me that I had to stay in the next inning because we had two other kids that needed to play. I was a bit upset but that was the rule and I didn't question coach.

The next inning comes and goes with no damage. 3 up 3 down on both sides of the field. This sets up the last inning and we are in the lead by 1. 6-5 and they have a runner on first. The next kid hits a ball to third base and our player bobbles it. Two kids on base and the next kid up hits a HIGH fly ball to guess where......Right field.....The new right fielder backs up and gets under it just like we had been taught all year long. We are all on our feet, and it's so quiet you could hear a pin drop. I think that our whole bench was holding their breath. He's under it and has his glove open to receive it. One hand under the glove to "guide it in. That's when the ball hits the palm of his glove and he drops it. By the time that poor kid picks up the ball and throws it in the batter had scored an in the park home run. We are now losing by 2 runs. We pat him on the back and tell him don't worry we will get it back.

The bottom of the inning and we get a runner on 1st. The next pitch and he steals 2nd. The batter hits a high fly ball to right field (told you there was action out there). The right fielder catches it and our runner gets to 3rd. That brings up the power hitter. He hits a hard grounder right to the short stop. Our runner jumps off the base and makes the short stop hold the ball so our batter can make it to first. Two runners on base and who comes up to bat? Yep the right fielder. It's only one out so we figure that the worst thing that could happen is he will get out and we have one more chance. First pitch he hits a slow ball to the pitcher who throws to 2nd and then to 1st for the only double play of the game. We lost 8-6.

Do you know what happened after the game to that kid? He went to the pizza party with us and we had a great time. We laughed about the season and all the silly things that happened. There wasn't a cuss word spoken on the field. My parents were out there just like everybody else's parents to hug us and embarass us telling us how wonderful we did.

Funny thing, my life didn't end because I wasn't out in right field to catch that ball. I wasn't up to bat to make a base hit and be the hero. Who knows maybe I would have dropped that ball too (NOT). I coulda struck out or hit into a double play as well(NOT AGAIN). I'll never know, but he made it through all of that as well. Nobody beat him up, he wasn't shunned at school, his parents didn't embarass him by shouting what a loser he was on the field. We just accepted it as part of the game.

I watch a good deal of baseball nowadays. I see coaches cheating to get certain players on the team. I watch parents lie about their childs age so he can get one more year at the younger age group and be the hero. I listen to parents criticize their child on the field, as well as someone else's child. The fact that a child makes a mistake is not acceptable any more. We don't allow our children to learn from those childhood errors. We want them to grow up now. We want them to be just little adults even when they are 10 years old.

I spoke with a friend of mine this weekend. He told me that a sponsor pulled out because they didn't feel they were getting the proper exposure because the team wasn't very good. Are you serious???? These are children. They aren't out there to offer exposure to a business. They are out there to learn how to play a game, but more important than that they are going to take the lessons learned on the field and apply them to the rest of their lives. So parents/coaches remember that when you are teaching your kids how to play. Remember that play is part of the game. It's not all work. It's not all about success either. We learn far more from the hard losses than the easy wins.

It's a sign of the times, that people are moving too fast now. They want to get their kids grown up and out of the house, moving towards their careers before they are teenagers. Here's an idea, let your kid be a kid. Let them experience all the great things that kids are supposed to experience. They will have plenty of time to experience all the crap of adulthood.

So sign your kids up for youth sports and support your local teams. Cheer em on, but don't put em down. Our kids need us to show them how good it CAN be. On a side note, the business that pulled out of sponsorship received such a backlash from a portion of the community that they jumped right back in. I promise you that regardless I won't do business there ever again. They have shown their true colors and that's enough for me. I should also make note that those parents that got together to offer their time and money to cover the expense of sponsorship should be commended. Many of them didn't have the money to do it, but they wanted their children to have that opportunity. Kudos to you!

This entry was posted at Monday, April 19, 2010 and is filed under , , . You can follow any responses to this entry through the comments feed .

10 comments

It could be quite brutal, even when my boys were young. I can't imagine what it must be like now.

April 19, 2010 at 1:02 AM

I totally agree with you that kids are made to grow up too fast these days. Not just sports there are many other fields like this, the worst being beauty pageants for kids where they are decked out in heels, with make up painted on. Kids should be allowed to enjoy their childhood while it lasts.

I tell this to my baby brother too who wants to be a grown up and start working and be independent.

April 19, 2010 at 1:17 AM

Unbelievable! I never imagined anyone expecting a kid's team to offer them advertisement. Pulling the sponsorship - that is a new low in my opinion.
Childhood activities should be fun and a learning experience. It seems like the fun is gone and it is all about winning. What kind of teaching is that? Even the pros are poor examples of good sportsmanship anymore. I love sports and I hate to see this new direction.
On another note. I would like your opinion on something. What do you think of college athletes abandoning their teams, wasting a scholarship, and jumping into the pros before graduating? I have a strong opinion against it, but I would like your take.

April 19, 2010 at 5:40 AM

This is so true today. Do you know, that last year, after the soccer team The Daughter was on, when they lost, the coach actually asked them if they were here to have fun...and he told them the correct answer was not to have FUN, but to win!
So sad...winning is great, and it a goal to strive for...but if you are not having fun, why bother?

April 19, 2010 at 5:48 AM

Ms. Anthropy...It's oh so brutal now...I see slivers of hope though...Some parents are still letting the kids be kids, and a couple of the coaches still teach the kids to play before "win at all costs".

Jana...I saw a show about kid beauty pageants it was downright sad...

Rae..Yeah some people are just unbeleivable(and not in a good way)...Those sponsors will pay heavily within the community I think.

On the college note...I think that it's just another way to teach a young adult they don't have to commit to anything. I am totally against allowing college players to leave before graduating to join the pros. I think that should be an agreement that pro and college organizations make to allow these guys to finish school, have a career to fall back on AFTER sports, a little more education never hurt anyone.

Joe...I would have gotten in trouble cause that coach would have been socked right in the nose.(not in front of my kid though)

April 19, 2010 at 8:22 AM

"Let kids be kids" MY THOUGHTS EXACTLY! I am a HUGE fan of organized sports for kids (I was in them as a kid and they did a LOT for me and my self esteem) but I will never agree with pushing kids to the point where they have to be perfect. It's for FUN and if someone happens to be good at it? Encourage it. If they happen to be horrible but are having fun? Let them have fun. I hate seeing parents overschedule their child's every waking moment so that the kid can be "better" then anyone else, more intelligent, more athletic, whatever. They don't get the chance to be a kid, to explore, to enjoy things. It infuriates me. Kids grow up whether we want them to or not. Let them enjoy it while they can.

April 19, 2010 at 5:43 PM

Poor children loose out when parents of today try to make them the next super star in whatever sport. It's sad. It should be about working together as a team and interacting with others and having FUN.

And BOO to that company that pulled out of the little league sponsorship. Kudos to you for not doing business with them anymore.

April 19, 2010 at 10:38 PM

Jenn, Jerry...You guys are spot on...Too much activity without teaching them the value and enjoyment of the activity is pointless. Teaching them to get the big shoe contract at 10 is just as bad ...

April 20, 2010 at 8:04 AM

What is going on in this world? Why can't we just go out there and have fun?

April 21, 2010 at 2:21 AM

I really loved how you carried us through the game..! I hardly follow baseball--know the basics though--and understood everything you said like I was watching it play out on television!:D

I think the thing about the sponsor pulling out because of the lack of exposure is insane! Like you said it so well, these kids are kids!!

It's all about performance now and over-achievement. I loved how you said that we were trying to transform our kids in little-adults, forbidding them to make mistakes. Because adults make as many mistakes as kids ;)

Really good post, Bendigo! I know that your kid is having fun, without the pressure :D

April 21, 2010 at 10:53 AM

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