With the Little League World Series underway, I’m in awe at the poise these kids show under pressure. But watching also reminded me of a few months back when we enrolled my girlfriend’s eight-year old into his first Little League experience. Despite not knowing how to catch, throw or hit, he had a great time.
But it did get off to a rough start.
At his first at bat, he stood at the plate like a statue. In the league, adults pitched most of the game because there weren’t enough kids who throw accurately enough to keep a game moving.
The guy pitching pleaded with Ryan to swing at anything, but Ryan stood his ground. After the tenth pitch, the guy told Ryan he had to swing at the next one. Ryan started crying. The pitch flew by with Ryan’s bat firmly in place on his shoulder.
Mary, my girlfriend, was also in tears. It was difficult for me to watch.
Soon Ryan had the confidence to swing and he had several hits this season, but I don’t think he ended up on anybody’s scouting list. I did some drills with him, but he didn’t have the patience to work at it for long.
After watching Little League games at this level, I realized Ryan wasn’t the only kid who had a hard time staying focused. I’m amazed at the patience these men exhibit as they try to corral these kids into completing six innings. At one game I remember this sequence:
“Move over Johnny,” one of the coaches shouted to his left fielder. “You’re standing in foul territory.”
Meanwhile the centerfielder was talking to the left fielder as if they were on a playground at school. The right fielder was chewing his glove. The second baseman was on his knees playing with the dirt around the base. A quick glance at third, and it was clear the kid was in desperate need of a bathroom.
“Look alive out there,” one of the dads shouted, “there’s a batter hitting.”
It was chaos in the dugout too. Kids were eating snacks, drinking water and Gatorade. Several were climbing the chain link fence. Three kids practiced swings with a bat while others ran dangerously close. “Stop acting like animals,” one of the coaches pleaded with his team. “Pay attention. Cheer on the batter.”
My girlfriend’s son stepped into the batter’s box. He watched the first pitch go wild to the right.
“Extra extra read all about it,” his teammates shouted from the dugout. “Ryan’s gonna jack one, no doubt about it.”
The second pitch was high but close to the plate and Ryan swung late. Strike one. The next one bounced three feet before the plate. Ball two. The next hit Ryan in the back, but fortunately, the ball wasn’t thrown hard and the kid scampered to first base without pain or tears.
The coach pointed to second base and told Ryan if it’s hit on the ground, run that way.
I’m not sure who won that day and neither was Ryan. But he came off the field after each game this season with a big smile. In an era where the kids just want to play video games, that was a home run for everyone, including me.
Little League image courtesy of Shutterstock