Tuesday, April 17, 2007

The Littlest Leaguers

I don’t like organized sports and I really don’t like organized sports for children. Unfortunately I had to attend last Saturday’s Hillsborough Little League opening day.

Following the formal ceremonies the teams started their games. I wandered from field to field watching the older kids – the ones swaggering with attitude. Parents gave serious pep talks to reluctant players, yawning kids told their friends where else they would rather be, and earnest adult coaches encouraged their teams and discussed strategy

Just about what I expected.

But then a lady pointed to a far field and said I should be sure to see the littlest kids. That’s where I found baseball as a game.

Groups of kids still sporting their baby teeth wore team t-shirts that hung to their knees and baseball hats that flopped over their faces. Players held bats almost as tall as they were. Coaches tried valiantly to get them to sit still in their batting order, but by the time the coach got from one end of the bench to the other, the kids at the beginning had already popped up. Players (and I use the term loosely) wandered happily around the field while the adults encouraged them in the right direction. Home plate coaches drew little lines in the sand to show the batters where to stand.

They were having a good time and had no clue what the score was. That’s where I finally ran into baseball in its purest form. I might return to that field some day, but only to watch the littlest players, not the organization.

It doesn’t seem to take long for these little kids having fun to grow into serious contenders and then it’s no fun to watch. Or, I imagine, to play.

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