What is it about little league baseball that so moves people? This year I have a seven-year-old son in coach-pitch baseball; his nine-year-old sister in slow-pitch softball, and their six-year-old brother in t-ball. We’re spending a lot of time at the ball fields this year!
Now, I’m not a huge fan of baseball. I’ve been known to describe baseball as two minutes of excitement crammed into two and half hours. Years ago, if I followed anyone, it was the Reds, but that was back when Johnny Bench still played, and people still said nice things about Pete Rose. These days, I have little clue who the big names are on any teams. I have been following things enough to know about the expansion teams, especially since Adam (my seven-year-old) plays for the Devil Rays.
But I’ve noticed something as I sit and watch the parents at practices and games. People who aren’t passionate about much in their lives become screaming, dedicated fans. It’s not always because their son or daughter is playing, either. I’ve seen people at some of the games who don’t have any family members involved in any team. Where our kids play, at the West Jefferson Youth Athletic Association, the three fields are surrounded by houses, and it’s not at all uncommon to see the people who live there sitting out in their back yards watching the games. It’s neat to see that, especially when you realize that attendance at Columbus Clippers games (the minor league affiliate of the Yankees) has been decreasing over the last few years, slowly but surely. (They’re going to fix that with a new ballpark though.)
And I’ve noticed something about me, as well. Except for a couple of seasons of church-league softball about five years ago, I hadn’t played in probably fifteen years. My little league career was mercifully short due to lack of effort on my part. But when my kids are playing, and I’ve got a glove on my hand helping out during practice, I tend to forget I’m frighteningly close to forty. I’ll start spouting all sorts of batting and fielding advice, and I have no idea where I’m getting it. Happily, my kid’s coaches tolerate my occasional well-intended suggestions. (I’ve promised myself not to be the parent from hell.) But there’s something about the game when you’ve got family playing, or even when you don’t, and it’s just kids having fun. Maybe that’s it. Maybe it’s still fun at this stage because it’s still just a game.