Every spring/summer my son plays baseball. He loves it. Is he the best on his team, not even close, but he plays with heart. He’s out there because he wants to be out there. He’s been with the same team for years. We lose a few players every year. Some move on to the select leagues, some quit out of not really loving the game…but essentially they’ve become a tight crew. They have a pattern. They aren’t really in it the first few innings usually, by the third, they’ve hit their rhythm…and if the whole they’ve dug for themselves isn’t too deep, they win. They win as a team.
Baseball season is a true commitment, even for me. Practices, games, driving here and there. Laundry three times a week to be sure his uniform is always clean. It’s a commitment for Bear. When other kids are going to the pool during they day, he stays home on game days so that he’s not too tired to play. When you get to the field, you have to be up. You have to be ready. The heat can’t hold you back. Rain can’t hold you back. You have to have desire. He does…every day. Every year, I wonder, will he not want to play this year. Is this the year he grows tired of the commitment, of the rigor, of the effort…and every year, he’s eager and excited to sign up.
This year was no different. He played hard. He improved.
I was proud of him.
I was proud of the team.
I was proud of the coaches.
Until last night.
The head coach was out. The team was playing for third place against a select team. They’d beat this team before and could do it again. They were up 8 to 3 at the top of the 4th inning. My son rode the bench. By the middle of the 5th inning, he came over to the end of the dugout and asked the crowd if he was “the worst baseball player ever” and broke into tears. This still breaks my heart. This team is a pay to play team. They are not select. It’s about teaching young men to learn and love baseball. Sometimes winning happens, sometimes it doesn’t. But the back-up coaches didn’t get that last night. They failed to play about 4 or 5 of the boys fairly, because they’re not the STAR players. They took a time out and removed a player from right field when a left-handed batter came up. They broke the spirit of the boys that had gotten them to the semi-finals. Even the good players, saw what was happening and weren’t happy about it. They went too far for the win.
I know some people wished all season long that the head coach had done more reprimanding or held more practices, to make the boys EVEN BETTER. But this coach understood that his job was to keep the boys improving, interested and enjoying the game. He taught them that they win as a team and they lose as a team. These other coaches forgot that. These other coaches, in a few thoughtless actions and words, crushed the dreams of impressionable boys on the verge of becoming men. Through their actions, they taught the boys that you can sacrifice anything as long as you want to win enough. That’s not why my son plays baseball. He plays for the uniform. He plays for his team. He plays for the love of the game. I love seeing him in his uniform. I love watching the boys learn over the course of the season how to play like a team.