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By DYLAN MALONE
Boys will be boys.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard that over the years. At some point, those kids grow up and get jobs. Then they take wives and have kids (perhaps in a different order).
I’ve had the opportunity to parooz the little league scene this summer taking in the Decatur, Monroe, and Monmouth atmosphere and boy have I accrued some great stories this year.
It’s always fun to watch the kids play and get better and grow with their friends. It’s also easy to tell which ones have parents in the stands, which ones wish their parents weren’t in the stands, and which ones are there by themselves.
99 times out of 100 it’s the quiet kids who have no one there for them in the crowd. The one kid out of that 100 is usually silent because his mother is the loudest in the stands. That’s the kids that’s glad he has a cap on to pull down over his eyes. You gotta love it.
There are those parents, however, who maybe forget their role in the audience. It’s not to get your kid a college scholarship for baseball, it’s to support them in the game of life.
It’s another issue completely, but that’s why I’m weary of travel teams. Not that I think we shouldn’t have them, just I wonder how much pressure gets put on these kids to succeed. I think that amount of competitiveness is good for a growing boy (or girl) but it needs to be coupled with the understanding from parents telling them it’s alright to fail.
As my friend Forrest would tell you, “That’s all I have to say about that.”
At a Decatur game a few weeks back, I saw a routine pop fly go wrong. The poor kid got underneath the ball at first base but it hung in the stratosphere for too long and when it finally came down it was off the kid’s glove in foul territory.
What shouldn’t happen, however, is what a parent from the other team did as I stood at the fence taking pics. A grown man began to laugh heartily and clap at the boy’s misfortune. To top it off, he then shouted to who I can only imagine was his grandson at the plate batting, “Just put it anywhere out there, they got nothing!”
Talk about living vicariously through your kids (or your kids’ kids). Of course the poor kids who muffed the foul ball slunked back to his position and pulled his cap over his eyes (a kid’s safety net).
I just shook my head in disbelief. I looked around the man and saw two kids looking at him as he laughed. One of them joined in and even pointed a finger at the first baseman. The other sort of sat there with a confused look on his face.
That’s right, little one, think it through. What you’re feeling right now is called a “moral tug”. Going against the grain is never easy for a kid, especially when an adult is leading the example.
These kids are so impressionable. I’d like to think that both boys who witnessed the immature actions of a bitter man will eventually turn out to be gentleman but the fact of the matter is that if they’re subjected to that attitude for too much longer we’ll probably be seeing them both grow into a much uglier version of their potential at manhood.
There were several good examples of sportsmanship too on my journeys through the bowels of youth baseball/softball.
In one game, a catcher dropped a pitch that went between her legs. After standing up she looked around for the ball circling it several times before throwing her hands up, glove and all, conceding that the ball had disappeared without a trace. All the while, parents, coaches, and even the opposing batter were trying to point out that the ball was lodged between the girls’ shin guards and her leg.
It was priceless, it was precious, it was perfect. That’s what youth league is supposed to be about. That girl will most likely not play on the US Olympic softball team someday. I don’t think she cared. When she got back to the dugout she got a big smile and a high-five from all of her coaches telling her she did a fine job stopping the ball.
What’s the moral of the story here? I have good stories from the boys’ side too but sadly they are fewer and far between than the girls. Maybe it’s because we don’t have those expectations from the girls to grow up and be professional athletes. Whatever the reason, we should be treating the boys the same way.
They’re all just kids. They’re going to mess up, they’re going to fail. We need to let them know that’s alright in the game of life. That’s what this is for them, after all. Life, not just baseball or softball.