Time for a diversion from the giant slide toward socialism…
Instead today I’d like to reflect on baseball for a moment. First of all, let me be clear, I was not a good baseball player as a kid. I love it now and love that my son enjoys it so much (he is 7) but I was, well…I stunk!
However, I think baseball is an amazing glue in our society. It bonds so many people together, it creates bonds between parents and kids, and it is something that nearly everyone can understand.
So…hats off to the Texas Longhorns!
What a come from behind win against Arizona State. Congrats boys!
I have to say that my love for baseball began really as a child–but not playing it. I used to go to the Astrodome and watch the Houston Astros play and I can still remember that big board that lit up whenever (which was rare) they hit a homer in that airless dome.
Notice that it is the second inning and already the Astros have committed an error–you gotta love ’em.
Then in college I really became more and more of a sports enthusiast while living with a roommate who was and to some degree still is “all sports, all the time.” But my real passion for the game came in 1990. It was that year (my senior year at the University of Texas) that I assisted in coaching the Austin, Westlake Hills Little League Minor League Red Sox.
I am top left next to Benjamin Schenkkan–you might know him as Ben McKenzie
But I digress…
(seriously though–watch SouthLAnd–he is awesome)
That experience-coaching those 9-11 year olds was so rewarding. I had the best time coaching those guys. I learned what it meant to be a role model to young boys–it was obvious from the first practice that these guys looked up to us and were watching us and were soaking in what it was like to be a 21 year old. It would not have been appropriate for these young boys to see us acting irresponsibly, immorally or in any way that would taint their view of the world. It was an awesome responsibility. And…they were fun to be around.
Mason Ayer (2nd row-first kid on left) had never played baseball before–but you could tell with each practice that he was loving it. He became one of our pitchers before mid-season and his father said he was really loving the sport. These boys were learning their first lessons in teamwork, pulling together as a unit, supporting their friends and teammates, individual responsibility and effort. What a great time.
I was touched recently when talking to one of the kids’ dads who told me that he remembers that team and recalls how cool it was when one of his sons was pitching and the other catching. The pitching son got flustered and walked a couple of batters. The dad recalled how his brother (the catcher) called time on his own, went out to the mound, put his arm around his brother and calmed him down. What a great moment.
I got my first taste of fatherhood and understood what it really meant to care about other people. If you need a lesson in caring for others, take care of some kids for a while by coaching, teaching, babysitting, whatever…and you realize how important it is that kids be exposed to positive role models who will not lead them astray. What a great lesson.
So now, 19 years later, the Westlake Red Sox are lawyers, bankers, construction managers, teachers, broadway stars and tv stars and this year and last I had the opportunity to coach again. This year, it was the Spring Branch Memorial Sports Association Junior Baseball Angels.
(no picture–they are still kids)
And I must say coaching my own son brings back all of those amazing moments and lessons I saw 19 years ago. Baseball is an opportunity for men to show boys how to treat people, how to play hard and to give it your all. It teaches living up to your commitments and understanding the importance of building a team. It focuses on individual achievement but also shows these boys how one person can make a difference to a group–in either direction.
At the end of my coaching year in 1990, the parents got together an bought the coaches a framed picture that said the following:
“Small boys learn to be large men in the presence of large men who care about small boys.”
So true that is. I pray that the truth of that statement penetrates the minds of every man and woman who influences young children. It is too important to take for granted.