Buzz Ball: Little League -- where baseball is supposed to be baseball
It’s been almost 10 years since I decided to retire from baseball umpiring.
In my 27-year career, I can honestly say that I have had more ups than downs. It was a good life, but it was a tough life.
In Iowa, high school baseball is during the summer months, so that meant hot, sticky games that could go on for hours. It sometimes took two hours to travel to a game, which seemed to be even longer coming home, especially after a tough game behind the plate.
I have made many friends through my umpiring – on and off the field. Umpiring taught me self-respect, patience, courage, discipline and the art of intimidation.
But we all had our beginnings and that usually is in Little League. Covering the Carthage, Mo., Little League All-Star teams this week has taken me back to my roots – back to where baseball is supposed to be baseball.
It is not a coincidence that baseball is our national pastime. It is played in virtually every town, in every county and in every state in the union. Every Little Leaguer has dreams of pitching that perfect game in the World Series, or hitting a grand slam home run in the bottom of the ninth to cap a miraculous comeback.
In Little League, fundamentals are taught, basics are stressed, and good sportsmanship is supposed to be valued above winning.
But sadly, the latter is very seldom true. There are some fans, parents and coaches who try to convey to our Little Leaguers that winning is above anything and everything. Mistakes are errors that cost games and disappoint many. Perfection is supposed to be the norm, not the exception.
But Little League is just that – little players learning the greatest game every invented. They will make mistakes, they will be thinking about other things and they will take that third strike when they should have been swinging.
But I don’t believe Little Leaguers make millions of dollars a year; I don’t believe Little League coaches are paid as much as Tony LaRussa. Therefore we should not expect them to perform on the caliber of Major Leaguers.
Nine-year-old All-Star Coach Mike Doyle said a profound statement to his team Friday night. And that statement should be in the playbook of all Little League Teams.
He said, “Don’t forget to have fun.”
After all, is that what baseball is all about?