Beginning next week, the Little League World Series begins in South Williamsport. The eyes of a nation, and around the world, will be on Lamade Field for 10 days.
I love baseball. I loved playing. I loved the smell of a new ball, and a leather glove. I loved the dusty infield and the smell of a fresh cut green outfield. I loved the butterflies in the stomach before that first pitch of the game. I love to hear those words, "Play ball!"
I love the smack and pop of a fastball in the catcher's mitt, and the call from the umpire.
I loved being poised, knees bent, pounding the glove, anticipating the ball coming my way.
I love the "thunk" and crack of the bat, the runner going flat out around third, headed for home, the throw from the field, the cloud of dust, the call from the ump, the rise of a cheering crowd.
I love the thrill of victory, the high-fives, the elated feeling of having done better than your opponent.
I never minded looking down the bench, seeing teammates hanging their heads, wondering how they could have lost, because losing doesn't mean defeated. There will always be another game, another opportunity, another victory celebration. I loved playing with guys who, in victory or loss, left it all out on the field, did the best they could, and are able to walk away with no shame.
I loved playing baseball. I love baseball. It's a game where young men learn life's lessons early. They learn to always do their best. They learn that winning doesn't make them invincible, and losing doesn't make them defeated. They learn sometimes even your best isn't going to make you a winner on a given day in a given place. They learn a spectacular play is the result of lots of unspectacular practice and preparation. They learn it takes a team, working together, picking one another up. They learn there is joy in winning, and even in losing, there are some very special moments, and to accept a loss without being defeated.
They learn that there are some things that transcend social, economic, cultural, and language barriers, that there are things that connect us all, around the world, and that the human spirit is the same in all places, striving for victory, and in some quiet way, learn to enter into and appreciate another's success.
I don't know if there is baseball in heaven, but I sure hope so. But if not, I am thankful that I have experienced a little bit of heaven on earth, on that diamond-shaped field, in the warmth of a sunny summer day, during a game that will ever remain and remind us of our youth.
Charles Fry, Milton