The Magic of Little League Baseball
On a summer evening in June, I traveled to Wellesley, Massachusetts to cover a Little League baseball game for the town’s local access television station.
Driving to the game, I imagined, what if this was going to be an epic affair? Would both of the team bosses be in attendance, walking around and conversing with the manager or personnel prior to the first pitch? Would both pitchers be sharing stories or memories about their individual careers? Would any young ballplayer feel they were on the hot seat or could be traded once the game was concluded?
Questions, wild thoughts and ideas raced through my mind as I traveled to my destination, Reidy Field, [in Wellesley, Massachusetts on Route 16]. Although, I would eventually come back to the moment and realize, this is little league baseball. It’s all about having fun and enjoying oneself, but most importantly, playing the game that American’s consider their pastime.
This idea of having fun and just enjoying the game was emphasized by one of the many Wellesley assistant coaches, Gary Liberman. He said, “I think they love just getting together [and] having fun. They love practices. The games are fun. They all support each other; no one gets down if they lose.”
Having fun was also echoed by one of the many volunteer broadcasters at the Wellesley Channel, (the town’s local access television station), Robbie Johnson.
“Its just fun,” said Johnson. “I mean anything can happen. It’s not like the pros where one team is much better than the other. Its like both these teams can win on any given night.”
Even Wellesley’s opponent on that particular evening, Parkway, mentioned before the first pitch was thrown that they just love having fun and playing baseball. They also mentioned, how it is just a wonderful time to let loose and spend a few hours with their friends.
One of the more enjoyable aspects of Little League is that there are no contracts, endorsements or big time players, just the simple average young boys from the local elementary school playing, having fun and enjoying their time on the diamond.
Following my various discussions with the coaches, broadcasters and players, it was officially time to go on the air or really, begin a tape-delay broadcast of the game. The game was ready to begin and here I am, all excited about writing this particular story. Yet, I was able to put the thoughts and ideas aside and focused on creating an energetic and exciting broadcast because it’s Little League and it’s all about having a blast.
The game seemed dull for Wellesley during the first few innings, but exciting for Parkway, who battled at the plate while waiting patiently for the right pitch, as well as performed extremely well on the defensive end. Yet, Wellesley showed no signs of giving up or calling it quits. Parkway watched their five-run lead slip away rapidly and witnessed an epic Little League comeback by Wellesley in the bottom of the sixth inning.
After my final call of the broadcast had been announced, I dashed over to the Wellesley dugout to interview the young boy who drove in the sixth run of that specific inning to make it an 8-7 final.
Wellesley’s Michael Vaslin, who pitched great that evening, was in shock when I asked if I could get a quote from him. It seemed natural to me, but to him, this was an exciting moment that he probably presumed would be highlighted or displayed on various sports websites a few hours later across the country.
“It feels very good that I was able to have the winning hit and I think I pitched well,” said Vaslin.
Vaslin smiled and was swarmed by his teammates after the quick interview with high fives and hugs, as well as received a special moment with his father.
After both teams had officially packed up their belongings and found their families to drive them home, I quietly strolled across the street to my car thinking about what I had witnessed and learned from this game.
First, teamwork is a major component that is taught and exhibited by each father, who takes the time to devote a few hours each night in teaching their son’s or daughter’s the rules of baseball. Both Wellesley and Parkway displayed their teachings in the correct manner, which was by not yelling, screaming or harassing their young team, but instead, encouraging them through the good and bad moments.
Second, it is about mental toughness and being able to rebound if a teammate commits an error or does not catch a routine fly ball. I remember a specific coach of an 8-year old team mentioning how children need to be resilient and fight through adversity. In some ways, sure, that sounds about right, but lets not get ahead of ourselves and remember coach, these are just America’s youth enjoying themselves.
Finally, as I alluded to in the beginning of this particular article, it is about the young boys and girls in America having fun. I personally feel Coach Liberman explained it perfectly to me afterward when he said, “I think it’s just the smiles of the kids. The great thing about this team, every kid can contribute to a win.”
Little League baseball is a blast and certainly something I enjoyed playing when I was younger, but also, watching too, especially in August when team’s from around the world travel to Williamsport, Pennsylvania and compete for the championship.
Whether you are a parent, former little leaguer or know someone that plays the game, go out and support them. Even check out various town leagues or encourage your children to take part in the game with their friends, neighbors or classroom peers. Little League baseball is fun, exciting and dramatic, but overall, just a great time that is had by everyone.