No Crying in Baseball?

We are at the bottom of the ninth inning of our final season of minor baseball. Fifteen years of early/rushed/late dinners, being baked by the sun, keeping score, dragging fields, washing dirt & grass stained uniforms, stinky socks, neglected yard work, insane spring schedules, sunflower seeds, crushing defeats, 2-out rallies, stunning comebacks, underdog victories, weekend tournaments, bad coaches, great coaches, Provincials, medals, MVPs, baseballs randomly scattered throughout the house, dozens of pairs of cleats, good calls/bad calls, strike-outs, big hits, stolen bases, double plays, scrapes & bruises, slides into first/second/third/home. It’s been a lifetime of the good, the bad, the ugly, the memorable, and I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.

Tomorrow my youngest son will play his very last minor league baseball game. We had thought that last year would be his final year, but he was privileged to play this year as an over-aged player. I had thought that any and all emotions connected to Casey’s final season of baseball were spent last year, but here I sit with a tear or two threatening to slide down my cheeks. Nothing could compete with how last season ended: Casey maxing out on pitches in the final game and being taken out of the game by his dad. That was a special moment that still makes me tear up. As an over-aged player, Casey couldn’t pitch this year, and I managed to go through the season enjoying the time without really being emotionally invested.

I realized something today as I raced from work to catch the remainder of our semi-final game…there is no such thing as being unemotional when it comes to the things my kids love to do! I am my kids’ biggest cheerleader, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Watching them do something that makes them happy makes me incredibly happy. It doesn’t matter if they excel or just do it for the fun of it. I hate to miss a moment, even though sometimes there is no other choice.

In all honesty, I didn’t expect our team to win today. I knew we would be playing a very good team, one we’ve struggled with in several ways before. I knew it would be a tough game. Based on previous experiences, I expected drama. I was right on both counts.

We were down 4-3 by the time I made it to the game. We tied and pulled ahead. The other team tied. It was a very close game, seesawing back and forth. It was evident quite early that the opposition was lacking in sportsmanship and class. Well, we all knew that already from our previous games against them. One of their players was ejected, but they could have also easily lost their coach and a couple more players. If I had been the umpire, I would have ejected the coach for certain.

It’s sad really, because that team has several skilled players. They are a good team, capable of winning on any given day, and they certainly do not need to resort to the ugliness and cheap tactics they tend to display. Our game against them today was a great game. It was close and really could have gone either way, but the game will be remembered more for their unsportsmanlike behaviour than it will for the actual play on the field. What is even more unfortunate is how that unsportsmanlike attitude was equally displayed by their coaches and parents. There was a sense of entitlement amongst that team; spoiled prima donnas who had already planned on being in tomorrow’s final and thought everything should just fall into their laps.

I wonder if they realize how their own attitude and actions worked against them. Did they see how their teamwork disintegrated as they chose to blame the umpires for their failure to hit the strike zone and execute plays? Can they comprehend how their coach’s lack of sportsmanship and integrity crippled their team’s ability to rally through a tough inning and focus on the game? Do they know how ugly they looked to those watching? It’s sad, because there are some talented players on that team, and I’m sure they are generally good kids, too.

Our team isn’t stacked with talent, far from it actually, but we managed to play a pretty good game today. Our pitchers threw the ball well. We had key hits when we needed them most. Our base runners were smart. The team worked together. They had life and enthusiasm and spirit. We worked hard for that win, and we deserved it. The parents found the game a tad nerve-wracking though. The final tomorrow is going to be another tough game against a tough team. I honestly don’t expect to win, although I don’t mind being proven wrong. The real victory was picking ourselves up to play our game to win today’s game!

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