Methow Valley Youth Baseball has enjoyed a remarkably fair-weathered season. With only one day of rain to speak of, the teams have had clear skies, albeit a few windy days on the diamond.
Like many of the organized sports teams experiencing record enrollment following the pandemic lockdown, this year’s turnout for baseball was no exception. In March, team organizers had their hands full, scrambling for volunteer coaches to fill the rosters. Thanks to some parents who stepped in to help, little league will be wrapping up the eight-week season this week, right as the summer heat arrives.
Little league can best be described as a true comedy of errors. While the pace of baseball doesn’t match that of soccer or basketball, the slowness of the game deceives. The difficulty in baseball lies in the variety of skills involved. The precision, the hand-eye coordination required for accuracy, and the pressure on each individual during each play are all factors. Errors are obvious.
Body coordination and comprehension of the game are still under development for these youngsters. Hitting, throwing and catching all require different hands and body positions. Combine that with understanding the play of the game and, well, a comedy of errors plays out: overthrown balls, missed bases, grounders rolling between legs, balls thrown to the wrong base and, of course, outfielders who prefer to pick the dandelions than watch the game.
Being an outfielder in little league may perhaps be the most trying of all positions. The opportunity for boredom is too enticing. You see, unlike the major leagues, balls rarely make it to the outfield, creating a prime time to daydream. It’s not uncommon to see an outfielder spinning in circles or deep in phantom play fighting imaginary villains in his own world.
When a ball does finally make it to the outfield, the fielder is often caught off guard. Often, too, the infielders end up chasing the ball to the outfield, creating all kinds of commotion and confusion as to who should get the ball and then to whom it should be thrown.
At the plate, emotions are highest. There’s nothing more stressful than the prospect of striking out, and nothing more gratifying than smacking the ball with a solid whack. It’s all eyes on the batter, the tension palpable. The crowd hushes, with a few unsolicited encouragements and tips from adoring parents: “Eye on the ball, you got this! Step into the plate!”
For some, the pressure builds to an emotional crest and they are paralyzed. Then, when the third strike flies by, tears erupt. With hits eluding the little player for weeks, frustration mounts and mom makes her way to the dugout for hugs and some sweet encouragement. The promise of Sheri’s Sweet Shoppe seems to help get them back on the field.
While innings mount and points grow, in time kids begin to start thinking as a team instead of individuals. This is not intuitive. There is so much excitement about uniforms and bats, yet the concept that the whole is greater than the parts easily escapes them. In the early days, these little people only see their part, become frustrated at teammates who err, and can feel defeated even if their team is winning — especially if they’ve had a bad day at the plate.
But then, finally, after weeks … whack! A solid hit. The batter makes it to first base for the first time. A sweet and glorious personal victory. His team cheers, and now, the tears flow from mom.