The Agony and Ecstasy of Little League Baseball
It is not over for us, America. Don’t give up hope. Our kids have shown us the way. Louis Lappe, all of 6’1 and 153 lbs, hit a walk-off home run in the bottom of the 6th inning to enable his El Segundo, Calif. team to capture the 76th Little League World Championship in Williamsport, Pa. A sensational ending to a long, arduous journey through the best 10-12 year old teams in the world. Oh, the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat!
If you follow baseball, you gotta love the Little League World Series (LLWS). Since 1949, I am sure Hammontonians love to watch baseball played where our hometown all-stars won the world title in the third year of competition.
Kids learning to play the game competitively for the first time with a world-wide audience including their parents and friends who fly in from all parts of the world to cheer and be a part of a magical experience that will produce a lifetime of memories.
For a youngster to jump from the sandlot to a well-manicured ballpark is probably akin to sporting a tuxedo and dress shoes after a childhood wearing jeans and sneakers. Little League baseball is the “theater of the unexpected.” Where else can you witness a team getting no-hit, but winning the game 2-0? Where else can a team score three runs without a hit—three walks, a hit batsman and two errors?
Where else can you see a batter 4’10” and weighing 88 lbs power one over the fence, 225 feet away?
Glen Macnow of WIP Sports Radio recently recalled for the listening audience the time when, as a Little League catcher who wore glasses, a foul tip struck his mask with such force that it shattered the prescription glasses that he wore. Fearing he would have to be taken out of the game because he couldn’t see, his mom who had the same glasses for herself, motioned for the game to be paused so she could slip her son her glasses with the shiny rhinestones, through an opening in the fence behind home plate.
In a local 1950’s little league game, the batter hit a line drive to the centerfield wall for an apparent double, but the center fielder fired a strike to the shortstop covering second to tag the runner out. The totally innocent and enterprising outfielder, when questioned by an umpire, reasoned that he was justified in using the ball he carried in his back pocket in case of an emergency!
Baseball, as well as all other sports, can unite a stadium, a city, a region and as we have just witnessed, an entire world. There are no color barriers in sports. There are just teammates, all united in a common cause: victory. And, if defeat is the result of competition, gracious losing should be the primary reaction.
For a few precious hours, sports competition can teach us all discipline, teamwork, loyalty, brotherhood and fair play. In a country so divided politically and philosophically, we have the answer to harmony, happiness and utter joy right under our noses.
Love what sports competition teaches and love one another.
William Domenico is a Hammonton resident and former contributor to The Gazette.