Orioles players are not the only ones reminiscing on their time in Little League.
The Baltimore Orioles are playing the Boston Red Sox in the Little League Classic tonight, one of the most special games on the baseball calendar. The annual event occurs during the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, and the game is played at a nearby minor league park.
The game is meaningful for the hundreds of tweeners who get to meet and learn from their heroes while also playing for a championship. It is also an exciting time for the big leaguers who get to be kids again for part of the day by sliding down the hill in the outfield and fooling around with a bunch of 12-year-olds. The Orioles get a brief reprieve from thinking about the wild card race.
Seeing the Orioles take part in the Little League Classic also has us here at Birds Watcher thinking back to our baseball memories from childhood. Here is what contributor Michael Najarian had to say about his experience on the 60-foot diamonds:
“My little league teams never won any championships, but I loved pretty much everything related to playing. I loved stepping on the mound, either as a starter or relief pitcher, and getting the outs necessary to keep going. I loved stepping up to the plate and driving balls into the outfield for hits, and also laying down some bunts to either advance the runner or try to beat it out and get on base myself. I also loved playing in the field and making a nice play on defense when the time called for it, or even just a routine play. If it was on the field, I loved doing it.”
My Own Experience
For my part, I played youth baseball from second grade through eighth grade, with some tournaments lingering into high school. In Little League I played for the Tigers, and ironically enough our biggest rivals were the Orioles. We were pretty weak my first season but good in my second, and I led Newton East Little League with four home runs that spring (no big deal).
None of my baseball friends really stuck, but I have lots of fond memories from those years. I never played in the World Series, but I was fortunate to go to a one-week camp at the complex in Williamsport and play in both Lamade and Volunteer Stadium. Eleven years later, I still have my dark green New England Region jersey, and a poster from the neighboring museum.
When I played in AAA (the level below the Little League Majors), our practices were very casual and happened to be close to my house, so I went almost every day when most of my teammates could not. For my dedication I won the league’s sportsmanship award at the end of the season, one of the few trophies I have earned in my life. It still sits in the front hall but seems to lack impressiveness with “Greensboro Grasshoppers” printed below my name.
I had a wonderful coach that year who gave me every opportunity to improve, and that was true of all the good coaches I had over the years. When you hear on TV how important it is for the coaches to encourage their players instead of taking the games too seriously, that is completely true. As a kid, I liked my coach if he wanted us to have fun and enjoy baseball, and I didn’t like him if he pushed us too hard. It was that simple. As competitive as Little League players are, it is still just a fun extracurricular, not nearly as important as family or school.
The Orioles, Red Sox, and every other MLB team can stand to learn something from the kids, as well. While baseball is their top priority, Major Leaguers could use a reminder that the sport is fun more than anything. Just as the Field of Dreams event is for the love of the game, so too is the Little League Classic.