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Courage, Character, and Loyalty

Courage, Character, and Loyalty

“I trust in God. I love my country and will respect its laws. I will play fair and strive to win. But win or lose, I will always do my best.”

These words of the Little League Pledge become even more powerful when recited by young ballplayers. The timing just after our National Anthem, and just before the umpire declares “Play Ball” is perfect. This pledge of honor, spoken during a time of fun and innocence in a child’s life, provides direction for a lifetime.

Our Nation and the World would be a much better place if everyone could just follow the pledge Little Leaguers make before every ballgame. That simple paragraph has all the bases covered. There is no wiggle room for interpretation or discussion. A politician can’t even mess it up. Perfectly simple, yet perfectly to the point.

God, Country, and Family brought to life by the playing of Little League Baseball. It’s actually pretty amazing when you think about it. Those three things then seamed together like the two halves of a baseball by that special red thread. The thread that binds being the words respect laws, play fair, and always do your best.

The importance of striving to win brought to light, but balanced by the understanding there’s a right way to achieve victory. The reality that you’re not going to win them all, but that you hold the ability to approach and end every game as a winner. The effort you put forth and the reasons why are the most important thing. Not a final score or a season’s record.

The world has become a much smaller place with the technology of today. However, humanity has seemed to make everything more difficult. This especially holds true to people understanding, respecting, and loving their fellow man. Maybe everyone should recite the Little League Pledge before beginning their day, just like Little Leaguers do prior to the first pitch. I would love to see the elected in Washington rise in unison and begin every day with the Pledge of Allegiance followed by the Little League Pledge.

One person that has followed the Little League Pledge during his journey through life is Montoursville’s very own Mike Mussina. His recent induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame was an exclamation point after the phrase good guys do finish first. Mike did everything the right way from the time he put on his first glove until his final pitch that finished off his first 20-win season of his career while he was wearing pinstripes.

His baseball career began in his beloved Montoursville that can be seen to the Northeast from the top row of Howard J. Lamade Stadium. A high school State Championship while competing for his hometown school. A great college career at Stanford, which included earning two degrees in three years. Then quick work in the minor leagues that led him to being an absolute star for the Baltimore Orioles and New York Yankees. The reward of Mike’s efforts was recently celebrated in Cooperstown, by baseball immortality. The baseball dream that every little leaguer would love to achieve and more. Most just want to play in the majors; Mike took his dream all the way to the Hall.

Mike followed the Little League Pledge during his Major League Baseball career when many strayed away from it. A time that, unfortunately, will always be known as the “Steroid Era.” A time when most pitchers’ ERA — earned run average — became inflated just like the arms of the juiced hitters. Then, of course, many pitchers also joined in to cheat the game.

It was at this time Mike Mussina of the Baltimore Orioles/New York Yankees did his best work. There was never a doubt about his integrity and approach. He exemplified hard work, commitment, and perseverance. Mike always pitched from the neck up, constantly developing his game throughout his career. He may be the most cerebral pitcher that has ever taken the mound.

No matter what success came his way, Mike never changed or wavered from who he was away from the diamond. He loved his family, loved his hometown of Montoursville, and loved the game of baseball.

Tip of my 73rd Little League World Series cap to Mike Mussina for his induction into the National Baseball Hall of Fame. But more importantly, for honoring the Little League Pledge throughout his life’s journey.

God Bless America.

Jim Webb

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