Normally, this is the time of year I welcome the world to Williamsport for the playing and festivities of the Little League World Series. Hopefully, next year my column is just that. Can you imagine a year ago if one of those seers of the future would have told you where our Nation would be right now? I think we all would have been shaking our heads, believing there was no way possible. The prediction would have qualified for material for at least three sci-fi, drama, and apocalyptic movies and a Netflix series made for the binge-watcher. I never partake in this type of so-called entertainment. After what I’m currently witnessing, I now know why.
The second half of summer has always been my favorite time of year, with the exception of that whole going back to school thing when I was younger. I still wake up with nightmares dreading that. The great weather and long days of daylight make the West Branch Valley special no matter your age. It’s just a great time of year to do anything outside. Then when the calendar flips to August, it signifies two of my favorite events are on the way — the Little League All-Star season winding down with every 12-year-old baseball players’ dream of that legendary trip to the Little League World Series hanging in the balance. And the kickoff beginning the tradition of Pennsylvania high school football is just around the corner.
Now that I think of it, it wasn’t just the whole back to school thing I dreaded; it was also that ending of summer abruptly with early mornings and long afternoons of two-a-day football practices. Like most that have played high school football — I hated summer practices. When my son Hunter told me that he loved summer football camp, I knew he had a true passion for the game — and maybe a screw loose. Although today’s two weeks of hell aren’t quite what they were back in the day. If you didn’t know, Hunter now plays linebacker for the University of Connecticut. Unfortunately, their season fell victim to COVID-19. As I finished pen this article, our local Friday Night Lights has been delayed for two week, so we are yet to see what that outcome will be for certain. That’s a story for another day, believe me, I’ll be coming back to it.
To me, the Little League World Series is the greatest youth sporting event in the world. It’s about so much more than baseball. This can be said for the overall Little League Experience young folks from around the world share in their local community. It’s a special time in a child’s life, one that most remember and cherish for a lifetime. Very few Little Leaguers make it to the LLWS. The winding gauntlet to get there requires talent, coaching, and a lot of luck. That being said, when practice starts in February, Williamsport is on every Little Leaguers mind.
That last year of playing Little League is so very special. It is talked about by so many, from those who didn’t play baseball after Little League to those that made it all the way to the Majors. That final year on the small diamond allows for more home runs, no-hitters, in-field singles, and diamond gems than any other time while playing baseball.
All that are playing Little League are truly playing for the love of the game. It’s about having fun, being with your friends, and going for pizza or Dairy Queen after the game. It is important for every player to get a hit and play well. However, all is forgotten about a half-hour after the game ends.
The saying of the Little League Pledge, the playing of the National Anthem, and having your name announced is a special time for all playing Little League Baseball. If you are fortunate enough to stand in respect of another nations’ National Anthem, that means you’ve had a really, really amazing season.
Here is a thought — how about ALL professional athletes set an example for the Little Leaguers and stand for the National Anthem and respect our American Flag. If you want to really insist on using American sports time to protest, do it when your name is announced prior to the game, take that knee or do whatever you would like to do at this time. Then all rise together for the playing of the National Anthem. That is powerful and would enhance the opportunity of support for whatever the cause.
A tip of my Philadelphia Phillies MLB Little League Classic cap to LLB President and CEO Steve Keener. Usually, this is the time of the year he’s busy beyond belief, and I’m bugging him about something regarding the World Series or that special game at Historic Bowman Field.
Steve does an amazing job overseeing Little League Baseball in every aspect. At this point, he would want me to give credit to his great team over on the hill, along with all the volunteers that make Little League Baseball possible.
I would feel much better about MLB, the NBA, or NFL if Mr. Steve Keener was the commissioner. To me, he has a much tougher job. Steve has to keep the integrity and purity of the Little League Baseball intact while balancing it with today’s big-money sports industry. The other guys care only about one thing. Steve does an amazing job of keeping one eye on the future and the other on preparing future generations.
The leaders and athletes of the three most-watched professional leagues in America could learn a lot from Little League Baseball beginning with the LL Pledge. “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.”
God Bless America.