Goshen News, Goshen, IN

May 5, 2013

THE SKINNY: Lessons, life take place on LL fields


GOSHEN — 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

— The Little League Pledge


Some of the happiest moments of my childhood were spent on Little League diamonds.

And over the course of many years as a sportswriter, I’ve spent many hours at Little League diamonds, chronicling the play of the latest crop of youngsters as they make their way.

One of my favorite memories from covering Little League came a few years ago in North Carolina. I covered an all-star tournament featuring players age 5. Two players in the outfield were chit-chatting away when their important conversation was rudely interrupted by a ball landing in their midst.

One of the players disposed of the distraction by throwing it back to the infield — to the wrong base — and then the two players continued their chat.

Last week, another Little League season got under way on Saturday,

And with all the inclement weather we have had this spring, on this spring Saturday morning, Mother Nature came through with perfect weather — a little chilly, but considering what we have dealt with all spring, it was welcomed.

I showed up at the field a few minutes before 8 a.m. to cover the opening ceremonies for Goshen Little League.

Hundreds of players were already arriving, looking spiffy in their uniforms, getting together with their coaches and teams and assembling for a massive picture — which I took after conquering a mild fear of heights, going up in one of those basket loader trucks, and getting a beautiful, panoramic view of one of the main fields, with the teams arrayed throughout the outfield.

Every year when I cover Little League, my thoughts are always transported back more than 35 years to my own Little League days.

Baseball was one of five sports I played on an organized basis as a child — along with basketball, soccer, wrestling and football.

But it was on the baseball field that some of my favorite lessons were learned — things I am still applying today.

The power of teamwork.

Getting back up after life knocks you down.

I was never one of the best players. I usually made the all-star teams, but my contributions usually came through the things managers and coaches like to call “intangibles.”

That’s usually code for saying you really don’t have all that mush talent.

But hard work can beat talent when talent doesn’t work hard — and that’s another lesson some of these youngest ballplayers will be starting to learn soon.

Every year, I remember these lessons, and I smile as a new crop of players begins to learn them.

Good luck out there, kids. Play hard, play fair — but always do your best.

Contact sports editor David Vantress at 533-2151, ext. 325 or by email at david.vantress@goshennews.com.