I want to start off by saying I am not a writer, nor do I claim to be. However, I have recently become upset with the seemingly fading interest in “America’s Pastime”. This is simply my view point as someone who grew up around the game of baseball and turned out to love it.
Let’s avoid the topic of the professional levels and data metrics for a minute. Instead let’s focus on what is a much bigger deal, Little League/rec league baseball. It recently came to my attention that our local Little League organization is struggling to find enough kids to charter a boys team for eleven and twelve year olds. Why is this so bothersome to me you may ask? Well this is a valid question. I am 21 now, attending college, and spending all of my free time at racetracks rather than baseball diamonds. I guess it’s not the issue itself, rather the idea of kids missing out on what could be some of the best memories and friendships of their lives.
I played from tee ball through high school and while I was never destined to play professionally or was even the best person on the team in most cases. Regardless, I enjoyed my time playing baseball more than anything. I should also point out that during that time, not once did we ever struggle to have enough kids even with a town of only 6,000 people. In fact, most of my Little League career was spent playing friends on the other two or three town teams that year. This made for some memorable at-bats where we would see who’d crack a smile first, pitcher or hitter. The friendships I made playing baseball growing up are some of the most important ones I’ve maintained to this day, and the memories will last a lifetime. Hell, one of my best, longstanding friendships was fostered through Little League. That would be with the gentleman in charge of this fine blog. Everyone else I talk to has a similar experience with baseball growing up including older generations, so my question is, why are kids no longer interested?
I think the answer lies in many different factors. I mostly want to talk about parents. See, the reason I look back so fondly at those days is because it was fun! You would look forward to practices and even more so to games and the only pressure on you to play well came from between your own ears. I was fortunate to have some amazing coaches growing up that understood a very important rule, it’s the kid’s game and the adults are guests. I owe a lot to coaches for seeing this and allowing us to have a good time because at the end of the day, it’s what kept us coming back. We got older, played travel ball, the competition increased but it was still fun. I can’t stress enough how important it is for parents and coaches to understand you are there because of the kids. Without them there is no league, no game, no hit, no catch, no fun. That kid will instead be playing video games in his room because that’s a lot more fun than baseball practice. Kids have more distractions now than ever but if we can make baseball fun again for them, I think the sport I love has a pretty good shot at surviving. I strongly urge coaches and parents to take a step back and do what our parents did. Encourage a light and fun environment more focused around team and character building than those perfect fundamentals every baseball “expert” online says will get your kid to the show. We do this collectively and the sport will again become a game, and these kids will grow up to be fine young ball players.
Thank you all for taking the time to read and an additional thank you to all those coaches throughout the years that not only put up with me but showed me how to love the game and make it fun. Too many to list but I hope some of you get a chance to read this. Also thank you to dad who had zero interest in baseball but would always be willing to work with me and even helped as an assistant coach some years, so many good memories.