Thursday, July 17, 2008

All-Star Season Thoughts

I love All-Star season because I don't have a pony in the race, so to speak. As long-time readers know, I never had a pony in the race, as Jack was designated an "alternate" for the tournament team when he was 12 years old.

I get to enjoy the excitement of Little League postseason as a fan, cheering at the games and outstanding play, visiting with the kids and their parents, and soaking in the atmosphere of youth baseball and softball.

I love that each game represents two communities, usually from just outside your normal sphere of school, work, grocery store, mall, ballpark... Maybe your opponent is from "just over the hill." Or maybe they are from the farthest corner of your county. Or maybe they will feed into your rival high school. Or maybe you know them from church. Or you manage the grocery store where all their moms shop. Maybe they look and dress like you, or maybe they are hipper than you :) Maybe there is an open parking space next to an SUV painted "Go Eric, Tualatin All-Stars 08" and you say "nope, I'll walk across the parking lot in the 100 degree heat before I park next to anyone from Tualatin Little League." Not exactly Yankees vs. Red Sox territory here, but your place on this earth takes on a different meaning during All-Star Season.

Then, one night, it's done. It's over. Your team has lost and there are no more games or practices and its time to hand in your uniform. The painted car is washed clean and you go from an All-Star family to "family with brown lawn."

So you end up with the rest of your summer to enjoy family and friends, maybe take a vacation, let the kids go swimming without worrying if it is a game day, paint the living room...

And as the tension of competition subsides, you find yourself smiling at that leftover painted car in the parking lot and you hope you run into them to say "How was State?" You stop after church to ask your former rival "hey, where's Joey playing next year?" Because (here comes a cliche) LIFE GOES ON. The cushion of time eases you out of the Tournament Time Mindset and hopefully you look back with a smile and with pride how you handled the Mindset.

It's that smile that I can't hold back when I walk up to a ballfield and see a game being played. It is the glance I make as I drive by any school or park looking to see if girls or boys are playing on the ballfield, and the smile that emerges if there is a game going on. If I have time, I pull over and hang out for a little while.

So smile. Win or lose, you were part of a special group of folks around the world who are taking part in the 2008 Little League International Tournament. And if you were not on an All-Star team: smile. Neither was my son. But he is still playing the game that we love, and has perhaps even more respect for the game. Life is a series of experiences (cliche) and the experiences on a Little League field can be magical.


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