I just finished watching the Little League World Series. I have seen some amazing baseball. It is hard to imagine that these are twelve and thirteen year old youngsters. They emulate their heroes and their champions. They adopt the mannerisms of the great stars of the game. Every now and then, though, their youthfulness comes out. They revert to their true age and play like twelve and thirteen year old kids. When that happens, one sees errors. One sees batting mistakes, base running errors, and blown calls by the umpires. But I have also witnessed some of the most entertaining baseball I have ever seen. I’m torn as I watch, though. On the one hand I enjoy watching the little kids play their hearts out and on the other hand it breaks my heart when I see one of them make a mistake that ultimately costs them a game. It invariably leads some of them to tears. Such is life and such is Little League baseball. Whoever said that there is no crying in baseball surely didn’t mean to include Little League.
There are some who would like to prevent the disappointment of mistakes and errors. There are some who would never allow the little ones to even keep score. They also would prefer that no grades be allowed on report cards. They seem to feel that a lower grade as well as a losing baseball game would be just too much for their little ones to take. They want to protect children from the disappointment of failure.
Well I have some bad news for them. Failures happen. Mistakes happen. Errors happen. To prevent kids from having those experiences is to prevent them from lessons they must learn. In life there is the ecstasy of victory but it could only be appreciated if one has experienced failure. To deny anyone the opportunity to fail also denies them the opportunity to succeed.
It was Richard Nixon who said, as he was leaving the Presidency humiliated by scandals and lies, “Only if you have been in the deepest valley, can you know how magnificent it is to be on the highest mountain.” Life is about mountains and valleys. Life is about success and failures. I believe that the agony of failure and disappointment are great teachers. Probably better teachers than success and victories.
To make a Little League team, you must be better than others who would like to be on that team. That means, of course, that some who try out will not be picked. Such is also life. Most of you who will read this have had such experiences. Did you survive it? Was your psyche damaged forever? I remember clearly not being picked. I had to deal with it and deal with it I did as I am sure you did. As I look back on those years, I believe I was better served for having had the experience of trying and failing as well as succeeding. During my working years there were many times when those lessons saw me through difficult times.
Whether you are a baseball fan or not I think you owe yourself the opportunity of watching Little League. You would probably agree with me, as you watch, that our future is in some very good hands. These youngsters experiencing the ups and downs of a baseball game are learning the great lessons of life. I wish they all could win, but alas that just can’t be. I just wish they wouldn’t cry.