My time spent playing Little League baseball each summer when I was growing up taught me many of life’s valuable lessons.
Were it not for the time I spent on that dirt field in my tiny hometown, I might not be who I am today.
OK, that’s not true. Let’s be realistic here. I’m sure if I had never played baseball, my life right now would not be significantly different.
But, that doesn’t mean there weren’t valuable lessons to be learned from my time spent playing on the Braves and the Gyrafalcons (yes, Gyrafalcons—pronounced with a soft “g” like geriatric).
Since I have never actually known what a gyrafalcon is, I just Googled it—it’s the largest falcon species. And its name is spelled g-y-r-f-a-l-c-o-n. There’s no “a” after the “r”.
But our team name was definitely the Gyrafalcons. I know this because it was mispronounced all the time. Gy-ro-falcons. Gyrafalcons with the hard “g” sound as in gopher. And every other mispronunciation possible.
So, our coach—a falcon enthusiast and trainer who had birds of his own—had the name wrong. Oh well. We’ll just attribute his error to the fact that Google was still over two decades away.
Later on (after I became a Brave) the name was shortened to just Falcons, which I’m sure everyone thought was an improvement.
How did we get information before Google, anyway?
Enough digression…Here’s what I learned from playing Little League (in no particular order)…
- The value of working as a team. This one doesn’t need much explanation, as everyone knows the importance of contributing to your team and becoming a valuable member. Whether it’s at work, at church, on a committee, or—of course—a sports team, life works better when we all get along and work together. Yes, I’m still learning this lesson, and I have a long way to go.
- Never give up. One summer, the Braves had not won a game all season long. It was pretty demoralizing, especially for a bunch of preteen boys. Then one night we played the best team in the league (the Astros I think). Before the game, we had no delusions that we could win, but somehow we walloped them. We scored run after run and they scored none, or maybe only one or two. The final score was something like 28-1. It was incredible. I’m not sure we won another game the rest of the season.
- It’s not whether you win or lose—it’s how you play the game. Yes, this is old and corny, and many people argue with the philosophy of the saying. Our coaches taught us to play hard and play fair—just like they should have. To a kid, it really is all about just having fun. Even though we might lose by 10 runs, it was all good. The sounds, the smells, the feeling of strutting around the ballfield in your uniform and looking at the stands full of people who came to watch you play. It was great. And, of course, we didn’t know any better.
- Learn to be flexible. First base was the first position I remember playing in Little League (I played shortstop some in T-ball). It was my thing and I loved it. But at some point our team lost our pitcher. So, somehow I became our starting pitcher. I didn’t like pitching very much and I wasn’t very good. I knew it and so did everybody else. But I persevered through the process and learned to go with the flow.
- Your beginning doesn’t determine your end. Early in my baseball playing days I smacked the ball and ran as hard as I could to base—third base. I don’t remember what happened next, but I did know I was well aware I had messed up somehow. Long story short, I learned that you always run to first base after hitting the ball. My baseball game on improved from there.
- Listen to those who know more than you do. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize that a Little League coach knows more about baseball than a 10-year-old. But the 10-year-old doesn’t necessarily see it that way. Seek out and heed advice from people who have been where you want to go. Don’t be the stubborn kid trying to field a ground ball with only one hand. Listen to the coach telling you to use two hands so the ball doesn’t go through your legs. Save the hot shot moves for when you reach the Big League.
- Put in the hard work even when you don’t want to. I loved playing baseball games, but not so much having the practices. It was boring waiting your turn to bat and field balls. Plus, I remember getting soooo thirsty out on that dusty field on scorching summer days. But all that was necessary if I wanted to experience the action and excitement of going up against another team.
There you have it—life lessons instilled in me through wonderful childhood summers spent playing Little League.
What life truths did you learn in childhood that you still hold on to?