I spent a lot of time at the Florence Park this weekend, not only taking in several American Legion baseball games but also watching the younger players too. Although it was a lot of work, having three different aged groups playing in three tournaments was fun for baseball fans and players alike.
First, I have to give a shout out to the organizers of the three tournaments and the crew. I heard nothing but praise from everyone about how well everything ran. There were lots of parents chipping in to help maintain the grounds on the five baseball fields while the head maintenance man watched over it all. (Disclaimer here – the head maintenance guy is my husband). Cami and Kelsi did a great job feeding the masses and keeping them cool. (And spouse too).
It was especially fun to watch the younger players. These kids are tough competitors and even though they may only be nine or 10 years old, they know the game and understand what it takes to make it to the next level. The competition was fierce in every game but what made it truly remarkable was after the games.
There was one field that wasn’t being used on Friday night. Let me rephrase that. There was one field that wasn’t being used officially. I’m not sure what teams these kids were from but there were about 12 kids down there playing a pick up game. I counted at least five different uniforms and ages from 9 to 11 with a younger brother or two thrown in. These kids had been playing ball all day and what did they do to relax, play more ball. There were hoots and hollers and hits. Although I only watched from afar, it was obvious these kids were having a ball. Their teams may have gone on to the championship, or not. But I’ll bet this pick up game will be a fond memory for many.
While the younger teams were playing on two fields, the American Legion teams were up on the ‘big’ field. Many times throughout the weekend, I saw a young player stop and watch the older teams playing. You could almost hear their thoughts – ‘someday, that will be me out there’. The youngsters would watch for a while and then wander off to play in their own games. This scenario happened time and time again. The American Legion teams may not have known it at the time but there were a lot of young players looking up to these fellows. And kudos to the older players, they took time to bump fists and talk to the younger players too.
I like to see this type of interaction between ages. I think it helps everyone. The older kids realize they are being watched and emulated and walk a bit taller, and act a bit kinder. The younger players, I hope, will remember this and treat those that follow after them the same way. It keeps the sport going and creates great memories for everyone.