One of my favorite times of the year is here. No, not football mini camps. The NFL is in a lockout, duh. Saturday is Opening Day for the Hertel North Park Youth Baseball League. New pants and cleats have been purchased. The kids get their new uniform tops later this week. They're excited. I'm excited that they're excited. Don't try telling the Parker house kids don't play baseball anymore.
I'll admit to not being all that sure how frequently you still hear that kids don't play baseball. I'm not sure because I stopped listening to it years ago. Shoshone Park will have games on 7 diamonds from 10 am to dark on Saturdays from now until August, plus games on most of the 7 fields every weeknight that it's not pouring down rain and lightning. That's a lot of baseball being played.
Sure it's not for everyone. Parents who don't love baseball may think their kids will be bored by the game because they themselves find it boring. Fair enough. It can be tedious watching a bunch of 6 yr olds who can barely catch try to play a game while parents and coaches scream what base they should throw the ball to.
I love every bit of it. The look on the face of the kid who gets his first hit. That same kids Dad trying hard not to look too proud. The one or two kids on each team who just move like ballplayers. Getting to know the parents and coaches.
The coaches. Man, did we win the little league lottery with the crew we've got coaching my 7 yr-old son's team. A father and his three teenage boys took over the rookie Cardinals last season and are back for more. Their practices are the most organized youth sports practices I have ever seen. Different work stations so the kids are broken up into small groups which means less down time. The young coaches have a great touch with the kids and have transformed my son Leo from a kid who I'm pretty sure was in this for the freezie pops to someone who is first in the car in full uniform. And that's just for practice.
And those are just our guys. So many people give so much of their time to make a league work. The guys running the concession stand and getting the fields ready. They love baseball and so do I. But I can't put that time in. They find a way.
So maybe as many kids aren't playing little league in 2011 as were playing in 1981. The game is to slow. Soccer is over in an hour. Baseball, who knows? Look man, my kids watch too much TV and play more video games than they probably should just like yours. But they really like baseball. Believe me, they wouldn't still be playing if they didn't.
And I love that they like it so much.