Parents Rooting for the Home Team

Author: Elizabeth Foss


By Elizabeth Foss

I trust in God. I love my country and will respect its laws. I will play fair and strive to win. But win or lose, I will always do my best. -- The Little League Pledge

I've almost finished my first season as a Little League mom and I'm glad to report that all is right with the world. At least, all is right with the small corner of the world that is home to the Central Springfield Little League.

There are freckled-faced boys and girls lined up to say the Little League pledge before every game. In these days of political correctness, the pledge seems antiquated. But it never fails to bring shivers to my spine and I think that the children mean what they say. If this tee-ball team represents the children to whom we are entrusting the world, it is going to be in good hands. Let me tell you something about a few of them.

First up is Gregory, who hits one over the fence with surprising frequency. He is a gifted athlete, to be sure, but he is also disciplined and very determined. He understands "striving to win" and gives everything he has to every single play. If he applies the same principles to the rest of his life, he will do well indeed.

There are Justin and James, who are smaller than most of the other kids, but make up for it with a combination of strength, speed and determination. They keep their heads in the game and "always do their best." I watched Justin look with amazement into his glove to discover that a truly great catch nestled there. From what I understand, James also brings a great sense of humor to his team, a contribution for which the players are very grateful.

Andrew seems to understand "win or lose." A strong, skillful player, he accepts constructive criticism with grace and gratitude far beyond his years. A nod and smile to his coaches and he buckles down once more. His positive attitude paid off when he bounced one over the fence. I'm not sure who grinned more proudly, Andrew or his dad. Watching Andrew's dad, I finally understood the phrase "bursting with pride."

Then there is Emily. Emily wears ruffled anklets instead of baseball socks, "because they're my favorites." For the first few games, she tentatively hit the ball and...watched it. Every parent in the bleachers learned to shout "Hit it and run, Emily. Hit it and run!" Now she runs; though she is still nonchalant about the game. I asked her whether she was having fun and she said, "It's okay but I'd rather hit a pitched ball. This is too easy." Ah, a non- conformist who likes a challenge. That's good, because life will present challenges aplenty.

And there is Michael (my personal favorite). He holds his glove up in front of his chest and squats behind home plate every single time the umpire says "play ball!" This wouldn't be terribly noteworthy, except that this is tee-ball, no one is going to pitch the ball to the catcher. Pages from his prayer journal (yes, I peeked) tell me that he "trusts in God." They say things like, "Thanks for a great game" and "Dear Lord, Please help me to hit one over the right field fence."

In his enthusiasm and love for the game, Michael is determined to do everything just right. His serious intensity combined with six-year-old exuberance make the grown-ups smile.

These kids and their teammates are coached by a group of fathers who have taken countless hours out of the spring to make sure that their children learn something about baseball and everything about dedication. If suburban Washington is inhabited only by workaholics who drop their children off at day care for long twelve-hour days, nobody told that to these dads.

The team is managed by Joey Jones, a downtown accountant who must have been sorely challenged by three practices or games a week during the first two weeks in April--tax season. His son Gregory clearly sees where Joey's priorities are. If Gregory has baseball; Dad is there.

At every game, there is a mom in the dugout. With cheerful patience, Debbie snaps and unsnaps batting helmets, fills water bottles, and on occasion, convinces the coach to stop play because she notices that a center fielder needs to go to the bathroom. Behind her sit mothers and fathers who sell candy, bake cookies, line fields, pick up trash, and make banners so that their children have the opportunity to play and they have the blessed privilege of spending sunny Saturdays sitting in the bleachers rooting for the home team.

Foss is a freelance writer living in Springfield.

This article appeared in the June 16, 1995 issue of "The Arlington Catholic Herald."

Courtesy of the "Arlington Catholic Herald" diocesan newspaper of the Arlington (VA) diocese. For subscription information, call 1-800-377-0511 or write 200 North Glebe Road, Suite 607 Arlington, VA 22203.