Don’t let adult behavior ruin childhood fun

Published 12:00 am Monday, April 30, 2001

Ahh, baseball. I’m sure that may read as though I’m one of those people who lives and breathes the game.

You know the kind. The guy who can spout out all sorts of obscure facts about players and teams dating back to the 1940s.

Well, I’ve never been that fanatical about any particular sport – call me crazy.

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But as baseball season winds down for most area high school teams and begins getting under way for the little leagues, I began thinking about my brief few years of playing organized ball – and specifically what I liked and didn’t like about it.

I was never outstanding at baseball. And in fact, I was probably in the middle to lower middle of the pack of talent on our team. But our first coach, Coach Smith didn’t play favorites. He let all of us play – and thank God he did.

Despite realizing early on that I was no threat to Johnny Bench and Pete Rose, I had a great time. Although at the time I had no way of understanding it, Coach Smith taught all of that little league team that the game of baseball is a lot like the game of life.

Think about it, in baseball it doesn’t take long to realize that one person does not make a baseball team. The old clich line applies here: There is no “I” in team.

It’s true. And in life there is no “I” either. Sure, you can try to be tough and do everything by yourself, but ultimately we all rely on each other at times.

As I said, I wasn’t the star pitcher or the master at the plate, in fact, I was just sort of there, filling out a spot.

And usually that was somewhere in the outfield. The outfield for folks who don’t know, becomes a fairly important position in the upper ranks of baseball. But in little league, it’s a safe spot to park those of us who were not going to spend our lives on a baseball diamond.

Although looking back on it, I realize that we were put into “safe” positions, the good thing was Coach Smith didn’t let us realize it. He emphasized the importance of the team and made us all feel like we were a part of it.

Heck, the man ran screaming and yelling onto the field and picked me up when I actually caught a line drive that somehow made it my way.

We were never the league champs, but we didn’t care.

Coach Smith was forced to quit our team after the second year as coach – I forget the exact reason why. But it wasn’t long before we missed him – big time.

The new coach was a cussing, fussing and generally angry person. Never happy with anything anyone of us did.

Even as a child, I realized that this wasn’t the kind of person I wanted to deal with or be around. So after a difficult year, I quit the team – along with three or four others. And looking back on it, I shouldn’t have quit. I didn’t dislike the game, I simply disliked my new coach.

It wasn’t as if I’d have likely been the world’s greatest baseball star, but it’s frustrating that one adult can screw up a game for a bunch of eager little boys and girls.

As action at the little league fields begins to heat up, I hope and pray that coaches and parents will remember that little eyes are watching their every move.

And they learn by example, so behave and remember that it’s just a game – a game that can be extremely fun for children until the adults screw it all up.

Kevin Cooper is managing editor of The Democrat. He can be reached at (601) 445-3541 or by e-mail at