Youth baseball all about having fun

Published 12:00 am Sunday, April 18, 2010

This has always been my favorite time of year.

The cold days of winter have finally left us and the sun is shining bright longer into the evening thanks to daylight savings time.

But while those are great things, that’s not the reason why I love this season so much.

It’s because it takes me back to when I was a youngster waiting out the last month of the school year and spending my weeknights and weekends down at the baseball field.

Yes, the youth baseball and softball leagues have begun.

I wasn’t a very good player. I couldn’t judge a fly ball and my hitting was atrocious.

Perhaps that’s why the coach (even when the coach was my dad) would stick me out in right field and pray a ball wouldn’t be hit to me.

I was so bad at fielding fly balls that one time when I actually caught a routine fly ball, I raised my arms above my head triumphantly and the crowd went wild.

No, I wasn’t 7 or 8 years old when this happened. I was 12.

But anyway, even though I wasn’t a talented player and had no hopes of playing an entire game unless only nine players showed up, I still loved the game and enjoyed suiting up in the uniform.

I can still remember the rides to the ballpark. I would always have this nervous feeling in the pit of my stomach as my parents would drive me the 10-minute drive from our house to the field.

I loved getting out there with my teammates and throwing the ball around before the game started, watching the parents get into their seats as the scoreboard lit up and the lights came on.

It didn’t matter that I wasn’t a good player. I felt pretty cool in my snazzy uniform playing on a perfectly manicured field with a crowd of parents cheering for me.

And that is the great thing about youth sports such as baseball and softball.

It doesn’t matter how good or bad of a player you are. The object of the league is to have fun and enjoy your childhood.

The local Dixie Youth leagues on both sides of the river and the Natchez T.M. Jennings League are all great about keeping the game fun for all the players, not just the ones that have the most talent.

And the local softball leagues are the same way.

Later on this year when the All-Star tournaments roll around, the games will get more serious as the best of the best will be competing against each other for a state championship and World Series berth.

But for now, the games are all about fun.

And the reason that today’s youths can have fun and enjoy their time as children is because of many adult volunteers who willingly give their time to help run the league and coach the teams.

A good many of the coaches don’t have children on their teams. They just love being a mentor to children so much they have kept on coaching long after their own children have grown up.

So when you look in the newspaper and see the box scores of the local youth baseball and softball games, don’t just think of the names you see in the paper who have hit home runs or gone 4-for-5.

Think also of the kid who barely gets off the bench but still has a blast playing a game with his friends.

And think of the coaches who volunteer their time to make sure the youth of the Miss-Lou have a safe place to spend their time in the spring and summer.

That is what makes a successful league. And by the looks of things, the Miss-Lou has plenty of very successful youth sports leagues.

Jeff Edwards is the sports editor for The Democrat. He can be reached at sports@natchezdemocrat.com, or by phone at 601-445-3632.