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What I would have said

One of my duties as a Little League president is to give a speech at the Opening Day ceremony. Unfortunately, it looks like we’re going to be rained out for the second Saturday in a row. So, we had to cancel the ceremony. Here is what I would have said to the parents of Saddleback Little League if we had an opening ceremony.

Parents,

We all know that your kids will have a great time playing baseball this year. What you may not realize is that you can have a great time with baseball as well. After all, you’ll be spending a lot of time at our fields too, so you might as well enjoy yourselves.

There are two ways that you can make baseball a fun experience for you.

First, get involved.

Volunteering really is a lot of fun. You get to do things most people don’t get to do. How many people do you know get to drag an infield? When you watch the grounds crews at Angel Stadium, you can tell your friends, “Yeah, I do that too.”

Volunteering is also a great way to meet new people and make new friends. I’ve met some wonderful people in Little League, not just here in Saddleback, but from other leagues. These are people I wouldn’t have met if I didn’t get involved.

The best thing about volunteering is that you can see the results of your efforts. When you set up the field before games and practices, or you clean up afterwards, you free up time for the coaches to help your kids. When you sell food at the snack bar, purchase one of our silent auction baskets, and sell our discount cards, the money you make directly benefits the kids. For example, we want to purchase a batter’s box mat for the Tee Ball Field so that our youngest players don’t have to try batting in the mud. If we raise the money, we can buy that for them. The quality of our program depends on parents like you getting involved.

Second, lighten up!

I know how hard it is for us to keep our feelings in check. Sports unleash a wide range of emotions, from euphoria to despair to even anger, and all of them heightened by the adreneline rush that comes from competition. It’s that emotional thrill that makes sports so enjoyable. But we have to remember that Little League is just kids playing baseball. They are learning what is actually a sophisticated sport that takes a while to master. These kids will make mistakes. So will the adults who coach them, umpire for them, and administer the program for them. Give all of them your patience and encouragement.

We must also remember that our so-called opponents are also our neighbors and friends. The great thing about our league — the thing that I believe makes it better than other baseball programs — is that we get new teams every year. Our opponents from last year become our teammates this year, and vice versa. We get to watch these kids grow up together. So, no matter how intense the competition gets on the field, we leave those feelings behind once we get off. It’s like I said last year: Inside the fence, we play hard to win. Outside the fence, we’re all friends and part of one community.

Little League is an experience that parents and children can enjoy together. So, get involved, but also get some perspective. We can’t guarantee that every kid will become a superstar, but we can work together so kids can learn how to play and enjoy a sport we love.

Have a great season.

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