Saturday, October 22, 2005

Everything I Needed to Know, I Learned in Little League ...

[You can listen to this commentary by Ron Franscell
which originally aired on NPR's All Things Considered Oct. 22]

Some years ago, essayist Robert Fulghum surmised that everything he ever needed to know he learned in kindergarten.

Maybe I was a slow learner. Or maybe Little League was just the beginning of my higher education, but everything else I ever needed to know I learned in endless games in the sandlot and night games on my neighborhood baseball diamond, when the ball became a moving bit of the twilight sky.

Just like in regular school, you’re never truly conscious of your own education. It comes back to you much later, say, as you watch your son play in his first T-ball game and you stifle the urge to shout, "Keep your eye on the ball!" And, come to think of it, that was one of the good lessons to be learned way back when your father shouted it to you. And maybe when his father shouted it to him.

Tonight, the first pitch of the 2005 World Series will be thrown and I’m in my 48th October, a good time to revisit some of the lessons I learned as a boy of summer, like:

Being safe at home is the overall objective ... Two hands work better than one ... It sometimes takes every kid in the neighborhood to make something possible ... Persistence can turn even a bunt into a home run … Errors are inevitable ... every season the fences get a little closer.

I played baseball in college, and one glorious season of small-time semi-pro ball, when the fences were as close to me as they’d ever get. Today, I couldn’t tell you if I batted my weight, but I recall the smell of freshly mown outfield grass, leather and road dust, and the way small-town girls flirted with traveling ballplayers. I was no longer a Little Leaguer then, and my playing days were all but done, but the lessons continue…

The sun shines in everybody’s eyes … We sometimes see things differently than the guy who has to make the call … Long-ball hitters strike out sometimes, too … Don’t dig yourself into a hole at home … Sometimes you get hurt, but it eventually feels better … Cry later.

I asked my daughter about baseball’s lessons. Her life was either enhanced or forever marred by my volunteering to coach her team when she was still very young. Today, she is a professional photojournalist for a big-city newspaper. I wondered: What did my little girl of summer take away from the ballparks of HER youth, if anything?

"If you're lucky," she said, "you'll remember everything you need to know. And your coach will forget when you don't."

Pictured above: The author's first home run ball, gently gnawed by a beloved family pet. May she rest in peace.


Anonymous said...


I don't keep up with baseball too much anymore, but do keep tabs on the World Series. I see that Ozzie Guillen is the Manager of The White Sox.

No surprise to most sports fans, but the last time I heard that name was when I met Ozzie in 1983 when the Beaumont Golden Gators were playing the San Antonio Dodgers at Vincent-Beck Field in Beaumont.

The Gators had a three year player development contract with the San Diego Padres and Ozzie was part of the team along with John Kruk and a few others that went on to the Majors.

Ozzie, who was born in Venezuela, was 19 years of age at the time, and was still learning english.

We discussed several things, but mainly his intense love of the game of baseball.

I was so impressed by his attitude that I saved my 1983 Souvenir magazine (with Ozzie's Picture on the cover)and even have my ticket stub from the game.

I don't remember who won that night, but I'm happy to see that Ozzie fulfilled his dream with many years as a player and now as a manager in the World Series.

He definitely payed attention to those Little League lessons!

Ron Petitt

Bill Franklin said...

I heard your show on NPR and it took me back to a time in my life when things were a lot simpler! It also made me think about the lessons I learned without even knowing it. Thanks you for your thoughts!!